(Fourth story in the Tabhairt Isteach Do series)


Written By Kats- ©  May 3rd 2006



Frank Fletcher ran down the hall to the classroom and skidded to a stop just in front of the door. People were standing up for a break. He looked over his shoulder and saw the clock hand just hit 10:52 am. He burst into the room yelling, “Wait! I’m here!!”


The school principal, Mr. Wallace Daniels, an overweight, balding man with a hooked nose, regarded him over his gray steel rimed glasses and frowned. “It’s too late Mr. Fletcher. Your appointment was at 8 this morning. Owing to your casual disregard for proper attendance for your review, I have no choice but to assign you to repeat last year. Perhaps then you will have a better understanding of the consequences of your actions.”


“What do you mean my appointment was at 8? The letter my aunt got said 10:50! And it says Room 103, but the janitor told me when I got there that it had been moved to 404, here. And the elevators don’t work, so I had to run up four flights of steps. And I have 10:53 on my watch!”  Frank stood in the door breathing hard. He had run two blocks from where the bus had dropped them off, up the steps and down the hall to the classroom only to discover no one there.


“The letter we sent to your home yesterday stated the change,” the principal said lifting his brief case up onto the table.


“Lovely, but if you remember, I am staying with my aunt in Cabot Cove, Maine, and it takes four days for mail to be forwarded to where she lives. I shouldn’t be held to blame for something beyond my control or that you ‘said’ you mailed. There is no proof that you even sent the letter…”grumbled Frank.


“That’s quite enough, young man!” Wally snapped, irritated.


“No, it’s not! You said my appointment was changed to 8 am, and by the bus schedule here, there would have been no way that I could have made that on time coming from Maine, and you knew that because my parents discussed where I would be staying, and that they told you my Aunt Jessica doesn’t drive, so coming here would have be by bus. There was nothing in the letter that you sent to them months ago that I would have to come here to present what I have learned in the information you gave them,” Frank said, exasperated.


“Your aunt is not a board certified member of our school district. We have every right to question the level of education that you have received over the summer,” said Ms. Peters, his English teacher, as she set her small purse back down on the table with a heavy clunk...


“Funny, you didn’t mention that to my parents when they spoke with you two months ago,” said Frank folding his arms across his chest. Ms. Peters was the only English teacher the school had, and was responsible for teaching English to all the grades. She had never cut him any slack in all of the years he had been going to that school. He watched her shake her head, her earrings shimmering slightly beneath her mane of red hair.


“The matter is closed young man. I happen to concur with the principal on this matter. You will repeat last year, and perhaps your grades will improve this time,” Ms. Peters said closing a folder on the table as she stood up.


“Fine. Then I am requesting a formal hearing with the school board and the press in regards to this matter,” Frank replied, gathering up his nerve to push just a bit harder. He had to. It was his only chance of making it right.


“You can’t do that,” said the principal dryly.


Frank leaned forward defiantly, his arms still crossed in front of him. “Oh yes I can,” he said, tilting his head to one side and setting his jaw firmly. He was not about to let them see the emotional turmoil that was seething inside of him.


The principal’s reply was cut short by the school nurse, who said with a note of irritation, “He can, and should - honestly Wally, do you want to spend time in front of 250 parents next week answering why your office couldn’t get a schedule right for him or why you’re so eager to not take the time to listen to what he has to say?  We have an hour before lunch and I really don’t want to go over the financial report from two years ago.”


Frank held his breath. If he managed to pull this off, he was going to buy Miss Shellie, the school nurse, the biggest batch of roses that he could find to thank her from the credit card money his parents had given him.


“Very well, young man,  You have exactly fifteen minutes to tell us what you have learned so far from your aunt and demonstrate the proper usage of what you have learned to convince us not to have you repeat next year,” said Vice Principal Carol Murphy, who was shooting a look at the principal as he fumed by the table.


Frank looked at Mr. Murphy. He was a mousy sort of guy, and the kids had been thrown into fits of giggling when they learned his first name was Carol. Even his voice was a bit squeaky, but he had always been very kind to the students, and even shared their laugh about his name. He was the only other person at the school beside Miss Shellie that the students actually respected for being fair to them. Sometimes he would be a substitute teacher for the classes, not that they ever went over the lesson plan for that day, but rather he would open up a chapter from one of the mystery novels he loved to read and pass the book around to the students, asking them to read passages from it. It was the only time that Frank really enjoyed his lessons.


Frank shifted to one foot. “Not to be ungrateful, but I can’t learn everything in a week. I did start my essay though, on what we did over the summer, and I brought that…”


He saw the vice principal nod as the principal sat down in his chair and crossed his arms. Frank saw the principal twist a signet ring in irritation as he opened up the portfolio that was clenched in his small hands. He walked to the podium and stood there for a second to catch his breath. He was glad he numbered the papers and that he had paper clipped them in batches.


“My Summer. By Frank Fletcher, Jr.

My summer started not like other kids’ summers, but with learning that I would have to make up English class. Tutors and I don’t get along, so my parents decided to send me north to stay with my Aunt Jessica who is a retired school teacher. I didn’t want to be there. All the old people I knew were smelly and cranky. I thought my life was over, at least for the summer. My parents put me on the plane to go to where my aunt lives in Cabot Cove, Maine. I wore a tag about my neck on a lanyard and a bracelet so the people on the airline could tell who I was and where I was going. I rode in first class, and I sat next to a leprechaun. He was wearing a home spun woolen jacket he had sewn himself and his shirt had tattered lace on the cuffs. He had curly golden hair and hazel eyes that twinkled when he smiled. He asked me if I was after his gold. I told him no, because it would be difficult to exchange and it wouldn’t help matters in the long run.  The leprechaun’s name was Willie Mac.


“Willie Mac didn’t treat me like a little kid when the plane was tossed about with turbulence. Because of him, I decided not to run away, and to study hard this summer.   Willie Mac wrote a book a long time ago that was published and it affected a lot of people’s lives. A very bad man who knew Willie Mac’s family from a long time ago decided to use the book to ruin Willie and his family’s reputation. He stole a very famous sword from Willie’s family and tried to use it to lure Willie into a deadly position,  but what he was doing was found out by a few people and the police put the bad man in prison. There was a young girl who worked for a store that sold that same book and she was killed. I found out about it on a web message board, and at first the people on the board tried to solve it, but it was with my Aunt Jessica’s help that the murderer was found out because he kept a necklace that she wore the night she died. Her parents wanted to give me money from the reward, but I couldn’t take it, and told them to use it to make a memorial for their daughter.


“Willie Mac set up his home in Cabot Cove where the old shop used to be that was named after the book he had written. When I was done with my lessons for the day, my Aunt Jessica would let me go down there to watch Willie work on his weaving loom, and I learned how to card wool and to spin.  It was the day that the letter came telling me about this meeting that my life started to get complicated. To understand the whys we have go to back in time first to 1881 Ireland - at Maigh Nuad.” Frank took a breath then continued.


“The back storeroom of Maigh Nuad’s pub held little interest for the regular crowd seeking their pints before returning home to their wives and girlfriends.  Those who ventured back found their heads bumping against drying root crops and salted pork or having to squeeze in between slabs of tallow for candles.  There were nine men who slipped unnoticed into the back room that had other things on their mind as they kept a careful watch on the door and the comings and goings of the crowds of the inn.  When they had all found a place to be comfortable, their leaders, James Carey and Michael Kavanagh, sighed and pulled out a folded parchment from each of their pockets. They were thin vellum, so that when the first was laid over the second, a map showing the route needed was seen. Ether one of the papers found upon the men if they were captured meant nothing; together, they showed the homes of all the members of their organization, the Irish National Invincibles, also known as just the Invincibles.


“We weren’t there to see it, but from what was found later we learned a few things about the people who were there and their habits, and from eye witness accounts of what happened.  James stabbed his finger down on the map, smudging the place where his finger pointed to.  ‘Right, we’ve got word that the Permanent Under Secretary, Thomas Henry Burke, will be at the Viceregal Lodge next May attending the appointment of the new Chief Secretary. We will use this opportunity to dissuade Mr. Burke of his plans to continue his traitorous activities in parliament and resign with honor or face the consequences.’


“Douglas Furhdaham looked over the crowd of men in the small room. There were ways of taking control. James didn’t have a clue, but he had a passion that made those around him listen.   Power came in many forms, and most notably he who could control the people controlled the power. Some believed that money was power. James didn’t have money, but he had charm, and the way to make the most common of men feel important. Douglas was glad he hadn’t brought his eldest son Peter to the meeting. He knew Peter was impetuous and cunning, but prone to acting on impulse. What James was proposing was dangerous in itself. A man could be hanged for what they were speaking of.


“Fool that James was, he insisted that each man put down his mark upon a paper to swear that they would uphold all that was held righteous in the beliefs of the Invincibles. The others, believing that their names would be safe, did as much. It would be Douglas who would collect and secure the paper at the end of the evening, slipping it in his waistcoat pocket and making sure that another paper that was folded the same way was given to James instead as well as the originals of the maps. Months of planning had gone into this evening. It had nothing to do with the Invincibles. With all that would be happening soon, Douglas knew the paper with the names was the last thing James would be concerned about.


Douglas felt secure in knowing his son Peter was married to the Widower Healer Razanur’s daughter Fainwen, who had given him a granddaughter first, Essian, and another child on the way, which he hoped to be a boy to carry on his line.  Healer Razanur was respected and wealthy, and the merging of the two powerful families from neighboring villages made a shift in power for the community. Generations before Healer Razanur’s family had fought along side Brian Boru against the Vikings; from there, the families’ wealth and status grew and when the children of Furhdaham and Razanur were married, the two families moved in together. By rights, it was Healer Razanur’s estate that they had moved into, but with part of the dowry waved, it was decided that his new son-in-law’s family would move into one half of the estate, and they would live in the other. There was a younger sister, Sellsír, just ten, and their youngest son Cónenardhon who was eight, whose futures needed to be considered. Peter was his eldest child, his pride and joy.  His brother Ian was three years younger and had no belly for blood sport. 


Douglas watched without saying anything, watching the men who he knew he could trust and count on to stand beside him when it was time. There would be no peaceful discussion in the park that day. He had known what James was going to say, he just didn’t know the time that it would happen. Douglas gave a quiet nod to Joe Brady and Tim Kelly, a signal they knew to wait until the others left, that he had something for them.


Knives. Surgical knives that he knew were sharp, small and could cut through flesh and bone in a heart beat. Douglas had found them on the washboard with other knives that he knew came from the healer’s surgery. Two would not be missed. If they were caught or discovered the knives would lead back to the healer. Having a son-in-law and grandchildren by him was insurance that if something was discovered, it would go no further.


“’Tôl acharn – vengeance comes,’ he had murmured to the men. They took the knives and slipped them into their coat pockets, being careful of the blades. He knew he would not see the men again. This would be the last meeting he would attend - his job was done.

If the end would come to it, the papers that he had removed from them unseen and substituted would be planted on someone else to divert suspicion. Thomas Henry Burke was to have married his sister years before. His political ambitions had broken her heart and earned the refusals of his father.  When Burke did marry, his sister became reclusive, losing herself to wander the gardens in silence until an illness took her the following winter. The grief his parents endured because of Burke was enough for Douglas to challenge him, but his father would have nothing to do with that. He would lose a son if anything, for Burke was too powerful. Time and tide would bring the end to Burke.


“At 17:30 on Saturday, May 6, 1882 in Phoenix Park, Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke’s evening walk was interrupted by the approach of Joe and Tim. Neither man was prepared for the assault that befell them swiftly. Their screams were overheard and when help arrived it was too late - both men had been brutally murdered, hacked to death by the short surgical knives provided to them by Douglas, who, at the moment the murders were occurring, was attending a wedding of friends with his daughter-in-law Fainwen and his son Peter. He had them leave the care of their child to a maid. The three younger children would also have supervision.


“When they arrived home the following day from the wedding the house was in a state of turmoil. Healer Razanur had been called out on an emergency that afternoon and didn’t return until almost dawn. The maid had disappeared some time during the early evening. A short while later Essian had climbed from her crib and wandered the halls of the estate, getting outside somehow, and stumbled into the path of an on-coming carriage. Death was instantaneous. It was dawn that they found Sellsír’s body hanging from the rafters of the attic. She had written a brief note saying her niece’s death was all her fault and she could not live with the guilt.  Fainwen collapsed at the news of her child’s and her sister’s deaths, and never recovered. Within a week she was buried along with her daughter and her sister. It was by chance or accident that Healer Razanur discovered the papers with the names on it, and understood who the Invincibles were. Fearing for his son’s safety, Healer Razanur took Cónenardhon and some of their belongings and moved out of the estate, across the moors to begin a new life.


“The departure from the estate couldn’t have come at a worse time for Douglas. He had been able to say that Joe and Tim had gathered the knives from Healer Razanur, and expected when the authorities came to be able to turn him over to them with the papers - but his location was uncertain. There was also the question of a sack of gemstones that had been given to Lord Frederick Cavendish, but the whereabouts were never determined after the death. When the authorities did arrive, Douglas was out and his son Peter was apprehended and thrown into prison. Embittered, Douglas became a recluse from his own kin leaving Ian to his own devices. Ian blamed Healer Razanur for his brothers’ arrest and his father’s growing dementia and vowed to the last drop of blood in his family to seek revenge against them. Over the generations that followed, much blood was spilled upon the earth. Ian had carved his family a new crest, and a new motto ‘Tôl acharn Annan e’ - with time Vengeance comes.”


Frank looked up at the creak of the chairs and saw that several of the school board members and teachers were wrapped up in his story. He glanced at the clock and adjusted his glasses. What he had to say was going to take longer than 15 minutes. Not that he was stalling for time, but he knew it would take a while for his aunt and the others to find him, and he wanted to be sure they were there when he finished because he knew there would be some pressing questions by the time he was done. There was something else that he noticed about the principal of the school, something that made him swallow - and then lowering his head he continued to read from his report as his mind went back over the last week’s events.




Frank Fletcher, Jr. looked up over his glasses from the English book he was working from and saw his Great Aunt Jessica come in from the mail box with slower steps than he had seen before. “Aunt Jessica? Is something wrong?” he asked, putting his pencil down on the kitchen table. He heard it roll against the dozen other pencils that had been provided for him by Jessica so that he wouldn’t have any excuse to not have one precisely sharpened to the correct point.


She looked up at him with an envelope in her hands. Monday’s mail was always a bit more than the rest of the week. “It’s from your school. Your parents gave them this address if they needed to get in touch with you … It seems they want to give you a progress evaluation at the end of this week - to see how your summer schooling is coming. You have a meeting with them at 10:50 am on Friday.  It means a trip back to your school Thursday night and a return trip back here on Friday afternoon. Looks like we will be taking a road trip in three days,” she said to him with a smile.


Startled, Frank put the book down, sending one of the long number 2 pencils to the floor. He wasn’t expecting to go back so soon, and had been looking forward to not having to deal with the teachers at his school for the entire summer.


“You don’t drive. How are we going to get there?” he asked.


“We can take the bus. I have the schedule around here somewhere. There should be one that will do the trip in about six hours, if memory serves me correctly, but it will mean getting the bus at midnight and arriving at six am on Friday. Then it’s a cross town bus from there, which should get us to the school about 10 am. They would like you to write an essay to be read on what you have been doing this summer.” She saw a far away look of sadness in his eyes.


“Okay,” he said with a sigh. “I can do that, but if you think about it, I’ve only been here a week! What do they expect me to learn in that time?”


Jessica ruffled his hair. “Seems to me you’ve had an active summer already.”


Now that Frank could focus properly on the letters, and with Jessica’s patience at explaining how sentences were constructed, English had become less of a monster to him. An eleven year old didn’t care if a preposition was modified or a participial dangled.  Jessica had outlined what he needed to learn each day, and while English lessons had brought him no joy, he had found she wasn’t beating him over the head with what he needed to know. He redoubled his efforts with trying to understand things.  It wasn’t that he was looking for brownie points to make his great aunt happy, it - it was just something that was easier to do when she was helping him understand the basic concepts. Sometimes the stuff was so miserable to deal with he needed to get away from it, even if only to go as far as the rose garden and sit among the flowers until he could compose his emotions.


Frank was glad, though, that Willie Mac understood what he was going through and had shed light on ways he could understand his lessons.  Willie had found him sitting in the rose garden with his arms crossed and in tears after storming out of the kitchen where he had been so frustrated with the amount of work they expected of him. Willie had sat down beside him and offered him a clean corner of a handkerchief.


“I won’t ever understand this - I am a stupid lame ass idiot,” he had sniffled.


Willie put his arm around Frank’s shoulder. “Ah, no you’re na, lad. English is a most peculiar language. It’s not set up like most other languages. In English, for example, if you had had enough of something, you say ‘I’ve had enough.’ But in another language, it is said, ‘Stuffed is my bag,’ referring to the bag that your stomach is, like you have had a full meal. The German language is much more direct, and may read something like ‘Pouch full over mine is.’ One may be seen as saying you are full of eating, and the other means you’ve had it up to here,” he said, indicating over his head with his hand. 


Frank giggled, then became more serious. “I guess there is a lot to learn.”


Willie Mac nodded. “Best you spend your time, as your money, wisely and with great interest. It’s what my Gram always says. Off you go now, to your studies.”


Frank nodded and returned to the kitchen. For a moment he stood by the sink getting a glass of water to delay his studies. He saw Taylor come out of the house, over to where Willie was in the garden, and he gave her a kiss on her hand. There was only really half a head difference between their heights. He watched as they walked with Sydney on the leash down the street to the shop to go to work. This thing about kissing a girl: except for the kisses he got from his parents tucking him in, he just didn’t think he could get used to it.


Hand in hand Taylor and Willie Mac walked down the street. Unpacking had been a bit delayed the first day when his things arrived. In the midst of his sorrow and exhaustion of the day that Jessica had asked for his help with the pendent, Taylor had been the bright spot. Her impulsive kiss to his lips had shocked him and gave him a stirring in his heart that was now unbridled as a wild horse. Being kissed by her had been shocking, at first, but it was the shock that his heart needed to tell him all was right with the world with her at his side.  The neighbors hadn’t given a second thought to him staying there, or that she spent time with him at the shop. Not that it was a proper shop. They didn’t sell anything. It was more of a learning center. With Tipper’s help he had found some sheep farmers who were willing to sell him the raw wool, and it was up to him to sheer the sheep and to take it away to the shop where he had his woolies in one room.


Once the crates were unpacked, those who did venture in saw more of a working museum than a storefront. Along the wall that had held the register at one time was the giant loom that could weave material 200 inches across.  In another corner were the spinning wheel and cedar boxes that held the carded wool.  There were other boxes that herbs were dried in, and containers that held the natural dyes.  In the back was a vegetable garden, and had he been allowed, he would have had a nanny goat for milk.  It wasn’t anything special that he had. It was just what a typical home would be like. Upstairs, roped off, was the bedroom set, not that the bed was slept in now, but he did re-insulate the building. It took three days to bring it up to wiring code, and now they were working on the roof.


They also had a smaller loom, and an area for lace making. When Frank had seen it, he stood enthralled as Willies hands worked the pure white wool into a thin thread and wrapped it onto the spindle to be transferred later to the shuttlecock for weaving. He suddenly understood where Willie’s coat had come from.  The material on the bolt was different though - even though it was wool, it was the most delicate material he had ever seen. When Jessica had given him a choice of what he wanted to do for the afternoon, his answer was to go down to the shop and watch what was going on. It would take a few days to get the wool spun then transferred on to the loom and the shuttlecocks before the weaving could begin, but Frank found it a fascinating endeavor.


After lunch Jessica had given Frank some “time off for good behavior.” She saw he was clearly worried regarding the upcoming trip to the school, and wanted him to relax.


“What would you like to do? I have several calls to make to my publisher, and I think you have had enough for today, don’t you?” she asked, picking up the short pencil that rested on top of the phone to take conformations numbers down for their bus ticket reservations. She had work on her latest book she needed to do herself. While she knew she didn’t have to provide supervision for him twenty-four hours a day, she also knew that in Cabot Cove there were very few places except the docks that he could get into trouble. She saw him look over his shoulder to Taylor’s house and knew where he wanted to go. Willie Mac had informed Jessica that Frank was welcome there any time, and she would rather see him there than behind the desk at the computer.


“All right. But be home for dinner,” she said smiling. He gathered up the pencils on the table and his books and hurried to his room to put them away. Jessica watched him from an upper window as he hurried down the street and held her breath until he was safely inside the shop. No matter how old they were, parents always worried. She sighed, then went down to the kitchen and picked up the pencil that had fallen to the floor. Groaning, she straightened up. She knew for sure a storm was coming by the way her back stiffened up.  Placing it on the table she went into her study and sank down into the chair with her notepad on her lap.


There was a lot of research and thinking she had to do before she started to write. “Tea would be nice,” she thought, picking up her notepad pencil from the side table and placing it on top of the phone. It almost slipped from where it rested. Jessica reminded herself to get a proper pencil for phone notes before going into the kitchen to put the kettle on. While the water heated, she dialed the bus station and made the reservations for the trip. She hated to go so late at night, but it was the only bus that would go nearest to where they had to be in time for the review.





The afternoon was unseasonably sweltering as thick thunderheads rolled across the cove. Taylor looked out the door as she sipped a cup of tea that Willie Mac had made for her. She found it soothing.  Tipper had informed her that Anthony was still in town. He had brought the parents of the girl who had died to meet Frank, Jr. and to speak with him, and after seeing them off, had stayed at the Hill House gathering further information regarding Kent Fordham and Nightshade. Kent was facing the death penalty for his involvement in several murders and for conspiracy to commit murder.  His lawyers were appealing the case, though this would be the last appeal that they would be given in a week’s time. Taylor had never needed to testify. Mort had, and they took depositions from Jessica and Tipper. Taylor knew it would be a matter of time before he would want to speak with her about something. Anything. She didn’t know if she could handle walking away from him in person. Staying away from him was easier.


Since Willie had been staying with her since she had accepted his decision on what foods she should be eating and what teas and juices she should have, she had felt better. He would go on about the vitamins and minerals in what she was consuming, and what they did - but she simply had no idea what they were all for or how an elemental vitamin was different than the one that you got at the super market.  She just felt better, and she trusted him. She looked back to where Willie Mac was showing Frank how to card wool. A car pulled into the upper lot - she could tell it was a rental from the tags on the rear view mirror. Sydney lifted her head and looked in the direction of the car. Her tail thumped a few times. She looked at Taylor and gave a soft whine.


“Stay,” Taylor said gently. Sydney laid her head back down, but her tail increased its wagging as the person who got out of the car began to come down the hill.  “I can do this,” thought Taylor, taking another sip of tea.  Taylor studied Anthony as he walked closer - he had aged. He looked tired, and old. His hair had become completely gray and there was a haggard look in his eyes as if he had spent the last few years not sleeping. Taylor took a sip of the tea and watched him come up on to the porch from the far end. She lowered the mug and set it on the small table that held the door open.  He looked around and noticed the absence of the sign that said Nightshade. The place was cleaned,  and it smelled healthy. Wholesome. He heard the sound of Frank’s laughter, and Willie Mac’s gentle voice telling him about how wool gatherers always had the softest hands. Looking in he saw the looms, and the spinning wheel. He looked at Taylor, who was still leaning against the doorframe with Sydney at her feet.


“You look beautiful. How long has it been?” he began simply.


“Too long. I stopped waiting to live my life, Anthony. One year became two, then four. I had to be important to me. I had to matter in order to survive. I had to have someone who cares about me - enough to be there when I need them. Tipper has been, as has Seth, and Jessica, and all the people here. I came to this town, and they accepted me, supported me and cared for me. They were here for me when you chose not to be, when you decided to go on with your life, shabby sex and all.”


“Do I deserve that - condemnation from you?” he asked mildly.


“Do you?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest. 


He raised his hands in surrender. “I don’t know… maybe. It’s taken me a while to realize why you didn’t come back to LA. And longer to realize why I didn’t come to live here. I wouldn’t know how to act, or what to do here. I was afraid of what I might become if I left what I had known behind.  I was afraid of every perp that would escape, every killer who would go free if I walked away, and it cost me everything that was important in my life. You.” He stepped forward with the intention of delivering a kiss to her lips.


She pushed him back. “I wasn’t bloody well important enough for you if it took you four years to find your way back here!”


“Maybe if you would have given me a bit of an incentive I would have had a reason to come sooner!” he snapped. He realized it was the wrong thing to say the moment he said it.  He saw the smoldering fury begin to build in her eyes.


“Incentive?” she began, then stopped as she felt a light touch to her leg. It was Sydney, standing up on her hind legs and whining softly with concern.  She bent down and picked up the small dog before gathering her tea mug and striding into the shop leaving him on the porch. He watched as she went up the steps to the upstairs and heard a sob as the door closed behind her.


Anthony saw Frank Jr. look at the man who had been beside him. Willie said “Damnú air,” then said to Frank, “Mind the shop,” before taking the steps two at a time. There was a soft knock, then the sound of the door opening and closing. Anthony walked into the shop and looked around. It was far different than he would have expected.  Sighing, he picked up her forgotten cup and took a sip, almost spitting it out as soon as he had it in his mouth.


“What is this stuff?” he asked Frank.


“Tea,” said Frank with a measure of caution. He knew this man was a district attorney, and that his Aunt Jessica knew and liked him, and that he had brought the girl’s parents to Cabot Cove to meet him, which was awkward in its own way. Frank just wasn’t sure what this man’s angle was regarding Taylor.


Anthony looked up at where the rooms were, then back at Frank. “Is he good to her?” he asked softly as he walked to where the tea pot was. He saw that it was almost empty. He pulled out the old filter and by habit of working long hours at the courthouse, put in a new filter and measured some tea into it before tipping the cold tea out of the pot and getting water in the kitchen to place in the reservoir. Unseen to Frank, Anthony took a sample of the tea in a fold of a second coffee filter and palmed it into his hand until he had the chance to slip it into his pocket. 


Frank felt strangely grown up as he regarded the tall, well-dressed man before him performing the simple task of making tea.


“You still love her… why did you wait so long, and if I wasn’t here as a reason to come to Cabot Cove, would you have come back?”


‘In time, if we needed depositions, or when I knew it was over. I wanted her to be where I knew she was safe. If I kept coming back here, they would have found her - but it became easier to love the dream, I suppose.”


Frank looked up at the room where the door was still closed.


“If they got married, would you be happy for her? For them? Even if it broke your heart to let her go, would you let her be happy?” asked Frank, knowing that it was an impossible question for Anthony to answer at this time.


Anthony used the moment that Frank’s eyes were off of him to slip the tea packet into his coat pocket.  He knew the lab in Portland could give him the answers that he needed, a reason that he would need to protect her. He realized even if he did find something and rushed in to protect her that she wouldn’t be grateful, or want him to protect her. He had come into her life rather unexpectedly. She was the one to make all of the plans, do all of the caring and he was the one who allowed it.

”I love her,” Anthony said at last.  Frank shot him a look. The boy and man regarded each other before Frank said evenly,


“Then be an adult about it. Let her be happy, without the guilt that you bring. She wants you to be happy too. But it doesn’t include her in the bargain,” Frank said, waving his hand in the direction of the room.


Anthony started in the direction of the stairs when his cell phone rang. He stopped, and then looked at it. His shoulders fell as he read the text message.  “I have to go…”


Frank rolled his eyes and gave him a look that said if he went now, he shouldn’t come back. Anthony sighed, took the steps two at a time, and coming to the door he knocked once, then entered.


She was on the bed, and she had been crying. Willie Mac was sitting on the bed holding her hands speaking to her in a gentle voice. Anthony could see that he was doing his best to understand.  Both looked at Anthony as he stood in the door.


“I’m sorry…. I love you and I was wrong to expect things not to change or not to take steps to work on our relationship. I will always love you…and with that, I want what is best, and what will make you the happiest. I would like us to remain friends…”


She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.


Anthony crossed the room, and bending over gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead, then nodding to both of them strode out of the room and down the steps.  They heard the crunch of gravel as he left the porch and made his way back up the hill to where his car was parked. Getting in, he closed his eyes for a moment before putting the tea in a small evidence bag and lying on the seat beside him. He backed his car up and returned back to the Hill House Bed & Breakfast. Parking his car in the front lot he hurried past Curtis the manager on duty to take the steps two at a time to get his ID and a map of the area. Laying it out on the bed he regarded it. There were lines but few route numbers and he had to know about construction. He went down to where Curtis was pouring himself his third cup of coffee that day.


“Excuse me… I thought I overheard that the coastline route was closed due to construction - is there a better way of getting to Portland than that?” he asked.

Curtis looked over his coffee cup and with a green marker drew an alternative route on the map. Anthony thanked him and strode out to his car.  For a moment, Curtis watched Anthony pull out and then wait in the driveway until the way was clear to pull onto the road. Curtis leaned back, twisting his signet ring on his hand. He smiled then picking up the newspaper he swatted a particularly persistent bot fly.




Anthony tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he drove the 37 miles to the Portland courthouse where he knew their criminology department would be able to analyze what he had now resting on the seat in an evidence bag. Technology was a wonderful thing. Spectral analysis of the composite elements would take perhaps a matter of moments, or days, but it would be precise. He had called half way there, got directions and took the steps into the building three at a time. There was no trust in his heart anymore for the actions of others when it came to those he loved


It took five minutes for the water to boil, and then a small sample of the tea was run through an infuser before going to the centrifuge and to be analyzed further. The results were not what Anthony expected.


“It’s not a commercial blend. Dunno if the FDA would approve it for sale.”


“It’s that bad for you?” Anthony asked leaning against the counter.


The tech shook his head. “No, its – not a simple compound like regular tea is. It has enzyme reactions and antioxidants that would help build up a person’s health very quickly, like those energy drinks they are pushing on kids? But this one’s custom made for an individual’s health needs. Like what you would get at an apothecary’s shop.”


“What if someone else drank it?” Anthony pushed, hoping in a perverse way for something to nail Willie for.


“It may not taste very good to them. It wouldn’t hurt them, but the body wouldn’t accept every benefit that it had.  This one, if your heart wasn’t bad, wouldn’t put anything into your body that it didn’t need.  It also has something in here that would help boost the immune system, T cell production, and make red blood cells stronger - and that’s where the FDA wouldn’t approve of it.  This stuff does things they don’t even know how to do, heal specific medical problems at the source.”


“Even if a condition would be considered terminal?” pressed Anthony


The tech regarded Anthony. “Look, I don’t know what you’re hoping for, but this stuff isn’t dangerous to the person that it was made for, nor would it be harmful for long term use. And if someone else drank it, it wouldn’t harm them ether, it just wouldn’t help them. If it’s any consideration, the person who made this would be welcome in any alternative medicine circle. Consider what this knowledge could do to help AIDS or cancer patients if all they needed to do to feel better and healthier was to drink tea that was designed especially for their illness. This, (he pointed to the tea sample) is a labor of love.”




A distant rumble of thunder came through the open window of the shop later that afternoon. “The storm is coming in soon. We should close up here and get home, the windows are open there…” said Willie Mac, crossing over to release the catch that held the window up.  He locked it and turned to see her wiping fresh tears away. He sat beside her and took her hands in his.


“Hey lass, what’s troubling ye?” She shrugged, not being able to put into words what she felt.  He took her into his arms and just held her awhile before kissing her gently. Drying her tears he held out his hand to her and helped her off the chair, slipping her shoes on her feet. It took a minute to make everything secure, and to be sure things were unplugged and locked up before they walked up the hill and across the flats to where their house was.


Taylor stopped for a moment to catch her breath. Large drops of rain had begun to fall as she looked over the cove where the storm was flashing brilliant shades of green and purple above the far side of the shore.  “Best to get the hurricane lamps out tonight, Frank; Jessica has them in the basement - she will tell you where.”


Frank nodded, then going to Taylor he gave her an unexpected hug before going into Jessica’s home.


The storm brought an early night with heavy rains and gusting winds. Taylor watched as Willie Mac paced in the living room rather than settle on the sofa to read by the flickering lamp light. The power had gone out shortly after the rains had started. Sydney lifted her head as the Tap Tap Tap of small hail stones began to fall against the window pane. Knowing she wasn’t going to be able to concentrate with him pacing, she put the book aside and stood up. “It’s been a long day.”

Willie Mac stopped pacing. He turned and looked at her and she saw something in his eyes. Concern. Sadness. Fear. She walked up to him “Willie? What is it? What’s wrong?

 He sighed and shook his head. “Nothing.” It was at that moment a sharp crack of lightning rattled the windows. Willie closed his eyes and jerked involuntarily.


She walked over to him and took him by the hand. “Come on… let’s go to bed,” she said simply. He resisted her gentle tug towards the steps.


Damnú air I am na a child to be trundled off to bed and told when to go to sleep or hid behind their mother’s skirts at every rattle of the wind. Tis only just 5 pm,” he said a bit more crossly than he meant to.


She held the lamp under her chin, just far enough away so the hot air wouldn’t harm her. It illuminated her face in an eerie cast of yellow.


“Who said anything about sleep? I’m up for some ghost stories by lamplight!” she said, wiggling her eyebrows. She turned around and started up the steps while saying, “It was a Dark and Stormy Night … The rain and wind lashed the branches in a frightful display of the elements. The skies were split by earth-shattering blasts of fierce lightning and the booming thunder that rattled the depths of the ancient willow that was once a terrible wizard who had cursed the small seaside cove…” Her voice faded off upstairs. Willie was left alone in the dark. For a moment he stood, considering lighting another lamp, but a sudden bolt of lightning that struck nearby caused him to jump with alarm and scurry up the steps.


He saw the lamp light coming from the far side of Taylor’s room.  Sydney was curled up at the foot of the bed and lifting her head gave him a curious glance. As he stepped inside of the room she stepped out from the unseen edge of the door and said in a sudden puff of air, “BOO!”


Willie gave a high girlish scream of fear and jumped straight up and stumbled back onto his back side. Taylor gasped, her hands covering her mouth to hide her wide grin. She knew she really shouldn’t have done that - but she couldn’t resist. His face looked stricken.


She stepped up to him and offered her hand to help him up off of the floor. He took it, and it guided him up to his feet. “I suppose you think stopping my heart like that would be funny?” he said still a bit peevishly. She saw he was trembling. She guided him into her bedroom and made him sit on the bedside.


“I didn’t know you would fall backwards. I am sorry. Please forgive me? And can you tell me what is going on? What’s wrong? Please don’t say ‘nothing,’ because something is making you shake like a leaf. It’s not the storm, is it?”


Another bolt struck near by. Willie closed his eyes and hugged himself. “Nae, na the storm’s but memories of what the sounds were when I was a younger lad,” he said softly. “There is so much to freedom that is not understood. So much for being able to spend the night in your own home an’ na fear bottle bombs being tossed through the window to burn your family while they sleep. Or pipe bombs made with nails and glass that they throw into the primary schools during playtime outside. Spend a week in Belfast, and you will age ten years. Even if the truce was signed years ago, it’s still na safe. You don’t know how hard it is nae to hide under the steps when the sirens scream across the night. How many times the underground stations were bombed. If you leave your car parked in the wrong area of London by accident, that the Met will come an’ strip it apart looking for things, an’ tow it away without so much as a by-your-leave. Or to have Sunday dinner an’ they fly over your home with jets so low tha' you can wave to the pilots an’ they are bombing another country because they’ve been told to. People live with tha’ every day, and they continue to live tha’ way because they don’t know any other way. They canna show weakness or fear on the outside. I know tha’ it’s just the storm, I know it may seem childish. But I canna help what I feel.”


Taylor went to the other side of the bed and crawled across the top of it to be behind him. She saw his shoulders slump at another lightning strike as she placed her hand on his shoulder. “Come here,” she said, softly patting the pillow on the side of the bed where he sat. He gave her a look.


“What are ye expecting of me Lass?” he asked in a soft voice, not trusting what he was feeling in his heart. He remembered their first kiss - he had seen stars, not having ever been kissed like that by a woman before.


“Are you afraid of what I may do?” she asked, grinning slightly as she lay back on the pillow.


“Well, yes. A lad has to stay respectable or he’d never find any hope of being made an honest fellow, an' you have been a bit forward in the past. I’m just a wee bit concerned for my virtue,” he said in a serious voice.


“Ah… Well, would it help if I promised not to take advantage of you tonight? I can’t promise that for tomorrow, but just for tonight, would that ease your mind?” she asked.


She saw him take a breath, and very seriously regard her. “Your na concerned that I may have my way of you then?” he inquired as he viewed her face by the lamp light. Her hand went to his and tugged him back onto the bed before blowing out the lamp.


“Willie Mac, I trust you with my life ... and my heart. I am quite safe tonight, as are you.”


It was only a heart beat later that a lightning bolt hit across the street. Willie Mac cried out loud and covered his head with his hands before finding himself in Taylor’s arms against her chest as he shivered.  It was going to be a long night.




Frank sat at the window watching the storm swirl leaves and small branches in the air, the dark town illuminated by the brilliant flashes of lightning.


“Whoa! Wicked!” he exclaimed as the tree three houses over was hit with lightning, splitting off the top section in the blast. The pelting rain extinguished the fire that scorched the leaves and branches as the splintered and smoldering wood tumbled to the ground.


At the rate the tree branches were coming down in the wind and the lightning strikes it was quite possible, Jessica had informed him that they would be with out power for several hours. He didn’t need to be reminded not to open the refrigerator door. If the power remained out long enough for the food to defrost in the freezer they would have to use the barbeque to cook it up or to find some other way of preserving it. The hurricane lamp flickered, casting an eerie glow of moving shadows about the room  Frank heard Jessica’s footsteps come to the door of the room. She knew her way around the house in the dark.


“Aunt Jessica, how come the storms where I live aren’t as cool as this? It’s like the special effects you see in the movies! SMACKCRACK BOOMS! And the tree just goes WHOOAPHAAHSS and it blows apart!  And how come your sunsets are different - two seconds and the sun is either up, or down!” he said waving his hands mimicking the sun against the land then waited for an answer from her.


“There isn’t as much dust or smog in the air as the city you live in, and the dust bends the light rays making it seem like its longer. As for the storms, even the weather man can’t always explain them. There seems to be a line though that keeps some storms where they are, and when another one comes in the opposite direction along that line, the ‘special effects,’ as you call them, can be quite spectacular.  It’s not safe, though, being by the window with things flying about out there. If you’re interested, there is some apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese in the kitchen to be sampled…”


Frank gave her a look. “That’s my dad’s favorite… and mine too… how did you know?” he asked, getting up from where he sat to follow her into the kitchen as he carefully carried the lamp.


“Just a hunch!” she laughed, allowing him to go ahead of her to put the lamp on the table along side the other one. He moved the chair back from the table for her and went to the drawers by the sink to get a fork for both of them and had turned just as she was stepping down into the kitchen. Neither of them saw the pencil stub that had rolled to the center of the floor when he moved the chair out.


“AUNT JESSICA!” Frank yelled as he saw her fall backward in slow motion. He tried to reach her hand, to stop her from falling. He felt her fingertips slip from his grasp as she tumbled backwards. Her breath was driven from her body as she impacted on the kitchen floor.  “AUNT JESSICA!”




Sydney’s head lifted up off of the bottom of the bed where she had nestled between their legs.  Taylor, sensing her movement, sat up, jarring Willie’s head from her chest as she did. He looked at her puzzled. “What is it?” he asked, seeing the concern on her face.  She watched as Sydney jumped off the bed and started for the door, then paused and looked back at her and whined softly.


“Something’s wrong,” she said tossing the coverlet back and swinging her legs over the side of the bed to jam her feet into her shoes.


Willie let out a slow breath of air as he put his shoes on and followed her down the steps. He saw her hand close over her cell phone and her keys as she went through the kitchen to the back door, following Sydney’s lead Willie saw a brilliant flash of lightning, then crossing himself followed her out the back and closed and locked the door behind him. She was hurrying across the garden at Jessica’s house and onto the back porch where she was knocking when he caught up to her. Both of them could see the twin lamps on the table, but everything else was in shadow. Willie held back a shriek as Frank popped up out of the shadows, opened the door and fell sobbing into Taylor’s arms.


“It’s Aunt Jessica, she fell, I couldn’t stop her from going down, she’s not awake!”  Willie went past the two of them and took a lamp down to the floor level beside Jessica.  His hand went to her throat, checking for her pulse. “She’s alive.” 

Taylor pulled out her cell phone and dialed the emergency dispatch. She held Frank in her arms as he sobbed quietly. Sydney came over to them after investigating the floor for crumbs and had the stub of the pencil in her mouth. She let it go in Taylor’s hand. Nether of them saw Frank see the broken stub and pale as Taylor placed it on the table behind them.


Mort strode across the back of Jessica’s house as the ambulance personnel wheeled the gurney that had her into the back of the ambulance Willie was beside the gurney as well speaking to the paramedics. One of them nodded. Willie got into the back of the ambulance with one of the paramedics. Mort could see Willie’s worried expression as the door closed. He went into the house and saw Frank being rocked by Taylor, who was doing her best to comfort the young boy. 


“Come on. I’ll take you to the hospital,” he said gently. Mort picked up the key to lock up the house and blew out both lamps making sure they were out before holding the door for them. Taylor scooped up Sydney in her arms. Mort was about to say something regarding the dog would never be allowed into the hospital until he remembered that Sydney was a working dog. The ambulance swayed in the heavy winds and Mort prayed that it would not over turn. Frank still hadn’t said anything; he only clung to Taylor, his face grief stricken.  It was a 20 minute ride to the hospital, and when they arrived Mort saw the hospital had a line of ambulances that were dropping patients off as fast as they could. He parked the car and looked at Taylor. “I’m going to see to crowd control. Go on in and I will be with you in a bit.”  He turned to one of the hospital security people.


“What happened?” Taylor heard a snatch regarding a pile up due to a tractor trailer overturning that had been coming back from Portland. Details were sketchy but someone had said that the tractor trailer swerved into a car, the end of the trailer had hit another car.


Mort made sure that they understood that Jessica was a head/ spine trauma patient and with Willie at her side she was whisked in the doors and into an exam room ahead of some of the others.


“I think there is a hot cocoa machine over here,” Taylor said, leading him into the waiting room. The night had been warm, but the wind and rain, and shock, had chilled both of them to the bone. She knew something else was bothering Frank. It took a while before he sniffed and said softly, “It’s all my fault”


“What is?” she asked, curious.


He sat up and looked at her. “My pencil must have fallen. She slipped on the pencil. Aunt Jessica got hurt and it’s all my fault.”


“Oh… that’s a lot of guilt to be carrying around, isn’t it? I don’t know of a day that Jessica doesn’t sweep her floor at least four times. Do you think it’s likely she would have missed the pencil every time?” She saw him shrug.


“There is always the first time,” he said softly.


Taylor placed her hands on either side of his shoulders. “Listen to me. Even if you had accidentally left an entire box of pencils on the floor and she fell on them she wouldn’t blame you or hold it over you. It’s not saying that you don’t have to be responsible for picking up after yourself, but Jess wouldn’t want you to be upset if it was an accident.”


“But if she is in the hospital, who is going to take care of me, and my lessons? And they want me to be at the school next Thursday to be evaluated on what I’ve learned so far, and Mum and Dad can’t come back from where they are working just because I bogeyed things up again.”


“Until Jessica is out of the hospital, you can stay with Willie and me. Willie can help you with your English as well. He went to a university that made sure everyone going through has a mastery of the English language,” said Taylor softly.


“Except when he hits his thumb with a hammer?” Frank asked, finally calming a bit. The loom had given Willie particular difficulties - there had been a bit of warping until the wood dried and the hammer had hit his thumb in the same spot that he had hit it when removing the Nightshade sign. The string of words that came from his mouth was not any that those in the neighborhood recognized - but from the tone, everyone knew what they meant.


“Well, damnú air don’t go repeating that,” was all Willie had said, seeing their mouths open from shock




The metal shackles felt cold against Kent Fordham’s wrists and ankles as he was transported to the Orange County courthouse for his appeal. He knew what the outcome would be. His lawyer had informed him he had a snowball’s chance of having them rescind the order for his execution.   He should have been more worried, his lawyer argued. Kent wasn’t. He had every confidence today would be his last day in prison. He sat back, watching the town from the window of the transport, trying to think back on what one moment had caused his plans to collapse so. “Ruin them. Ruin them all!” his father had impressed on his brother and him from the time they were old enough to remember what their grandfather Ian would go on about before he died. His older brother had been torn from the house in the middle of the night and thrown in prison for something that he didn’t do, and he spoke of the grief that his great-grand father had been through in the years to follow. The hatred that welled in his heart.


There were many ways to destroy a man, and his family. As young as they were, Grandfather Ian drew out a dagger and made a blood oath for his brother Stephen and him to use every means possible to utterly destroy the Razanur line, in such a way that it would bring them shame and dishonor. Stephen had failed. At first, it seemed as if he had been successful - but his personal ambitions clouded his judgment, and had he continued, he would have compromised the family. His father had sent Kent to America at the same time Stephen had begun his lessons with the healer Razanur.  He had been told to distance himself from his family, to find a way to get close to them …


It was ironic that when Willie Mac wrote the book, he had no real idea of what was going on. It wasn’t about the drugs, or the control of people that his brother was trying to accomplish. It was more primitive. Revenge. Kent had resisted the urge to use the sword against the old woman, lop off her head - but there would be no revenge in that, no sweet taste to linger while they realized that there wasn’t any way they could get back the sword that they were so proud of. It was one of the few things that his grandfather remembered they had taken with them when they had left - something his great grandfather stormed about the estate looking for. He couldn’t say they had stolen it because it did belong to the Razanurs and his words “he who holds the sword holds the land” made no sense to any of them. Kent wanted them to feel despair - to have the lingering horror of what they had lost. 


Kent knew that by leaving the sword in public display he could draw Willie Mac out to a land that had little tolerance for a stranger.  Kent had been sent to build an army of those loyal to serving for glory - for the greater good. Those who would follow without question or fail - the sheep. There were also wolves within his flock. Those who were ruthless, those who understood what they thought was his plan. He had never told people what the plan really was. They were blind enough to believe that in the empire that he was building they would have a place to oversee others. That they would share in the glory and profits to follow.  They had wanted to have one of their own to represent him, and he had said no. The organization had to stay out of the courtroom for now.  While they did have connections within the system, they would have to wait until later, until the last moment to act so as not to arouse suspicion.


Stephen’s death had been unavoidable.  There were sacrifices that had to be made for the greater good.  Some costs were great to bear, but worth more than gold, or silver. He wanted to laugh. What they thought they knew was only a small part of reality, and there would be some secrets that he would take to his grave.


Sutton House had become a liability, and a monster unto its own. Kent had found himself losing control over his people, his wolves in the flock of sheep that came into the stores looking for the way - the gathering - the mystical moment that would bring an end to evil. It was almost laughable to see his family crest worn as a badge of honor on total strangers, on t-shirts and mugs and mouse pads. They would gaze at it every day and not have a clue that they were helping him with his vengeance, or how it helped build his own empire. He knew Willie Mac would come after the sword. He knew the letter of the law would allow him to keep possession of the sword. Or, so he had thought. One of his wolves had passed word that all that was in the shops had been returned to Sutton House, minus the sword and the scabbard. When Sutton House had questioned where the sword was and where the scabbard was, they had been informed that the scabbard had been kept in customs and forgotten because of the leather content, and it would cost more to see it through the customs procedure than what they felt it was worth. Never having been in the shop, it was not part of the property to be returned. The sword, on the other hand, was being held by the authorities because it had been used as a weapon, and no power in the United States would release it except to its rightful owner. The authorities did not recognize the publishing house to be the sole owner of the sword as they had no purchase record for it.


Kent’s eyes narrowed. He knew exactly who held the sword, and why he wouldn’t give it up. It was a small matter. It was just a sword, and it would still draw Willie Mac to it, and lull him into complacency. His wolves had informed him that the scabbard had been collected by Willie Mac when he was in L.A., and they begged to finish him off, there and then. Kent had refused. It was not for them to bring him down. It had to be by Kent’s hand. He knew where the sword was, and that Willie could not go home. Not while Kent was still alive. Not while there was unfinished business. Willie Mac was soft. As a healer, he could not take a life, even if the blood codes demanded it.  He did have to give Willie Mac credit. Just as Kent had used the sword to draw Willie out of the protection of his community, Willie was now using the storefront as a battle ground, saying to Kent and his followers “I am here, come and let’s finish this.”


The hearing was predictable. Death within the month. Kent Fordham gazed about the room of unsympathetic people. He stood with dignity, a smirk on his face as the judge asked if he had anything to add to the court record.


Tôl acharn Annan e Ah Annan, Acharn.” Kent saw one of the officers by the door shift and look at him. There was just a perceptible nod.  The words that he had spoken would set his wolves free. It was time. He slid into the back of the police cruiser and saw the signet ring on the officer’s hand as he turned the wheel. He looked to the police officer who slid beside him in the back. The same brief nod was exchanged. Kent settled back into his seat and smiled.




Frank stood in the doorway looking in at Jessica in her hospital bed. He saw the wires and the monitor and the IV tube and how translucent she looked under the covers. He moved across the room and kicked off his shoes. The hospital people were busy with everything else, and Taylor was speaking to Seth in the hallway. Frank carefully got onto the bed and lay down beside Jessica, his head resting on her shoulder.  He watched her breath for a moment, then exhaustion took him. When Seth and Taylor stepped into the room, they found Frank fast asleep. “I’ll stay with them.” Taylor had said. Seth nodded then followed the sound of Willie Mac’s voice down the hall.


Once Jessica had been put into the room on monitors there was very little else that could be done. Seth had arrived and taken over her care while they were waiting for the tests to be done. Willie Mac had found the hospital didn’t have enough staff on hand to deal with the amount of people coming into the hospital emergency room. One terrified youngster whose mother was being worked on had bolted down the hall. Willie stepped out to see what the alarm was about and had seen the tear-streaked face coming at him. His quick arms scooped her up and as she struggled he spoke to her gently. Perhaps it was his accent, or the tone of his voice that made her stop and listen. His eyes searched her for injuries and when the orderly came to collect her, she clung to Willie.  He walked down the hall to where the next ward was and saw the amount of injured. Handing off the child to her father Willie took a breath and then went back in to where Seth was and asked simply, “What can I do to help?” Seth was about to say that there wasn’t anything more that could be done for Jessica, but then he saw the blood on Willie’s shirt from the little girl.


Taylor looked in to where Willie was.  His eyes held a painful sadness as he spoke gently to a little boy of about five who lay pale and shivering on the cot. His face was battered from impacting the side of the door, yet his troubles were internal from the safety belts that were to protect him. The force of the impact had pushed his body against unyielding objects. Even from the door she could hear an unmistakable gasp rattle each time the child took a breath. They were waiting for one of the operating rooms to be open, but the look in Willie’s eyes told her that there wasn’t much that could be done. Taylor saw a tag on the boy’s wrist band. It was blue. She stepped back and saw there were others that had tags on, some red, some orange, some blue. She leaned against the door holding back the tears. She knew what the tags were for. When there was no hope, or not enough doctors, they had to choose who would live, or die. Taylor wiped the tears from her eyes and looked around again. Where were his parents? She looked in the room again, and realized Willie was there so that the little boy would not be alone. She went in and picked up the boy’s other hand. Willie looked at her and saw tears in her eyes. “He is next on the list to go into surgery.” he said to her.


“You’ll stay with him?” she asked. He nodded.


“I’ve promised him that already, to stay with him until he can be with his parents. He won’t be alone…”


Taylor looked towards the door. “Where are they?” she asked turning back.  Willie didn’t need to say anything. It was on his face.


“Oh,” she said fighting back the tears.




Tipper fought her way through the crowded waiting room of the hospital. There seemed to be way too many people there, some lingering by others who were crying, some going outside into the rain seemingly without care. While the neighborhood didn’t have power, she still had a battery radio and had kept it on to chart the progress of the storm as it headed inland. She had heard the accident report. Shaking her head at the vulture nature of the reporters she almost turned off the radio when she heard a name. She looked at her cats, who had jumped on the counter to look out at the clouds. It was not a night to be walking, and she knew there wouldn’t be any taxies available. Groaning, she snatched the keys from the hook and tossed on her poncho. She hated to drive unless it was absolutely necessary.  This was one of those times. It was a quick minute down the street to Taylor’s house. She knocked, and then waited. Not hearing Sydney’s bark, or seeing the little dog come to the door,  she went over to Jessica’s house and found no one at home there either.


“Off to the hospital they are,” said a voice behind her. “Jessie took a spill.” She turned and saw no one. Her heart pounding, she turned again, looking around. No one. In a shaky voice she said, “Thanks,” and then got into her car and began to drive.


The waiting room had begun to settle down when Tipper strode through. She knew with the Hippa laws that she wouldn’t be able to get any information from the receptionist about Jessica, but it was a fair guess that Seth was there. She passed a young couple carrying their five year old little boy out of the hospital. He was hugging his dad, and his mother in turn and there was a peaceful expression on his face. She recognized him as Cal, the owner of a small Springer spaniel named Lucky who had managed to be the only dog in Cabot Cove to hold the honor to be dequilled seven times in one summer. He waved to her as they carried him out, the dad placing him on his shoulders.  She hurried past the receptionist and into the ward area where she heard Seth speaking to someone.


Seth noticed her, and her worried expression. “Dr. Henderson, what brings you out at this hour?”


“Have you seen Taylor? I went by her house and she’s not there… and someone said Jessica was here – is she alright?’


“Jess is still not responding. She slipped and fell, hit her head. Frank is with her. Willie, is helping out in surgery. Taylor’s in the waiting room downstairs.”


“Why is Willie in surgery? He can’t practice medicine in the United States without a license, can he?”


Seth shook his head. “He made a promise to stay with one of the patients while they went in … a little boy … Callahan Davis.”


Tipper turned on her heel and began to race down the hall to the steps, nearly breaking her legs as she jumped from flight to flight in her haste to get to the bottom. She burst into the surgery waiting room and saw Taylor being held by Willie. She rushed to them. “Cal?” Willie turned - his face was tear-streaked and bore the mask of exhaustion. He shook his head. Tipper stepped back and went through the doors where she knew the morgue was. She had to know. Willie followed her, trying to hold her back.


“Lassie, you don’t want to remember him that way, or his parents,” he said gently.


“I saw them. Upstairs! Just a few minutes ago when I was coming in, I saw them. Louise and Bert - and Cal - they were fine.”


Willie moved in front of Tipper and put both of his hands on the sides of her face and looked into her eyes. “Tout vient de Dieu. They say a true healer can see beyond what is spoken within the world, and see what is beneath to heal with their hearts. I have no doubts that you saw them just now lassie, and the others that have passed through the doors this night.  What brings you out on an evening like this?” he asked moving his hands down to take hers in to his.


“OH! The radio - it had a report of a tractor trailer hitting a car, and the back end of the truck hit a car and that they found out who was in the first car that was hit…The police said the driver of that car was Anthony.  I went to your house to tell you, and then Jessica’s and someone said you all were here,” she said in a rush.


“Did they say if he was all right?” asked Taylor softly.


“No, they didn’t, but they didn’t say he wasn’t all right,” Tipper said, trying to re assure her. Thinking back she said, “And I didn’t see him in the waiting room or outside…like the others. They also said that Kent Fordham escaped, and the two officers that were with him transporting him to prison were killed… they don’t know where he is headed to, but … he is headed here, isn’t he?”


Willie let Tipper’s hands go.  He went to Taylor and said softly, “I don’t know how to keep you two safe from him. He’s going to remember, and going to want to do something about people who can identify him. If he is killed, or dies by the hands of the authorities, he becomes a symbol for their cause - his family cause which has always been about murdering the innocent in the quest for power.” Willie took a breath, then went to the nurse’s station and asked them to page Mort. Taylor moved to the bench with Tipper beside her. Tipper watched her friend as she sat – there were tears still on her face, yet there was no sign of distress, just exhaustion without hope. Mort strode through the elevator doors and saw Tipper there. Willie went and spoke softly to him, and then the two men went into the morgue area. It was a short time later that Willie came out. Mort was two steps behind him, and Tipper could see that he had been crying inside there. He hated to see any innocent harmed.


“Willie Mac’s hunch was right. The driver of the truck was wearing a signet ring with the crest from Nightshade. And there isn’t any sign of Anthony in there. We checked every one there.  I will have Doc look for him among the patients… quietly.”


Tipper regarded Mort. “How did the truck driver know where Anthony was - or what he was driving?”


Shaking his head, Mort sighed. “I don’t know…For right now, we have to concentrate on the living. Let’s go see how Mrs. F. is doing, and if she is awake…maybe she will have some ideas.”


Jessica wasn’t awake. The hospital had moved her into a semi private room that had no one else at the time on the other side. Frank was still asleep next to her, and someone had covered him with a blanket to keep him warm.  Seth had informed them that it would be the best thing for Jessica to know that Frank was safe with her.  Mort stood a moment at the foot of her bed with Tipper beside him before going out and sitting in the chair by her door. Tipper followed him out and said to him softly, “She will be all right. Seth said so himself, that he thinks she just fell asleep after everything – it’s her body’s way of healing.” 


“I’m not leaving here until I can be sure the only ones who come and go in that room are people that we know aren’t on the other side,” he said softly. Mort pulled a chair from one of the other rooms and placed it beside Jessica’s door. “And it may be helpful if you all stay in there tonight so that I won’t have to worry about you with that storm blowing in,” he finished.


Willie eyed the two lounge chairs that were in the room.  He sat in one and caught Taylor’s hand. “Come on muirnín,” he said gently as he pulled her down onto the seat next to him. Tipper eyed him as she took the other lounge chair and kicked it back to lift her feet. She saw Taylor give him a look of concern then he spoke again, softer so as not to wake Frank.


“Now, you were telling me about the evil wizard that was a willow tree I believe.”


 Taylor shifted, stretching herself out slightly. “So you were paying attention…”


“Oh aye,” he said giving the light behind him a tug that reduced the lighting in the room down to the soft glow of the monitors and the wall light to guide whoever entered into the room.


“Hey!” said Tipper softly, a bit surprised at the sudden darkness.


 Willie Mac looked over at her. “Taylor started a story earlier tonight, an’ I want to hear it.”


“Do you now?” Taylor asked. “And you won’t be afraid?”


“I’ve got you to hold on to now, don’t I?” he asked innocently. “Just as long as you’re na causing me a heart attack by jumping out of the shadows at me again.”


“I can’t promise anything,” she said, grinning at him. He raised his eyebrows at her. She was going to tease him when the rumble of thunder shook the windows unexpectedly.  She felt him tremble beside her and placed her hand upon his chest to sooth him.


“It was a Dark and Stormy Night… The rain and wind lashed the branches in a frightful display of the elements. The skies were split by earth-shattering blasts of fierce lightning and the booming thunder that rattled the depths of the ancient willow that was once a terrible wizard who had cursed the small seaside cove…” she began again before she was interrupted by Tipper’s soft giggle.


“A dark and stormy night? Oh, please!”


Willie shushed her. “I want to hear it - you can sleep if you want – if you can when she properly scares the bejebers from ye.”


“Sorry,” Tipper said smothering a second giggle.


Taylor cleared her throat. “Now where was I?” she said softly. “Ah yes, the terrible wizard who had cursed the small seaside cove. His name… was Alnanadula,” she said in a hushed voice. As if on cue behind them a lightning bolt struck very near the hospital, sending the windows into a rattling dance upon the window panes. Rain began falling harder as she felt Willie’s hand take her own. She saw something in his eyes. Desperation. He didn’t want to fall apart in front of Tipper, or when he knew that Mort was just outside the door.


“Guess you must not say his name eh?” said Tipper enjoying a bit of fun with the story.


Taylor’s voice was soft and warm as she continued her story. Tipper realized almost too late that the tone of Taylor’s voice was such that despite the horror elements of the story, she couldn’t help but feel relaxed and found herself drifting off to sleep. She could have sworn that she heard Mort chuckle outside over some of the things the wizard did just before sleep claimed her.


Seth walked down the hallway and found Mort sitting in the chair outside the door, waiting. He stood when Seth approached and saw something in his eyes. He walked down the hall and leaned against the wall. “You found him?” Seth nodded.


“He is in CCU. Had to go door to door looking, didn’t want to arouse suspicions by searching the data base. He was awake when I went in… and he remembers what happened. His cell phone rang and there wasn’t any one on the other end, and then the tractor trailer passed him before putting on its breaks and turning its wheel into Anthony’s lane. He managed to disconnect his seat belt and throw himself out of the other side when the impact happened, and that saved his life. He hit the side of the road pretty hard, but if he hadn’t, he would have been crushed to death.”


“Does the press know?” Mort asked Seth softly.


Seth shook his head. “No. The hospital administrators have issued a blanket statement stating that until family members of the people involved have been notified they are not releasing any information regarding who survived the crash, nor the condition of any of the survivors.”




Dawn arrived under a hazy mist of rain and falling bits of leaves in the strong winds that prevailed over the cove. Frank was the first to awake from his slumbers to see Jessica sleeping peacefully, and then Taylor and Willie Mac.  In the other chair he saw Tipper, and knew he had something to ask her. It could wait  He turned back to Jessica and gave her a kiss on her cheek, then slid out of bed and walked out of the room. Mort was speaking to one of the nurses while watching the elevator door. It wasn’t that Mort wasn’t paying attention, but he was looking for adults coming and going, not kids. Frank had no problem walking down the hall and getting onto the elevator. Reaching out, he hit a button and rode the elevator to the top floor and stepped out onto the ward.   He didn’t see any one at the desk. Not that he found that odd: it was a hospital, and early morning, and he figured they were getting ready for the shift change or something.


Being small had its advantages. No one notices kids, or pays attention to what they are doing. It was a simple matter for him to slip into the room and pull up a chair and get the extra blanket for over his shoulders as if he had been their the whole night. He knew the shift was changing. He couldn’t say why he had left the safety of his Aunt Jessica’s room, or how he knew what room to go to, but he found himself looking upon Anthony as he lay hooked up to monitors and the machine to help him breath. Frank could tell he was in a bad state.  Carefully, he settled in holding Anthony’s free hand, and rested his head upon the edge of the bed.  He didn’t realize he was drifting off until he heard the sliding of the curtain and looked up without moving his head. Someone was in the room in a white jacket. Frank focused on the person. It was a tall, thin man who was in a white lab jacket and had a white t-shirt underneath.  The man stepped up to the IV poll and began looking at the full bags and all of the connectors.  His hands moved over them, tracing down them to where they went into Anthony’s arm.


Frank saw the glint of a gold signet ring that bore a black stone with a triangle and hour glass in the center of it on the man’s ring finger. Carefully Frank grasped the signal button and gave it a push as the man pulled a syringe from his pocket. It held a dark yellow liquid that swirled as he raised it to one of the primary connectors. Frank knew something was very wrong, and, unmindful of his own danger, lifted his head and asked, “What are you doing?”


The man hesitated for a second. “Just giving what the Doctor ordered, sonny,” the man said smoothly.


“No. I don’t think you should,” said Frank. He saw the man look at him. Frank had been to the zoo once and had stood by the cage that held the king cobras. One of them had raised its head to regard him and spread its hood, hissing. Frank had stood transfixed in the gaze of the snake’s eyes. He knew the glass between them would protect him. Frank felt the same way now as he looked into this man’s eyes – he knew that he was dangerous and only the bed stood between him and certain death. But he knew, somehow, that if he let the man put whatever he had into the IV tube, Anthony wouldn’t make it. He also knew that as a witness to it, one who could identify the man, Frank wouldn’t make it out of the room alive ether.  He shifted over to the left slightly and let his fingers curl around his secret weapon. No one had answered the bell. Frank knew he had one chance at this, and at the very least the noise that was going to follow should bring someone.  He saw the man step to the IV poll again. Lifting his arm up Frank thanked his dad silently for all the hours that he practiced throwing paper wads into the trash basket from across the room.


The metal bed pan made a flying arc as it flew across the bed and impacted the man’s head with a resounding clang before it clattered to the floor and skittered into the hallway. The man dropped the syringe and grabbed on to the curtain as he staggered backwards then went to his knees  Frank heard a snarl. He realized that while the man hit with a metal bed pan could have been seriously injured, it didn’t knock him out, and only made him more angry than he had ever seen any adult be as he rose from his knees and came around the bedside to lift Frank up by his shirt .


“Why you…” the man snarled.


“SOMEBODY HELP!!!” yelled Frank as he began kicking and wiggling as hard as he could. “HELP ME, PLEASE!!!” 


“There isn’t anyone to help you here, little boy,” the man hissed.


There was a voice behind the man that caused him to pause. Or, as Frank realized later, it was the police special that was now pushed into the man’s spine from behind him.


“I wouldn’t count on that…” said Mort mildly as he reached around and got the man’s left arm to cuff him. Frank pulled away from the man and backed up to the bed. The man continued to look at him with loathing. Frank was determined not to give in to the fear or the pounding of his heart. “Nice going, kid,” said Mort with a nod.


“I didn’t do anything…” the man said, trying to turn to face Mort. “This kid just whaled me out of the blue. I was just doing my job…”


“Oh, that is such tarbh Cac peacach,” snorted Frank. “He had a syringe and was going to put it into his IV tube, but he wasn’t wearing any gloves - and he doesn’t have a name badge, and he has that ring on…” said Frank, looking around the room for it. He found it kicked under the bed and using a tissue he picked it up and held it up for Mort. “Maybe we should try it on him to find out what’s in it?” asked Frank, looking at Mort.


“Maybe…” Mort agreed.


The man twisted, turned and looked at Mort. “You don’t know what you’re doing…”


“Actually, I do. I know the whole story and I know that I am arresting you for murder, attempted murder, assault on a minor, resisting arrest, impersonating hospital personnel and a host of others that I will think of before your paperwork dries.  You have the right to remain silent…”


As Mort led the man out of the room Frank walked to the tall trash can next to the sink. His whole body was shaking like a leaf.  He hadn’t eaten since dinner time, but he felt as if his belly was going to rebel. He doubled over and was on his fourth heave when he felt strong hands support his weak body and guide him to a chair.


“Easy, Frank. It’s okay, it’s over. You’re safe now,” he heard Mort say with concern.


 Frank looked up at him. “How did you know? The nurse didn’t come to help, she didn’t answer the bell. He was going to kill Anthony, and me - and if you hadn’t come in…”


Mort let a slow breath out. He hadn’t noticed Frank was gone. His being there was coincidental. Seth had come to check Jessica’s vitals, and Mort had used that time to come up to see how Anthony was doing. He noticed that his entry onto the floor wasn’t challenged, and calling for backup he saw that both the nurse and the officer who were to be on duty were slumped behind the desk, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to tell him they both were dead. He had turned at the sound of the bed pan crashing across the floor and was only a few seconds behind the man who had threatened Frank.


“If you’re up to it, Mrs. F should be awake by now… Andy will stay with Anthony, he’s safe now,” Mort said gently. “And, uh, I wouldn’t let your aunt hear what you said to that guy, or repeat anything like that, that you overhear from Willie Mac, Kapeash?” He felt Frank give a nod, and helped him up to his feet. Frank was still a bit wobbly as Mort guided him out of the room and down to the elevators. To Frank’s relief, there were enough State Police officers moving around to secure the area.




Frank was relieved to see that Jessica was awake when he was brought down to her room. He hesitated at the door though, the strong feeling that he was guilty of hurting her overshadowing his heart again. She couldn’t lift her head to look at him, or turn it. The fall had not affected her hearing though.


“Frank?” she said softly. Mort nudged Frank into the room, giving him a curious look. Frank went in, and then over to the bedside where he flung himself onto her and began to sob, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” over and over again.  Mort had no idea why Frank was saying that, but the look that Taylor shared with Willie and Tipper spoke volumes. Jessica let him cry for a while. She knew there was more of what was going on, and it would come out in time. Finally when he was reduced to sniffs and a few hiccups, she said softly, “Dear, it wasn’t your fault.”


“But you fell on one of my pencils. I wasn’t careful and you got hurt.”


Jessica couldn’t shake her head. But even Frank couldn’t mistake the chuckle in her voice. “Oh, Frank. It wasn’t your pencil.  Taylor told me what Sydney found, and yes, a few of yours did fall, but I found those right away. That pencil was the one I use at my telephone. It doesn’t have a proper string, and its always falling down. It had to have fallen when I went to get you and the neighbor’s tree was hit by lightning. If you weren’t there, who knows how long I would have laid there??”

“A long while until Seth came for some of that apple pie,” said Mort, grinning.


Frank gave a hiccup then said, “So you’re awake, and you can come home now…” The adults exchanged looks and after a silence Mort coughed. He wasn’t sure what they had planned at this point.


It was Tipper who said to him gently, “Mrs. Fletcher has to stay in the hospital for a few days. She hit her head pretty hard, and her back isn’t as strong as it used to be.”


“Okay, well, there is an extra bed here - just have to figure out where the showers are…unless you plan to send me to Grandma and Grandpa Mayberry’s house?” he said with some trepidation.  He saw Jessica look at Mort. Maybe he would be safer there, thought Frank, but then again, the Mayberrys wouldn’t know who to watch out for, and where they lived the whole neighborhood was full of strangers. He wasn’t about to worry Jessica with the fact that he was almost killed a few floors above.


“One night the hospital would overlook, especially last night. But until Mrs. F is discharged from the hospital by Dr. Hazlitt, you’re best off staying with Ms. Andrews and Willie Mac,” said Mort, a bit pleased with himself for discovering a solution. Jessica saw Taylor’s surprise, the look that was exchanged between them, and then back to Mort, who knew something but wasn’t saying. 

Seth chimed in. “That’s an excellent idea. Would give these two a chance to discover what parenting is all about,” he said with a wink.  “For now, Jessica, you have some tests that your insurance company has authorized me to have preformed on you, one of which is having your head examined, and we are going to have some room changes shortly. I suggest that if Dr. Henderson wouldn’t mind taking Ms. Andrews, Mr. Mac, and Mr. Fletcher home to get things in order, they could return later for afternoon visiting hours?”


“All right,” she agreed.  Frank gave her a careful hug and then walked over to where Taylor was and took her hand in his. It wasn’t that he was being clingy, he just needed support just then. 

They were nearly at the door when Jessica said, “Oh, Tipper, Bert Davis asked me last night for you to check Lucky for a quill behind a back tooth - and he mentioned that they needed someone to take care of Lucky just for the summer. Bert said they had to go away unexpectedly. “


 “Coinnigh cuimhne orm, le do thoil,” said Willie softly, crossing himself.


“When did you speak to Bert?” asked Mort, curious. He gave Seth a look, then looked at Tipper, who was quite pale.


“Last night,” said Jessica, looking at them with some confusion.


“I’ll check Lucky for the quill Mrs. Fletcher.  Would you mind if Frank took Lucky in?” Tipper asked, trying to steady her voice. “She really loves kids, and I don’t know of any other families around here who don’t already have a dog. I know it’s a lot to ask…”


Jessica saw Frank’s hopeful face. “All right,” she said softly. Seth took that as a cue to shoo them all out of the room. He would tell Jessica about the Davis family later




Tipper carefully felt inside of Lucky’s mouth for the second time.  She didn’t find anything the first time when she picked her up at the kennel, but knowing that Lucky had just been dequilled  a few days before by the her partner, and that Jess would have had no way of knowing about the dequilling, she wanted to be sure. The kennel owner had said Lucky hadn’t been eating right. For a dog that relished eating the back screen door and had gnawed three of the steps from the Davis’s back porch and not had any problems eating afterwards, being off was a clue something was wrong.


An x ray of the jaw showed the half inch quill stuck into the inside of the upper back molars. Lucky gave a sigh of relief once the quill was removed. With a quick swab of antiseptic Tipper cauterized the wound and then settled Lucky into her cage until she was able to travel to Taylor’s house.




THUMP CLUMP THUMP CLUMP THUMP CLUMP THUMP echoed Frank’s feet as he bounded up the steps from Taylor’s basement bringing the extra sheet set upstairs. Willie’s answer to Frank’s boundless energy was to wear him out. Taylor had laughed. It had been a while since Willie was a young boy, but during her time at her job she had seen many a young set of parents exhausted long before their children were.  Frank had made six trips to the basement and wasn’t even winded.  Willie was coming in from outside and he wore a bemused grin on his face. He had figured out something else that Frank could do. It didn’t take more than a moment for Taylor to notice the noise in her house had stopped. Curious, she finished tucking the blanket in on the futon and went downstairs to find Willie sipping a cup of tea. His hands were shaking visibly.


“Willie? Where is Frank, and what’s wrong?” she asked, taking the cup from him to take a sip then handing it back to him.


“Oh, outside cutting the grass. I checked it and it’s dry enough,” he said, tilting his head to the back yard. “An’ when he’s done with that, Jessica’s yard needs doing as well, but she’s got rose bushes in the back, so it’s only the front. I calculated that should keep him busy for at least two hours.”


“But I don’t hear the mower…” Taylor said, going to where the back porch doors were. She saw Frank gamely pushing the reel mower.  “Oh, Willie! You didn’t!” she said, a bit shocked. “He’s just a young boy! Why isn’t he using the electric mower? The power is back on,” she said, putting her hand to her mouth as she went back to him.


Willie had no apology in his eyes.  “Aye, it is. An’ he didna ask to use that one when he heard no doubt it was the one like his Da used when he stayed with his Aunt Jessica.  He reasoned if his Da could do it, so could he.”


She placed her hand on his chest and felt his heart racing, his body trembling beneath her hand. “And what has you shaking like a leaf?”


Willie put his cup down on the counter behind him and laid his hand over hers, taking it.

 “Only that it took an observant eleven year old to say that as I had slept with you last night, that it would be in my best interest to marry you afore others found out. I realized when I woke up with you in my arms this morning that, well, it was the way that I wanted to wake up every morning. I ha no name I can give to you, Taylor. My gram gave me my da’s name, as do those who take in foundlings, but I don’t know if I ha any right to give that name to anyone else. Even my mother’s people dinna come forward to lay claim to me. An’ if that’s not from havin’ a child of shame, I don’t know what else is.”


“Well, I can guess. Willie, when you were born, it was at an age where a woman could not just raise a child on her own. You said your father died before you were born. What choice would she have to give you a normal child hood except to leave you with your grandmother? How hard it must have been to leave you behind, to know that if she came back, she would just have to leave you again. I have known you only a short time, Willie Mac, and I know you to be an honorable man. There is no shame in the life that I have seen of yours, nor of your parentage.”


Willie let out a slow breath, then his hands dropped and slipped about her thin waist, pulling her closer to him. “You are a most remarkable Anam Cara,” he said giving her a long hug.


Frank pushed and pulled the mower across Taylor’s back yard. When Willie had first asked about cutting grass, he was going to remind Willie that as an apartment dweller, he had no experience to do such a task, but Willie had shown him it wasn’t that hard at all, and with someone so full of boundless energy it wouldn’t take long at all.  He snuck a glance back at the house. The casual hint about Willie marrying Taylor - he wasn’t playing matchmaker, but he knew that married couples kissed far less than unmarried ones.  Not that he had seen Willie kiss Taylor much, not like those sloppy face-sucking ones in Hollywood. But if he was distracted about that, then, well, there would be fewer chores that he would be thinking up for Frank to do.


As Frank pushed the mower his mind began to go over what he would write for his paper that he had to present to the principal in a week’s time. He stopped in the middle of a push and gave a giggle. Of course he would tell the truth. No one would believe it, but it would be worth it to see their expressions. He resumed pushing the mower. Not all of his stay here was with the same feeling. He missed his parents, and as they were traveling a lot now, they didn’t have time to call every day. He knew that would happen. His dad had said in the last call that his mom was resting a lot and Grady had let slip that she had been to the Doctor’s the day before for some tests. He had asked his dad if it was the type that failing them was a good thing, or passing them would be better. Grady laughed and said it was the type that was more of a true or false test. That had confused Frank. He was going to ask Willie about it, but decided until he knew more, he would wait.


The back yard wasn’t that hard to cut at all and the front yards, with him pretending to be driving a race car back and forth, went faster. Willie had told him when he was done he had to clean off the mower and put it away before coming in. Frank entered the kitchen after kicking off his shoes and leaving them by the door. He closed the screen door softly and locked it before coming around the corner to find Willie and Taylor still in an embrace with Willie’s lips gently touching Taylor’s.  It was as if Willie had never seen a Hollywood movie kiss, and perhaps, Frank mused, that was a good thing.  Frank cleared his throat. At least they didn’t jerk apart like there was anything to be guilty about. 


Willie looked at him. “Done already?” he asked, curious. He saw Frank nod. “Very well. Off to be a fish and scrub the green from your face. An’ when you’re done with it, take your dirty clothes down to the laundry basket downstairs. An’ don’t use all the hot water!”


Frank opened a bottle of shampoo. It held a purple liquid inside and it reminded him of his mother. For the longest time he stood there, smelling it before deciding if he was going to use it for his shower. Jessica had impressed on him the need to restrict how much water he used. The first time he had forgotten and had spent time with the shampoo in his hair making it go in all different directions. He realized too late that when all the hot water was used up, it became very cold water and he had to finish washing the soap off while he shivered. Ducking in to get wet, turning it off, then washing with the water turned off gave him more time in the shower to play. Sometimes he drew on the steamy walls, but he was very careful to use a soapy cloth to wash the walls down after as he knew the oils from his hands would make the image visible for the next person. A quick rinse followed, then he wrapped up in a fluffy towel. Belatedly he realized he hadn’t brought his cloths into the shower with him. He grabbed Taylor’s fluffy robe from the hook and put it on then ducked into his room.  Pulling on his white cotton socks, bvds and his jeans, Frank bundled up his dirty cloths and went down the steps through the kitchen and down into the basement.


THUMP CLUMP THUMP CLUMP THUMP CLUMP RATTLE CLUMP echoed in the small basement room. Frank paused. He had been thumping up and down the steps all morning and hadn’t heard the rattle before. He backed up a step and thumped it again, and heard the soft rattle again. It wasn’t like a rattlesnake rattle, it was different. He clumped down the rest of the steps and put his cloths in the laundry basket as Willie had said, then went to the underside of the steps to see what could possibly be making that noise. Almost at once he bumped his head. He realized it was dark under the steps, and the spider that he saw crawling around was huge. He didn’t want to mess with any other creature that could be in there. Backing up, he looked around and spied a flashlight on the small work bench. The batteries were dim in the flashlight as he flicked it on then moved back under the steps. He saw the glint of metal and, curious, he gave it a tug.


“WHOA…” he said as the long sword slid from the shelf and fell with a clatter onto the stone floor.


In the kitchen Willie heard the clatter and knew exactly what it was. “Damnú air,” he muttered, sighing as he left Taylor’s embrace and hurried down the steps.


Frank had dragged the sword in the scabbard to where the washing machine was and with both hands tried to lift it up onto it. The scabbard fell to the stone floor as the blade wobbled in his hands and he almost dropped the heavy sword as the oil that coated it made it slick. He didn’t hear or see Willie come down the steps until his hand caught the sword as it slipped out of Frank’s hands and tumbled towards his leg.


“An’ what do ye think ye are doing? How would I be explaining to Jessica ye lost ye leg to foolishness?  Don’t let me catch you touching that again, it will slice ye to the bone.”


“I heard a rattle when I was coming down the steps and when I looked it was tucked up under in a cubby hole - I was just curious. What do the markings say on it?”


He saw the struggle on Willie’s face as he slid it back into the sheath and wrapped it in the oil cloth that had fallen away. Willie went under the steps and put it up into the next cubby hole slot higher than what Frank could reach on his own. When he stepped out he looked at Frank and said softly, “That I am a coward.” 


It wasn’t what Frank expected. Willie pointed up the steps and Frank scurried up them, not quite sure what to say.


Nothing more was said about the sword as he rode in the back seat of the taxi with them to the hospital. Jessica was sitting up in bed looking tired from everything she had been through but she still smiled as Frank came in with a small vase holding cut flowers and a balloon that was tied to one of the stems. He didn’t need to be asked twice to get up beside her and nestle next to her shoulder. He wrinkled his nose. “You smell like an old person… but it’s not how you smelled before. Is it the hospital soap that makes you stinky?” The words were out of his mouth before he realized it. He ducked his head down as he flushed. “Sorry, that didn’t come out right.”


Jessica instructed him to open the tray on her table and to take a sniff of the soap at hand. He did, and wrinkling his nose again. “When you get home, the first order of the day will be to take a proper bath with some of that purple stuff you have… I like that smell.”


She turned her head and sniffed him. “Oh, so that’s why you smell of lavender…” she said smiling. “With any luck, I should be out of here in the next day or so. Seth is keeping me here as a precaution. Now, what is this I hear about you and a flying bed pan?”


In a rush Frank told Jessica about his trip upstairs. He had reasoned that in all the hospital, if Anthony was there, he would be upstairs, as were most of the people who were in bad accidents. It was a simple process of elimination, and while he didn’t think that he was the proper sort of man for Taylor, Jessica still liked him and it felt like a right thing to do. The bed pan just happened to be there. But he was greatly relived that it had not been used.


It was later that night, after the visit back to the hospital, lessons, dinner and tucking Frank into bed that Taylor found Willie outside, sitting on the step of the back porch slowly packing tobacco into a clay pipe’s bowl with his thumb. Mud season was over. Spring crept over the cove, yet the air still had a chill in it as he struck a wooden match and lit the pipe. Taylor hadn’t even known that Willie smoked - in all the days they had been together, she hadn’t ever seen any trace of it, nor smelt the smoke on his jacket.  He drew on it, and coughed, then drew on it again and closed his eyes as the smoke filled his lungs.  He coughed again.  He saw her regarding him curiously. 


“Woman, allow me one vice to get through days like this, an’ tomorrow we will have the boy, an’ his dog ... Some men drink away their problems, some men chase beautiful women, others smoke pipe. Ye know I canna abide by the grain, an’ I’m na a ladies’ man…” he shrugged ruefully.


“Or is it that I am not beautiful enough to be chased?” she asked, withdrawing from him.


“Muirnín, you are far more beautiful than any man deserves. Least of all, I.” He took another draw from his pipe and coughed again.


“It’s not yours - you’ve no experience with it. You’re not a man of the pipe, Willie, and kissing men who smoke is the hardest thing a woman should ever have to do,” she said, regarding him in the darkness. She saw the soft glow of the tobacco in the pipe as it smoldered.


“It’s one of my Gram’s. She packed it for me an’ said that there would be days when I would need it. I canna stop shaking like a wee páistí. I’m terrified of all that has been happening, and what will happen, an’ most of all, of losing you to Anthony. He loves you above all else, and I see in your heart you do still love him. I canna compete with the likes of him.  I canna offer you what he can give you without questioning if it is right of me to even try. It wouldn’t be fair for you to have a man who dresses in homespun an’ is too much of a cladhaire to work in the profession he was trained to do all of his life.”


“Your grandmother is a wise woman, but I don’t think she means for you to smoke the pipe,” Taylor said, gently taking it from his hands before he could take another draw from it. He looked at her, curious. She held it in her hands and took a breath of the smoke that curled between them. “Close your eyes and take a breath - what do you smell?”


‘The tobacco burning, a new mowed lawn …” he said softly.


“What do you see?” she asked.  She saw a tear come down his cheek from the corner of his eye.


“Gram sitting at the fire having her evening smoke. The cottage, the herbs hanging to dry. When it was safe in the world to go to bed. ” He opened his eyes up.


“She gave you the pipe so that you would always be able to hold that memory in your heart, to comfort you when times were very bad,” she said, handing him back the pipe. “As for Anthony, he wanted marriage and babies, and I could never see him as father material. It was one of the reasons why I told him it was something that I would have to think about, and a reason why I didn’t go back to California to be with him. You, on the other hand, will make a wonderful father.” Taylor waited until he had made the decision to put the pipe out, gently tapping the clay bowl with his finger so that the tobacco fell against the stone walkway before snuffing it out with his shoe.  He pocketed the pipe and regarded her.


“I have nothing to offer you, Muirnín.” 


“What makes you feel I would want for anything? Until you came, I was here waiting to die. There were days I didn’t get out of bed, nor eat, or speak to a soul beyond Sydney, who had at that time a better life than I did.  You came and tore away that veil of darkness that covered me. I haven’t felt this alive in years. What magic have you poured into my life?” she asked simply.


In his room Frank listened to them conversing. He had gone to bed and closed his eyes for a bit, but in truth he was waiting for them to finish up their evening, and then he had some plans of his own. It had occurred to him that he did recognize what the markings

on the sword were, and that he did have a way to find out what it said.


He had mentioned to Taylor that the flashlight in the basement needed new batteries and while they were at the hospital they stopped off at the gift shop and bought Jessica flowers. They learned from Seth that she had been moved to CCU where it would be easier to keep her safe along with Anthony. Willie had waited while Taylor had gone in to see him. Seth had said his heart was strong, and while he had some broken ribs and a punctured lung he would recover. Frank had seen that most of the one side of Anthony’s face had heavy bandages on it. The doctor who had taken care of him mentioned reconstructive surgery, in time. Contact with the road had buffed off a lot of the skin.  Jessica was in good spirits. Seth had chosen to keep her there as a precautionary measure and, as he said, give her a rest to replenish the energy that she expended caring for Frank.  She was still sitting up in bed when they had left, though even Frank could see she was very tired.


Not everything was going along with Frank’s plan though. When Willie came up to the room he spent a long time tossing and turning, and for a bit after Frank thought he heard a catch of a sob.  Curious, he looked over and saw that Willie was asleep, curled up in a tight ball, the covers tossed aside. Frank got out of bed and pulled the covers over Willie then waited a moment before he gathered the paper and crayon that he had placed on the edge of the dresser. He looked into Taylor’s room and saw the lump of covers and Sydney, who looked at him then laid her head back down. Softly he went down the steps to the first floor, and then into the basement. He had already been down to the basement earlier to replace the batteries, and had placed a chair under the steps so that he could have access to the sword.  Willie hadn’t forbidden him to touch it - he had said not to let him catch him touching it, and there was a distinction in Frank’s mind regarding that. Willie had commented that Frank had the weight of an angel and that it would be years before his muscles caught up to his frame.


Frank knew the sword was heavy. He was very careful so that it didn’t fall this time. Gently he eased it to the floor and opened the oil cloth. It made a soft scraping sound as he slid it from the scabbard. Deftly he laid the paper over the sword and in the flashlight glow made a quick rubbing of the blade on each side. He then took a separate paper and copied down all of the markings that were on the blade and scabbard and folded it tightly into his robe pocket.  Satisfied that he could make out the markings on the rubbings, he slid the sword back into the scabbard and refolded the oil cloth the way that Willie had it.  It took two tries to get it back into the cubby hole. Sighing with relief he lifted the chair back to where it had been and folded the rubbings papers, and discovered that his hands were a bit oily. Going up the steps in the dark he was surprised to see Sydney waiting at the top of the steps for him wagging her tail. He pulled the door closed behind him, careful not to get any of the oil on the door knob, and went to the sink to wash them. He wasn’t quite sure what would take it off.  He used a paper towel to turn on the water, picked up the dish washing soap and gave his hands a good squirt. It didn’t seem like it was doing much and Frank got the feeling that the oil used on the blade and the handle wasn’t food quality oil. He heard a footstep behind him and saw it was Taylor. She regarded him, and then opened up the cupboard doors pulled out a small bottle marked GUNK and squirted it on his hands. He gave it a good rub and the oil came off, washing down the drain. Frank sighed in relief.


“Thank you,” he said softly. He looked at her. “How did you know?”


She shrugged. “Sydney let me know that you had gone down into the cellar, and except for your laundry and canned food, the only other thing down there was Willie’s sword. Didn’t he tell you not to touch it?”


Frank squirmed. “Well, his exact words were not to let him catch me touching it … Are you going to tell him?” he asked in a quiet voice.


Taylor sighed. “No. But you will tomorrow morning. The reason why is the oils from people’s hands have acid in them, and it can destroy the blade. Willie will have to re-oil the blade before it’s re-wrapped and put up for storage.”


“I didn’t know that … It’s just I have seen the markings before, and Willie says that they say he is a coward. I don’t believe that he is, though. I want to understand, Taylor. I really do.”


“Did you ask him to show you the sword at a later time?” she asked softly


Frank shook his head. “He was ticked off enough that I had it out of the scabbard in the first place to look at it. When I left the room a bit ago, it sounded like he was crying in his sleep. Dad says that grown men do cry, and they aren’t being a baby about anything. He said he cried when I was born because Mum was squeezing his hand so hard, and because I was, as he said, very beautiful,” he said, making a face at the thought. In a way he was trying to sidetrack the issue and divert attention to what he had been doing.


“So, what was worth you getting grounded by taking the sword off of the shelf?” she said, folding her arms over her chest. Grounding him was going to be difficult. Frank didn’t realize it, as he really didn’t have any privileges to be taken away and he had been through so much already.


“I just did crayon rubbings of the markings on the sword blade, and I wrapped it up the same way that Willie Mac had. It didn’t fall this time and I only touched the handle, not the blade. Well, the paper touched the blade, but would that hurt it?” he asked, curious. 


He saw Taylor sigh. “I don’t know. Please understand, Frank, that sword isn’t a toy. It’s very old, and the blade is sharp enough to remove a limb from your body.  Think about how Willie would have felt if even after he put it on the shelf it had slipped and harmed you?  And the other thing is … it’s Willie’s sword.  Whatever the writings are, it’s not for you to read unless he says you can. It’s very personal. Can you understand that?”


“Sort of. I just don’t understand what the big deal is, or what is going on.”


Taylor sighed as she glanced at the clock. It was going on 11 pm and she knew the sun would be up in five hours.


“It’s something that we will discuss tomorrow,” she said, holding her hand out for the crayon rubbings. Frank handed over the folded papers. She turned him around to the direction of the steps and marched him upward.  They were almost at the top of the steps when Frank heard a distinctive sob coming from the room he shared with Willie Mac. He stopped and looked at Taylor and knew she had heard it too. She sighed and inclined her head to her room “Tuck into my bed with Sydney. I’ll see to things,” she said softly. Frank nodded. She waited until he was in her bed with the covers up before she closed the door and then he heard his door closed and her soft voice comforting Willie. Sydney crawled up to Frank and wiggled next to him trying to lick his nose. He gave Sydney a pat, and then, exhausted, he fell asleep.


Dawn came. Frank woke and carefully opened the door to the room where his clothes were. He looked at the bed and saw Taylor sitting up, asleep and wrapped in her robe. Willie had his head on her lap and she had been rubbing his back to comfort him. Frank remembered a man who lived in the apartment near them. He had been in one of the wars, and his dad had used the term ‘shell shock’ to explain the man’s behavior, much like what Willie had been going through. He snagged his back pack and his clothing and went into the bathroom to take a shower and change for the day. He unzipped his back pack and slipped the small folded paper that was in his pocket into one of the zipper pockets and closed it. If he was going to be grounded, it may as well be for really doing something.




Willie Mac woke. He smelt lavender and for a moment clung to that scent.  He gave a sigh and sat up before seeing Taylor asleep sitting up in his bed. He looked over his shoulder and realized Frank wasn’t in the room. He could hear the sound of water running.  He felt Taylor’s hand rub his back softly.


“Woman, what are you doing in my bed in your night shift?” he asked, curious.


Taylor brushed a lock of his curly hair from his cheek tenderly. “It was the only way to stop your nightmares, Willie, and your crying. I don’t understand much of what you said, but some I did.”


“As did Frank?” he asked softly.


He felt Taylor sigh as she picked up one of his hands. “No, Frank stayed in my room last night.  Your trembling has stopped.”


He lifted his head then sat up in bed regarding her. “Why did you come in here? I’m not a child,” he said crossly.


She jerked back as if he had slapped her face. “I care about you Willie, even if you don’t care about anything else except your wounded pride,” she said, getting out of the bed and tossing the covers aside as she strode across the room. Taylor stopped as she came to the door frame. “Did it ever occur to you that the answers you seek are closer than you know, that you have but to ask? That facing what you fear would bring an end to it all, and you would be free?”


“You have no idea –“  he began, giving her a dismissive wave.


“What? About death? What mangled bodies look like when they have been murdered, or torn apart from bombs? When I met Anthony it was investigating a man who was blackmailing others, and in helping him gather the evidence, I saw things that have haunted my dreams. And later, working with the coroner’s office with autopsy and identification photography … Yours is not the only world that has had the innocence ripped away or seen young children whose lives have been snatched away by a moment of madness, and to have to face their parents as they grieve.  I know what your heart feels. But do not let apathy incapacitate your future life,” she said before closing the door with a slam that rattled the photos on the wall. She went into her bedroom and slammed that door as well.


Willie rubbed his beard stubble with his hands. In all of his days he would never understand women. As he lifted his head, he noticed folded paper that was oil stained lying on Frank’s bed. Rising, he crossed the room and picked it up. The crayon rubbings were beginning to blur as the wax was dissolving in the petroleum, but the shape of the sword and his knowledge of what was written on the sword told him what it was.  He knew that Taylor wouldn’t have had reason to do the rubbings, which left Frank. Sighing, Willie placed the drawings beside him and waited.


Frank saw the drawings as soon as he entered the room to put his bed cloths under his pillow.  He put his back pack down on the floor and swallowed as Willie regarded him silently.


Taylor said that I am grounded. I’m sorry. What you said yesterday didn’t make sense. You’re not a coward.”


“She knew you got the sword down again?” asked Willie with a note of irritation in his voice.


“She caught me coming back up the steps and told me that I was grounded and that I would have to tell you that I looked at the sword again and got rubbings from it because the oils in my hands would damage the blade. I didn’t know that.”


“Why did you look again, when I told you na to?” Willie asked softly.


“Your words were not to let you catch me …” Frank said, looking down at the floor.  “I was careful, and Taylor said how dangerous the sword was. I won’t be doing it again.”


“Dangerous isn’t the word, Frank. Deadly is. In my lifetime, that sword was the death of my Father, my Gram’s last apprentice, and poked through a man in the shop na four years ago. It’s na just the deadly nature of the sword – it’s - it’s all I have left of my family. For many years I searched for it because it had been stolen from me. You want to know what it says?  It says, “He who holds the sword holds the land.” It means it is to be used to defend and protect the land that my family has fought for over thousands of years. I am a healer, sworn to protect people and to heal them, even if they are my enemy. I can not raise that sword to harm them, or use it to regain that which was stolen from my family generations ago… I am very disappointed in you, Frank, that you would have such casual disregard for a simple request that was made to protect you.”


“I’m just eleven, I’m a kid!”


“You’re old enough to act as an adult, Frank, to be responsible and to make proper decisions of what is right and wrong. When I was eleven I had helped birth half a dozen infants in my village and was well on my way of the learning to be a healer…” began Willie.


Frank threw his hands up in the air, exasperated. “Well, I am not a know-it-all bastard like you. I’m just a stupid dumb lame-ass idiot who can’t follow simple directions.” He went to his back pack and unzipped it. Taking a breath he pulled out the folded paper that he had hidden before and tossed it at Willie. His aim was off and it landed at Willie’s feet. “I won’t touch your old sword again,” he said before turning and going out of the room and down the steps. Frank strode across the living room, grabbing his coat as he shoved his feet into his shoes and snagging the key for Jessica’s house.  He closed the door and went over to his room in her house and threw himself onto the bed. This was not the summer vacation he was expecting.


Sydney came into Willie’s room and went to him. She sat at his feet and looked up at him beneath a mop of her curly white hair. Laying a soft paw on his leg she licked at his offered hand. “Well, that went well … at least you’re speaking to me,” he said softly.  Sydney wiggled her backside before picking up the folded paper that Frank had thrown at him.  For a moment Willie regarded the paper, and then took it from her. Curious as to what it was he opened it and saw the markings Frank had made the night before. He was about to crumple the paper in his hands when he noticed something.




Tipper had picked up Lucky at the clinic and after bundling her into the car drove to Taylor’s to drop her off. She saw as she turned onto Jessica’s street the figure of Frank leaving Taylor’s house and going to Jessica’s. He didn’t look too happy.  She saw him rub his eyes and pull his jacket closer to him as he let himself into the house. Tipper parked her car and for a moment just sat there. It was still pretty early, but if Frank was up, then Taylor and Willie would be up and about as well. She reached up and unclipped the safety harness that held Lucky firm enough so she wouldn’t go tumbling, and after gathering the papers she clipped on her lead.


She looked into the dog’s eyes.  She could see the first time that Cal had brought Lucky in to the exam room. He was just three and Lucky had a mouthful of quills. Despite her great pain, Lucky listened to Cal as he told her to sit and stay, and not bite the nice vet’s hand when she was trying to help her. Cal was the only one Lucky truly listened to. Lucky had stayed beside Cal when he got the chicken pox, and through several bad cases of hives, and you didn’t see Cal with out Lucky when Cal was out and about with his parents.


Lucky was looking out the window, sensing that something wasn’t right. She could smell another dog, and looked with an accusing eye at Tipper that she had been delivered to the wrong house. Tipper felt as if she had to explain to Lucky what happened. She opened her mouth to say something, and closed it. She tried again, but all she could manage was “Cal is gone, Lucky,” before the tears came. Lucky pressed against Tipper as she wrapped her arms around the spaniel’s body. When she had composed herself she got out of the car and led Lucky to Jessica’s front door.


Frank heard the door bell. Curious, he wiped his eyes and blew his nose then went down to the front door. Carefully he looked out and saw it was Dr. Henderson. He opened the door and Lucky gamboled in and up to him as if she owned the place. Looking up he saw Tipper’s red rimmed eyes and handed her his wadded handkerchief. “Must be that type of day,” he said, looking down at the dog who was now on her back waving her paws at him as she sneezed. He knelt beside Lucky and rubbed her tummy. “Thank you for bringing Lucky over, Dr. Henderson. What I don’t understand is why they couldn’t take Lucky with them.” He looked at Tipper and noticed her face was scrunched up. She took a step away from Lucky and sat on the chair in the hallway while she still held the lead.


“Frank … you know that Taylor’s friend Anthony was in an accident, right?” Frank nodded, not sure where she was going with this. He saw fresh tears begin to spill over on to her cheeks. “Cal and his family … well,  they were in the car that was behind the tractor trailer that jackknifed, and Cal’s dad couldn’t stop in time. His parents died right away. They tried to help Cal with surgery. Willie was with him when… when Cal died last night. He was half your age.”


Frank blinked a few times. “Then how did Aunt Jess speak with Cal’s parents? Does she know they are dead?” He furrowed his brows. Ghosts were in the same subject as the cards that his dad didn’t want him to study, and the Rune stones that he had in his back pack. Clearly, having an adult understand that there was – something else out there merited further discussion. Her latent tears, though, informed him that now was not the time.


He shivered. “It has to do with that thing, that – what did Willie call it - the family crest of Kent Fordham.  There was a guy that tried to kill Anthony yesterday, and Sheriff Metzger was able to stop him in time. He almost got me too, and he was wearing a signet ring with it, like the Freemasons do with their rings.”  He frowned some more. “If they know that we know what to look for, what’s stopping them from taking off the rings and putting them in their pockets when they want to do someone harm so they can’t be identified?”


Tipper shivered. “Most of the people involved with it never have hurt anyone. When family crests were important, it was to show who was who in battle. They are waging a battle - against all that is good and pure in the world and they don’t care that the innocent are hurt. They wear it so that the people they harm know who is doing it, and why. They don’t care who else they hurt.”


“Willie cares…So does Taylor,” said Frank softly.


“Yes, they do. Which brings me to the question, why are you over here, and they are over there? Aren’t they supposed to be watching you?” she asked, curious but aware that Frank had been upset when she first arrived.


“I screwed up, and I am grounded. And nothing I was going to do today seemed like it was going to turn out right. I came over here to have some space. I guess the last few days have been hard on everyone, and we are stretched a bit thin … Dr. Henderson? What did Aunt Jessica mean when she said that Lucky would only be here for the summer, and that they would come get her? If they are dead … then that means … does that mean …” Frank couldn’t finish what he was going to say.


“I don’t know. I checked her over when she was under and she is fine - healthy. Things happen, though, that we don’t understand and the best thing I can say is, enjoy every day with her.”


“Maybe Aunt Jessica heard people talking about them and she knew they had a dog, and her memory put things together, couldn’t that have happened?” asked Frank, trying to fathom what was unexplainable to him.


“It could be - but it wouldn’t have explained how she knew that there was still a piece of quill stuck between Lucky’s teeth.”


“So, Aunt Jessica actually saw a ghost?”


Tipper looked down at Lucky, who was watching Frank with his animated gestures. “I wasn’t there. I don’t know what she saw. She may have spoken with them prior to their trip to Portland and been told about the suspected quill then - Jessica isn’t the type to believe in ghosts,” Tipper replied softly. She took a breath then became serious. “Now, Lucky has the habit of eating anything she can get a hold of - screen doors, wooden steps, rubber gloves, wallets, VCR tapes - anything. She especially has a fondness for porcupines. She should never have chocolate, people food, or marshmallows because she will become very sick, and you will have to clean up after her. The exception is uncooked carrots. She can have a few of them as a treat. She has her citizenship papers, which means she’s registered as a dog that can go places with you on a lead, but always ask first, okay? She has a lot of energy, and needs to be walked every day. We have Scooper laws here too, so take some bags with you when you walk her.”


It was later that Tipper helped him lock up Jessica’s house and then went to Taylor’s where she watched as Lucky was introduced to Sydney in the back yard.  There was some barking back and forth, and then Lucky was down on the ground yelping with Sydney clamped on her ear for a moment. Lucky stayed down as Sydney released her grip and walked away. Frank could see Lucky watch her as she trotted away and in a moment she was to her feet following her as if nothing had happened.


“But she could swallow Sydney with one bite!” said Frank, amazed. 


Tipper ruffled his hair.  “I suspect that Sydney would wiggle all the way down,” she said with a smile as she went to the door and knocked. While Frank was staying there and could enter as he pleased, it was still too early in the morning to just breeze inside uninvited. Taylor came to the door and opened it. She saw Lucky sitting beside Sydney and the puffiness of Tipper’s face. Holding the door open for them she called Sydney in. Lucky sat there looking at Frank, who patted his leg for her to follow. Tail between her legs, Lucky entered into Sydney’s house and sat almost as soon as she entered. For a moment Sydney stood regarding Lucky, then with a turn of her tail she trotted off.  Lucky rose and walked carefully on the linoleum floor over to the water dish, and then the bowl of kibble. Sniffing both, she sighed and walked to Frank, pressing herself against him.


“How come she is acting different here than at Aunt Jessica’s?” asked Frank, curious.


“It’s Sydney’s house, and Sydney’s shown her that she is in charge here,” explained Tipper.


Both dogs turned and looked as Willie came up the basement steps carefully holding the oilcloth wrapped object. Frank saw that Tipper didn’t seem too curious about it. Willie nodded to Tipper as he strode into the dining room where he had laid sheets of butcher block paper down to protect the table. Tipper watched as Frank stood very still, looking sad. Most boys at eleven would be right there, asking about the sword and wondering if it had belonged to a pirate or a warrior, asking about how it came to be. Frank, though, was working things over in his mind. Tipper saw Willie unwrap the cloth from the sword and stepped closer. It wasn’t the one that she remembered from years before. The memory of Taylor falling, her outstretched hands grasping the sword as she went down, the intricate weavings and stone beneath her fingertips.  Curious, Tipper stepped forward. “That’s not the same sword, is it?” she asked.


“Aye, it is. Minus the gems tha’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’ his grand father blackmailed from Lord Frederick Cavendish’s widow before his death, which have since been returned to her surviving family.” Willie looked at Frank. “Come here,” he said a bit sternly. Frank took a step back, his lips pressed tight. He wasn’t sure if he would do better to run out the door or up the steps to lock himself in the bathroom, but then he saw Willie’s face soften.


“Come here, please.  I won’t bite your head off twice. What’s done is done and said, there isn’t any taking it back now,” he said. Frank walked over to him followed by Lucky, who sat as soon as he stopped. She sniffed Willie carefully, decided that he was all right, and settled down underneath the table.


“Yes, I was upset this morning. I don’t condone things being poked about without permission. I’ve talked it over with Taylor, and she agrees that this one time you won’t be grounded for your actions or words.”


Frank took in a sharp breath.” Why?” he asked.


 “Owing that you showed me something about the sword that I didn’t know myself, or more precisely, the scabbard. Back when it all began there had to be ways to keep things secret and to get them safe across large distances. Of all the things that were taken during the exodus of the moors, it was my great-grandfather and this sword that my great-great-grand father held dear. He left ‘most everything else behind. It is very dear to me because all of the history that I have of my family, of my life, has been said upon this sword. It’s like what you have here, a diary of everything important in my world, the one that I had to leave behind. I don’t expect you to understand what it means to me, how hard it was to have it missing from my life for all those years, or what it felt like to get it back, to be reunited with one so dear to my family and me… One chamber of this sword is known to my family, but another was not until today. I don’t know what it contains. But it is going to come to light today.”


Willie took a breath, and then began to untie the leather lacing that held the scabbard together. At first all that Tipper saw were the long bindings coming away, and she thought he was undoing the entire scabbard.  She realized that the scabbard was really one with an outer layer of hardened leather, the original being hidden beneath the first. Carefully Willie picked at the bindings, and eventually was able to release the last string that held the outer wrap secure. He closed his eyes and took a breath.


Tipper came to her senses. “Wait! You don’t want to touch whatever is in there with your bare hands.”


Willie looked at her, confused. “Why not?”


“Well, first you don’t know what germs are packed in there after all of this time, and second, the acid in your hands could damage it. Hang on …” she said, ducking out to go to her car and returning with a pair of latex gloves. “Never leave home without them,” she said softly.


Once free of the bindings, the outer layer of the sheath sprung upward slightly, allowing Willie to carefully remove it from the inside layer. Frank watched, fascinated as the two layers parted. He didn’t know what to expect - maybe some gold, or a pirate’s treasure map, or - something. He didn’t expect to see several folded papers that needed to be gently removed from the leather.  Willie set them aside and then looked at the remainder of the sheath before sliding it to one side.


The vellum was as crisp as the day it was sealed within the sword. Willie carefully edged the papers open and saw that it was a map. What the map was of made him think, and the third paper made him pull up a chair and sit down.


“What is it?” Willie was breathing a bit hard. When he looked up at them they saw his face was white. “Well, the good news is that my great-great grand father was a good man.  He found out something, and it cost him dearly… I – I knew about this – well, part of this, from Gram. It’s how I knew who owned the gem stones, but I didn’t know the whys, or have proof.” He couldn’t say more. Not just then.


Frank saw that there was writing, and a list of names. “What’s that?”


Willie closed his eyes for a moment. “It’s like your Declaration of Independence. These men were fighting for something they believed in. This is a map of places that they could go knowing that they would be safe - the homes of the people who were within the group.  My great-great-grandfather’s home is on the map, but he is na on the list.  This bit here - Phoenix Park… two innocent men were murdered there with surgical knives that belonged to my great-great-grandfather. One of them was married to a young lass who had the misfortune of falling in love with two men at the same time, and to have it discovered by accident by a young maid who was tending to the care of children during a visit by Peter Furhdaham and his wife two months before the murders in the park. The maid’s name was Claira, and she disappeared the very night that her two charges died, Essian Furhdaham and Sellsir Razanur. Her last note said she was the one responsible for Essian’s death. It was also on that night that the Phoenix Park murders happened.”


“Your family doesn’t kill,” Frank stated firmly.


He saw a look of sadness in Willie’s eyes. “Na, they don’t. But under the roof that they shared with the Furhdaham’s there was death aplenty.”


Furhdaham? That sounds a lot like Fordham,” said Tipper, coming over from where she had been standing.


There was an insurmountable amount of pain that crept into the face of Willie. “My great-great-aunt was married to Peter Furhdaham, son of Douglas, whose name is on this list. When they became husband and wife, as part of the marriage the Furhdahams moved into one side of the estate, and the Razanurs on the other. His daughter Fainwen was the mother of Essian, and they were expecting another when tragedy came upon the family that night. The child Essian was run over by a carriage, and Fainwen’s younger sister Sellsír took her own life.   Fainwen’s grief took her within a week. Soon after, Great-Great-Grandfather Razanur took his only son Cónenardhon across the moors to keep him safe, and to start a new life.  Things began to go badly then for Douglas Furhdaham. His son Peter was arrested for being part of this group, and he died in prison. Douglas’s life turned to hate, and he passed that on to the only child he had left, young Ian, who is grandfather to Kent Fordham and his brother Stephen, who kept the Furhdaham name. He was found with this blade through his gullet one morning. A nasty bit that,” Willie said softly.


Frank regarded the parchments and the leather sheath, and frowned. “Willie, have you ever been to the estate where all this happened?”


 Willie’s eyebrows went up. “Once, when I was younger, we went past the gates of the long drive to it. Gram said it wasn’t safe for us to go farther, but she said that I should know where it was.”


“It had a long driveway then?” Frank persisted.


“Aye,” Willie said simply.


“Well, who was leaving?” asked Frank


“Pardon?” asked Taylor, a bit shaken, breaking her silence.


“Who was leaving? If they were coming, then they would have stopped at the house. Someone was leaving the estate that night, and the only one missing was Claira. She was just a maid - she couldn’t have warranted the use of the carriage. She would have to have walked out on foot, unless some one was coming to get her,” he said, shrugging.


“I don’t know. There was a lot that we never learned about that night, except the sorrow that followed,” murmured Willie.


“I don’t think the reason Peter was arrested was because he was in the group. His name isn’t on the list, his dad’s is,” stated Frank, regarding the list. 


Taylor sighed. “Sins of the father, Frank. If they knew that his father was involved then they had the right to take the son, as they felt if one was guilty, the other must be.”


“But they didn’t have the list, and the warrant was for Peter, not his father. What if it was for him being a blackmailer, but they couldn’t say that because it would bring it all out? And they kept him in prison until the jewels were recovered, but they never were, so he died in there. What happened to Fredrick’s widow, anyway?” asked Frank.


“She went into mourning, and he became one larger-than-life in a tragic romantic sense. Churches have stained glass windows bearing his likeness - his sacrifice was akin to a holy person. She published her diary later and lived her life remembering him,” said Willie with a sigh as he put the scabbard sheath back together and with careful fingers re-worked the binding back through.


Taylor had stepped into the kitchen and came back with three large plastic bags that sealed flat. Willie nodded to her and put the three documents inside of them. Then giving a sigh he placed the sword in the sheath, and the documents in the plastic bags on top of that, and took the items down the steps to the basement. In a moment he came back up the steps dusting his hands off. 


 Taylor’s quiet voice asked Willie, “What now?”


“Breakfast I’m cooking,” said Willie with a grin. “Then lessons for Frank, and then we will go to see Jessica and find out how she is doing, and then dinner, and tea.”




Frank was nearly finished with his second slice of buttermilk French toast when both dogs looked up at the sound of a car engine coming to a stop outside. He wiggled around to see why there was a reflection of flashing lights on the wall, and sprang up.


“It’s Aunt Jessica! She’s home!”


Willie’s hand came down gently on his arm.  “Lad, it will be awhile before she is tucked inside. You have time to finish your last slice, as a gentleman.”  Frank sat down in his chair and deftly cut the French toast into several squares and chewed on them two at a time.


“And your milk,” said Taylor, knowing that it would be the next thing Willie would want. Sighing Frank drank the milk halfway, then ate several more pieces. Without asking he knew that he would be responsible for his dish as well. “May I please be excused?” he asked when he had finished. Willie nodded. Frank sprang up from the chair and went to the sink where he scrubbed off the sticky syrup and then placed the dishes in the dish washer. He looked through the window and saw that the ambulance was still there. Taking a breath he went to Taylor and gave her a hug from behind. “Thank you. Come, Lucky,” he said. Lucky moved from the place where she had been under the table and followed him across the properties into Jessica’s house. He heard Seth’s voice upstairs through the open door and took the steps two at a time as Lucky bounded up ahead of him.


“You are not doing this alone, Jess,” Frank heard as he was half way up. He saw Lucky skid to a stop in the doorway and sit, waiting until Frank reached the top of the steps and went down the hall to where Jessica’s room was.  She was sitting up on her bed in her duster and Seth was holding her hand. Jessica looked up at him. She looked tired and put out, but she smiled as Frank stood in the door. He went to the other side of her bed and climbed up beside her, then looked at Seth. “So what do I have to do?” he asked seriously.


“Keep Jessica in bed, at least until tomorrow. Yes, I know you have a trip, and if Jessica remains on my good side and gets rest today, she may go with you, along with, someone else in case something happens.”


“Seth,” said Jessica in a warning tone.


He sighed. “Woman, allow me to worry about you! Now, I am going to go next door and prevail upon your neighbors to ensure that you will be looked after while I am at the hospital.” Bending over he kissed her cheek and then standing up he ruffled Frank’s hair. “Keep her out of mischief for a while, will you?” Frank nodded.


It was after Seth left that Jessica began to sense something wasn’t quite right with Frank. You would expect a young boy who was eleven and who had just gotten a new dog to be bounding with excitement. Jessica could see that Frank and Lucky got along fine, and she was well mannered. But his mood had changed since even the day before, when he had been happy to see her. The happiness was still there, but now it was more reserved. He lay down beside her and held her hand. For a moment her eyes closed, then she opened them and said softly, “Want to talk about it?”


“I think I know what it feels like to be an adult, with all the worry and stress that kids put them through. When I started this summer, it was like any other summer – I knew I was going to have fun, and study even though I didn’t want to. I’ve learned a lot about responsibility for one’s actions, and it takes the fun away. How do you stand being an adult when you have to keep thinking ‘will this cause problems later?’” Frank blurted out.


Jessica turned her head to regard Frank. “Well, being an adult allows you to do more, to do different things that are still fun, and the responsibility is still there, but it’s not as reckless.”


“Like the difference between walking away from a bully, or being called a coward because you refuse to fight?” he asked, sitting up on the bed so he could speak to her without her moving too much.


“People who refuse to fight are not cowards. It takes a lot of bravery to decide to walk away. During the war there were many people who were told they were brave and heroes, like your uncle Frank. But he didn’t feel any different than the day he walked out of the door to go to war. People who are brave do what they have to do when it needs to be done.  You don’t have to do the extraordinary to be a hero. It doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid when you’re doing it, either.  Many heroes are terrified every moment that they are performing their task, but it doesn’t mean they lack courage… Did someone call you a coward?”  Jessica inquired, looking directly at Frank. Her years of being a teacher had taught her to know when children were telling the truth or not.


“No. But Willie says that he is a coward for not staying and fighting. His sword says, “He who holds the sword, holds the land,” and years ago his great-great-grandfather packed up his son and his sword and left a huge estate behind rather than fight for it. And it’s all that Willie has left of his family and I - I snuck a look at it last night. Willie said for me not to let him catch me touching it again. The first time that I found it, it fell, and he said it could have cut off my leg. I was careful the next time - but I didn’t know the oils in my hand could damage the blade. Then I called him a name that I wasn’t supposed to and came here to have some space. Then Dr. Henderson came and brought Lucky, and we went back over to the house and Willie had the sword out and we found papers that showed the other guy had been involved with murdering some people and blackmailing the widow of one of the ones he killed. Willie said there was another compartment of the sword, but he didn’t open that. I think he is afraid of what he might learn and that it might change everything. Taylor said I was grounded, but Willie changed his mind because of something, and said that words and actions couldn’t be taken back, and that I wasn’t grounded any more,” he finished, and took a breath to steady himself.


Jessica sighed. “I see…”


“Are you disappointed in me too?” Frank asked in a soft voice.


“Should I be?” responded Jessica.


“I don’t know. Before I didn’t know what disappointment felt like. I know mum and dad would be disappointed, and have been disappointed in me in the past, but I didn’t understand how that felt. They would always want me to do better, and not disappoint them. I wasn’t doing the work for them though. I didn’t want to do it in the first place, and being disappointed for me, was like not being able to go to the park because it was rainy - it just didn’t carry any weight. Now it does, though. It feels … heavy on my chest. It makes me sad now, to remember all the times that Dad said he was disappointed, and now … now I understand. I can’t say I won’t get into trouble, Aunt Jessica, but I promise I will never disappoint you again,” he said firmly.




Frank’s boundless energy was put to use doing everything that Jessica needed to have done. Meals were simple - it was the dusting and sweeping and the laundry that were hard, but at least he could tell her that the grass was cut. He realized how much went into keeping a house in order and wondered how adults ever managed to go to work and still have time for their kids.  He did get a break, though, briefly when he remembered that Lucky didn’t have any food, and a plate from the pantry wasn’t what was proper for her to drink out of. Before, he would have been tempted to wander the neighborhood. But now it was down to the market with Lucky in tow, and he did remember to bring plastic bags with him. It was hot and squishy beneath the bag and he screwed up his face as he made sure it was all off the yard. To his relief there was a trash container along the street and he was able to discard it there.  He had paid for the dog food and was going out the door when he noticed the wind chime hanging off of the side of the building.  Something made Frank go back into the store. There was just the shopkeeper inside and he regarded Frank curiously


“Did you forget something?” he asked. 


“That wind chime - you got it at the Nightshade store a while back didn’t you?”


The owner of the store nodded. “It’s supposed to bring great fortune for all who follow its sign.”


Frank looked at Lucky. He turned back to the shop keeper.


“Cal Davis died because a man believed in that symbol. He was half my age.”


Giving a tug to Lucky’s lead, Frank walked out the door feeling the shopkeeper’s eyes on his back.  It was a long walk up the hill to Jessica’s house. Once inside with the food and the new bowls he read the directions and measured out the food for her. Frank looked around. If there was anything that he had learned from staying at Taylor’s, it was that they had to keep the food away from the dog or she would continue to eat it all. 


The solution was found in the form of one of Jessica’s large plastic tote containers. It was empty and standing up on its end and the bag fit in it perfectly. Dragging it over he put it into the pantry and closed the door, and made sure Lucky had fresh water before going up to where Jessica was. He was surprised to see Willie Mac there, sitting on the bed with Jessica.


“Back so soon?” asked Jessica. “Willie Mac and I were just discussing the bus trip tomorrow night. Tipper will drop us off at the bus station on her way to work. I have confirmed the reservations for the bus, and we will arrive with enough time to get something to eat and be at the school in time for your 10:50 appointment. Do you know what you’re going to present?”


“Yes. I have some work to do on it still. Excuse me,” he said as he walked out of the room and down to the kitchen. There he pulled out his book and tablet and a single pencil. For a moment he sat looking at the blank page, then taking a breath he began to write. He knew Willie was up with Jessica, and that they were discussing something, and he knew it had to be about him, his actions and what he had called Willie. How long could they be talking about the trip, or her health? He was on the eighth page when he heard the creak of the steps coming down from the upstairs and Willie’s footsteps across the hardwood floors. 


“I will be coming with you and Jessica tomorrow night for your trip. It’s the only way that Dr. Hazlitt would allow the journey for her. Before we spend all that time together, there is something I want to say to you - away from the lady folk.” Willie pulled up a chair and took Frank’s hand in his.


“It was wrong of me to compare my life, my childhood, and my experiences with how you should behave. It was wrong of me to expect you not to be curious about something like the sword, and it was wrong of me to lay the guilt that I carry upon your shoulders. You were right. At that moment, I was being a bastard. But you have never been a stupid lame-ass idiot, and I have heard that you keep referring to yourself as one. You are not. There is a world of difference between not having intelligence and doing something foolhardy. Can you tell me why you think that way about yourself? Who told you that you were like that?” asked Willie.


Frank shook his head. “It doesn’t matter.”


“Why wouldn’t it matter? If someone is saying something that is hurting you, then you need to speak up about it,” said Willie firmly.


Frank put up his hand. “Please don’t lecture me about something that you’re not willing to do yourself.” 


“And what would that be?” asked Willie.


“Hiding behind something because it is easier than facing it head on,” said Frank, getting up from the table and walking across the floor of the kitchen to look out the window at Taylor’s house.


Willie didn’t say anything at first. He regarded Frank for a while and then said softly, “I suppose your right.”  He saw Franks shoulders droop a bit.


“It’s not something that has a right or wrong answer. It doesn’t matter if someone else says it or not because if I believe it to be true, then it is. Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘No one can make you feel inferior unless you let them.’ I’ve done some pretty stupid things, and I have been an ass about other things,” said Frank, leaning against the sink.


“Oh, have you now?” Willie said, trying to keep his voice steady.


Frank shifted where he stood and began again. “Two weeks ago I really didn’t care about school and learning, and I certainly didn’t want to come here.  You opened my eyes and let me look at myself, and I don’t know if I like what I see that I have become.  You made me care. Not that it wasn’t in me all along, but it’s heavy on me, Willie. I want to be a kid again. I want to be able to go outside to play and not care about people who harm little kids to get to someone else. I deserve better. Cal deserved better too. I don’t know if I should hate you for him dying. If you hadn’t written that book, maybe he would be alive, as well as those other people too. I know you were trying to prevent others from dying a different way. But if I see that stupid hourglass triangle crest I worry that I may end up like Anthony, or Cal, or that girl who was killed just because. I am eleven, and I feel old. I am scared, Willie - more than I have ever been in my whole life. Does knowing all this make me a target? Or Aunt Jessica? Will someone come after Mum and Dad, or Taylor or Tipper?  Because they didn’t stop to worry about hurting kids, like Cal or Essian or Sellsir. I knew someday I would have to grow up, but I didn’t know it would be so soon. I want to make things better between us - to put aside this doubt and horror that presses in on me from all sides. I want it to be just a bad dream, but I can’t wake up from it. I can’t…You didn’t mean for this to happen. It just did. I just don’t know how it can be stopped. Yeah, I have been an ass because I was a kid, and kids push how far they can go. We have to do that to learn. I don’t know how else to be sometimes. It’s in my nature to be curious. “


Frank took a breath. “And I am sorry I called you a know-it all bastard.”


He saw Willie give him a look before he sighed. “Do you even know what it means?”


Frank gave him a puzzled look. “Well, that the person is pretty much a jerk.”


Willie ran his fingers through his curly hair, brushing it out of the way of his hazel eyes. “Well, that may be one meaning for it, an’ in the future, just say the word ‘jerk’ if that’s what you mean. A bastard is someone who was born out of wedlock.” He saw Frank’s confusion. “The parents of the child were not married. It cut a bit deep with me Frank, because I have no way of knowing if my parents were married. I was often called a leanbh díomhaointis by the other children, or a foundling by the more polite folk - one who had no parents.  Da died before I was born, and my mother left me in the care of Gram.”


 Frank scrunch up his face. “Have you looked in the other compartment of the sword? You said your family keeps important papers in there.” 


Frank saw the look on Willie’s face as he shook his head. “Knowing that it isn’t in there would be just as hard as knowing that it was.”


He put his hands on his hips and said to Willie, “Now who’s the lame-ass idiot?”


“Pardon?” asked Willie, a bit shocked.


“You heard me. You have the sword, you have every chance of finding out the truth, but you don’t want to because - why?”


Willie flinched. “I told you before.”


“I don’t believe you’re a coward. A coward wouldn’t have stayed with Cal while he was all alone, and a coward certainly wouldn’t have agreed to take on the care of a stranger’s eleven year old kid. And I don’t see Taylor being in love with a coward either. She is in love with you, you know.”


“Is she, now? She’s told you that?” asked Willie, a bit bemused.


Frank missed his tone. “She didn’t need to tell me. I saw how she looks at you, how much she cares for you, and it’s just like how my mum loves my dad. If the time here has shown me anything, it’s to use what time you have because it can be ‘game over’ in a second. You should marry her sooner, not later.”


Frank saw Willie regard him. “Nothing is certain any more,” he said softly.


Frank walked up to him and stuck out his hand “Friendship is, as well as standing by your friends. Aunt Jessica said something to me when I first came here: you don’t have to be related by blood to be family. I know, I have a lot of uncles and cousins and aunts, and, well, would you be part of my family?”


Willie took his hand and said softly, “I would be honored.” Frank stepped into his arms and gave him a hug. When Willie was released from the hug he looked at Frank, took a breath and said, “Right. So, let’s see this report you’re giving.”




Taylor stood beside Anthony’s bed holding his hand. He had slipped in and out of conciseness a few times, and had a series of setbacks. Infections had set in, he didn’t respond to some of the treatments and because of one of the medications they had given him, his lungs had begun to fill up with fluid and his liver and kidneys began to shut down. He was placed on a respirator as a precaution . Seth had been honest with her. They didn’t know if he was going to get better, and at his rate of decline, it might have been just a matter of time. Tipper had brought her to visit him Taylor could hear her speaking softly to Seth out in the hall. Seth came in with his chart and he asked her to come to a room behind the nurse’s desk. Tipper told her that she would stay with Anthony  Seth pulled up a chair for her. He looked older than Taylor had ever seen him.


“I’ve managed to get a hold of his doctor in LA… Taylor, did you know Anthony made you his POA? “


She shook her head. “No. what does that have to do with anything?” she asked.


“Well, simply, your able to make the decisions for him. He has a living will, and while what we are doing doesn’t change what his wishes are, for now, if his condition should happen to deteriorate, it, would be up to you to decide what to do.. he also has a DNR signed. “


“Seth, if, I asked for everything to be stopped, the pain medication the drugs they are giving him to control the infection, the respirator, if all of that was taken away- he would die, wouldn’t he?”  She saw Seth catch his breath before nodding.


“And the court would look at that paper and say, well, that was his wishes… she was just following what he wanted…right? Seth nodded again a bit slower “yes.” He saw the tears in her eyes.


“Don’t ask me to make that decision.” She took a breath. “I know about those things. It is to release the guilt, and, well, it can’t. I want you to do everything possible to save him, Seth. If dialysis will help his kidneys, then do that Do what it takes.”


Seth took a breath and then looked at her. “It may not be fair of me to ask, but, what would you be saving him for Taylor? Even if he survives this,  there is damage to his body that may never heal. There are indications that he may have suffered a stroke. He may never walk again, or be able to feed himself or care for himself…He may not wish to be trapped in a useless body. “


“I can’t Seth. I don’t believe that he would want anything except to fight for his life- no matter what it may be like. I refuse to allow the DNR to be observed. If something happens, I want you to do what ever it takes to keep him alive, and to heal him.”


Seth took her hand. “Taylor. You need to think about what your asking, and what it means to him. Why your asking it. Do you still love him?, and is it from guilt because your also in love with Willie Mac- that you can’t make these decisions?” She shook her head. “I do care for him. I just don’t believe that he would sign something like that. What if he didn’t Seth? What if it was forged by someone else – by one of Fordham’s followers? What does that make me then? A murderer? If I am his POA, then I am directing that he gets every possible bit of care for his recovery. For how ever long he stays upon this earth.”


“All right. So, we save his life. What then? What will become of him? Placement into a nursing home? Take him home with you to be cared for? Or to ship him back to LA to be confined to a room that overlooks the air conditioning units in a halfway house?”


“I don’t know. Don’t you see? How can I give up on him and ever be happy again? I know that the life that I had thought I wanted 4 yrs ago isn’t what it turned out to be, I could never live with myself feeling as if I had murdered him to make way for a new lover.”


“I would be disappointed in you if you did. We will do everything that we can to keep him alive, and put him on the road to recovery.”




Willie stood on the back deck looking out over the cove. Tomorrow night he would be leaving to take Frank to his meeting. Half of him wanted to stay, to protect Taylor from what he knew was coming. There were no more reports of people being killed on the highway, and if Kent managed to get a hold of enough money to pay for the gas to drive across the country, up there- it would be another 4 days before he reached Cabot Cove. He took a breath of the sea air and watched the gulls welcome in the lobster boats. He heard the door open behind him and the soft footsteps of Taylor as she came across the deck.  She hadn’t said much after her return from the hospital. She looked at him and he could tell she had been crying.  Silently he took her hand in his and kissed the back of it.


“Tell me,” he said simply.


“Seth, spoke to me today about Anthony… about his future, and his care, and told me I was his POA, that I have the legal right to make the decisions regarding his life. I came home and all I could do was look at where the dining room was, and wondering if a hospital bed could be put there- that the powder room could be made into a full bath area- and he would have access to the deck, and the kitchen… and I realized I had no idea how to heal him, but you did, and I was wondering how- could I ask that of you, knowing how he feels about me I know that if any one could heal him, you can, as you healed me.”

“Oh lass. Your healing wasn’t a miracle,  It was simply just, adjusting to what your body needed to find its center.”


“Well, maybe he needs that too.”


Willie looked once more to the harbor. “If I made him whole again, and he asked you to marry him, as you do love him, would you? If he said it was the only thing that kept him alive this long, the hope that you would come back to him? For the world he knows, will be no longer. He would find his cure, the same way you did, here in this paradise.”


Taylor took a breath. “I have heard, that people fall in love with those who heal them… as he would be healed by your hand, would he ask the same of you? Is my love for you only because you have given me new life, or is there more?”


Willie didn’t answer her at first. For the longest time he just held her hand and played his thumb over it. “I spoke to Frank today, an he said something that made me do thinking.  When his trip to his school is finished. I am going to return home, with the sword, and do what is right by it. I owe it to Gram to finish what was started. It may be awhile before I am able to return.” He took a breath and let it out slowly. “I will do what I can for him, and I will start tonight.” He said lifting her hand to his lips and kissing the back of it again before striding into the house for some things. Taylor stood on the deck not knowing what to say. She didn’t move until long after the taxi had left, and then it was to go into the house and pick up her sketch pad  She opened it and began to sketch with her eyes closed against the tears that fell unbridled.




Seth was called by one of the nurses to Anthony’s room where he found Willie going over the charts, having disconnected  a few of the IV packs they had hung, There was a tray with different herbs laid out, and a  paste that had been placed upon Anthony’s chest, directly on some of the wound areas. Seth looked at the monitors, then back at Willie.


“Should I ask what your doing?”


“The elemental form is always easier for the body to heal by. All that was taken away there - (he said pointing to the bags) can be found here, and in doses that the body will absorb on its own. Taylor asked me to heal him. I will do my best, no matter what the cost.”


“You won’t lose her to him, if that’s what you’re thinking.”


“I already have, Dr. Hazlitt. She wishes to take him in, to care for him to the end of his days. If it is by guilt or love, it is her choice… now, in twelve hours the poultice is to be removed, and replaced with fresh every twelve hours. I have pre-combined the ingredients, except for adding the sterilized water, and that is written here. It is to be placed on the same areas in the same amount, and it is very important to watch his hydration.  You should have enough until I return with Frank and Jessica Friday evening.  He should be able to be removed from the respirator in eighteen hours.”


“You’ve removed his morphine drip… what did you replace it with?” asked Seth, looking over the things that Willie had laid out.


“Belladonna,” said Willie softly. “I have a feeling it was causing more problems than it was helping.”




Willie arrived at Taylor’s home late the next afternoon. He found her very quiet, having made him a light dinner and folded down his bed – his things for the trip were ready.


He took a swallow of his tea and looked across the table at her before saying, “I was thinking Tipper might want to come along, just for a wee bit when I go home.”


“You’re taking Tipper to Ireland?” asked Taylor, a bit shocked. She grasped the table with her hand.


“Well, yes, just for a few days, not the whole time though. You would be needing a maid of honor, and she seems to be the one who would be chosen for that. Of course Frank would be my best man, and Jessica would come along as a witness to our marriage.”


“You haven’t asked me to marry you.”


“Haven’t I? Well, more often there isn’t any asking to be done, its just arranged and the bride shows up and then they are married and make lots of children… or at least practice at it for a while.”  She sat there looking at him, trying to fathom what he had said.  He reached over, took her hand and kissed the back of her hand. “And, yes, I will do all that I can to heal Anthony, and take him into our home to recover, if needed, so that someday he will fall in love and marry a woman who deserves a man as special as he is.”


“Special?” she asked.


“Aye. Special, for you love him enough to think to give up your life for him. There must be something in the measure of that man for that. And something special in the heart of a woman that cares that much. One I would be honored to call my wife.” He took a breath and got down on his knee and pulled a ring from his pocket. Still holding her hand he pressed his lips to it and slipped the ring on her finger.


“Oh …”


“Is that a yes?”


“If you just need the bride to show up, do you need the answer?” she asked.


He tilted his head. “Would you be showing up then at our wedding?”


Taylor leaned forward and kissed him. “Aye,” she said, whispering to him, afraid of any other volume least it lead to shouting.




Frank was too wired to sleep, at first. He knew in a few hours he would have to be up to get on the bus, and that it would be a long trip, but he wasn’t sure if he could fall asleep on the bus as easy as Willie could fall asleep on the plane. Tipper picked them up in plenty of time and delivered them to the bus station where Willie helped Jessica up on the bus. Frank regarded Tipper seriously. “If something should happen, could you see that Lucky goes to a good home? And I know you will take care of Taylor, and tell my Mom and Dad that I love them, okay?”


She didn’t dismiss his fears. She gave him a long hug and said, “I will… I am very proud of you, Frank.”


“Really? Why?”


“Just because. Good luck!” He got on the bus, pausing to regard the driver and his hands to be sure there were no rings or pendants on him. Going midway into the bus and looking at everyone on it, he slipped over Willie and Jessica to sit by the window so he could wave goodbye to Tipper. He turned and looked at Willie. “Can I marry her when I grow up?” he asked.


“It would be up to her, you know. But I don’t see her being the type to object if you wanted to bring a snake or a wolf cub home one day. Not many ladies would be that understanding,” said Willie with a twinkle in his eyes.


At first Frank was a bit wiggly in his seat as he tried to see everything around him. There wasn’t much to look at outside unless they went through a town, and while seeing Salem Massachusetts may be exciting by day, it just was another town along the way. Frank tried to stay awake, but the warmth of a comforting arm about him was too much for him and he found himself falling fast asleep against Willie’s shoulder.  Jessica fell asleep next, and for a bit, Willie stayed awake watching Frank Jr. sleep. The bus made a few stops before continuing its drive down the coast. Willie wiggled his feet, trying to keep himself awake, but the steady rumble of the engines were too much for him to resist and he felt his eyes closing.


At 4 am the bus rolled to a stop in front of its last pickup for the route. Willie opened his eyes and looked around. Many of the people had taken the moment to stand up and stretch their legs, or to avail themselves of the rest stop facilities.  Willie opened his eyes part way when those who got off of the bus returned to it and began to board again. His hand slipped into his pocket for a moment, then withdrew as the seats began to fill up. They had just loaded the last of the passengers and were about ready to depart when there was a knock on the outside door and the driver opened it to allow one more passenger on. Willies fingers played over the cell phone keyboard, and paused over the send button. At first he breathed a sigh of relief as a woman’s head was seen rising up from the steps, but then frowned as the woman walked forward. Willies finger hit the send button and he placed the phone back into his pocket.  The woman came down the aisle and sat in the seat across from Jessica, who was still sleeping. Willie looked down at Frank, who had moved his head to snuggle next to his shoulder.  It would be over soon, one way or the other.


Jessica lifted her head as the bus came to a stop. She looked down the aisle and saw the flashing lights ahead of her and that they were letting the cars through one at a time. Beyond the police cars was a trestle bridge. Frank woke too and looked out. “What’s going on?” 


Willie shrugged. “Maybe one of those sobriety check points.”


The driver opened the door to allow a state policeman onto the bus. They had quiet words, then the driver handed the State trooper the mike.


“I’m sorry, folks, but due to the high water level we’re restricting weight going over the bridge. You will have to get out and walk over the bridge before the bus goes over it. We ask that on your return journey you take an alternate route home. Thank you.”


The moment the trooper stepped off of the bus Willie heard the woman sitting next to Jessica sigh in relief. Willie snagged Frank’s backpack and helped Jessica stand, then let them get off the bus before he did. He felt something poke into his back from the person behind him.


“Where is it?” a voice hissed down at him.


Willie didn’t answer. He knew that if he died the secret of the sword would stay safe. He had found a different place to hide it, a better one that even Taylor didn’t know about. One that small children couldn’t get into, or fire or flood - it would remain safe. He looked back up at Kent and grinned “You are a very ugly woman,” he said dryly.  There was a roar of a helicopter coming in with search lights illuminating the outside. Willie felt Kent’s arm about his body as his gun came up and pressed tighter against him.


Frank had stepped off the bus first, and turned to help Jessica down the last of the step when he saw the state police on ether side of the door with their guns drawn and ready. He looked back up into where Willie was and saw the gun, then Willie give a small shake to his head. Frank took Jessica’s hand and pulled her away from where she was standing. Jessica was about to tell him to slow down when she heard the state police behind her yell, “FREEZE!”  She turned and saw Willie with the gun pressed to his jaw and the determination of Kent who had nothing to lose. Frank pulled Jessica’s hand back


“Drop them or the bus gets a new paint job!” snarled Kent.


Frank looked at Willie, then back at Kent who wore a triumphant grin. Bending over Frank picked up several good sized pebbles from the side of the road.


CLADHAIRE!” he yelled, flinging one at Kent’s head. It hit his shoulder and he snarled in irritation. “ DAMNU CLADHAIRE!” Another stone smacked against Kent’s jaw. Willie took a step down and bent forward, pulling Kent off of the step behind him. The two men tumbled to the ground. Willie raised his fist and cracked Kent across the jawline. “Tha’s for Gram,” he said. Another whack. “An tha’s for Da, and tha’s for Cal,” said Willie, back handing Kent hard across the mouth.  Willie grabbed the fallen gun and shoved it under Kent’s jaw. “It was pointed out to me that blackmail was the reason Peter went to prison, payment for his own crimes, na his father’s.  Your kin shed their own blood and hunted mine to ease their guilt. It ends now.”


Kent laughed. “Aye, it ends for you as well…leanbh díomhaointis.


Willie gave Kent a smile. “The sword speaks otherwise. Tabhairt isteach do?


Looking up, Willie handed the gun to the state police officer and stood up. He watched them as they handcuffed and shackled Kent, who struggled against the restraint. With sudden strength he broke free from them and tried to run the best he could away towards the bridge. Four shots rang out, each hitting Kent’s body, giving him the illusion of dancing under the search light. Willie turned Frank away from it, hiding his face against his rough coat.  Jessica wrapped her arms around them, holding them as a final shot rang out.


Frank asked softly, “Is it over?”


Willie sighed. “I don’t know lad, maybe for a while until it’s all figured out.”


When they were back on the bus and on their way Frank looked at his back pack and then opened it up and pulled out his note pad and a pencil.


“Do you need a wee bit of light, lad?” asked Willie as he looked down at his split knuckles. Frank nodded. Willie reached up and turned on the overhead light and pointed it in Frank’s direction.


Because of the delay they had missed the connector bus and had to wait an hour before they were able to get onto the next one, and then it only could drop them off two blocks from where the school was. Jessica looked at her watch. “Oh dear…”


Frank took a breath. “Don’t worry Aunt Jessica, I can go on ahead. Take your time getting there, okay? I have a feeling this report will take a while for them to hear,” he said, then sprinted off down the block.




Frank set his papers down into the folder and let out a long breath. For a few seconds there was only silence, then the scrape of a chair as the principal stood. “That is the most preposterous fabrication I have ever heard. Leprechauns, murder, and shootouts? Young man, you have taken enough of our time. My decision stands.”


“Well, yeah, I guess it would, seeing how you think you know the truth,” said Frank, digging through the papers in his folder.


“I beg your pardon?”


Frank came forward and laid several sheets on the table in front of  his English teacher.  She flipped through them and then looked up at Frank, who was backing away from the table.


“I don’t understand,” she said softly.


“His ring … look at his ring!” gasped Ms. Shellie as she pointed to the photograph that was underneath the article regarding the young girl’s death.


“It’s just a ring,” he said, shrugging. “And it changes nothing. Leprechauns, indeed.”


“It’s nae just a ring, it is a symbol for all that is evil in the world today, starting with the killing of innocence,” said Willie Mac from the doorframe.  He strode forward carrying Frank’s back pack. Opening it, he pulled out a book and put it down on the table.

“The silly part of it all is most ha nae read the book at all, or bothered to think about what it all meant.  There is no wealth or power that could be granted by wearing the crest of that family. All that they have ever gained was through murder, and trickery.”


Jessica came up to the table where the principal was and asked him softly, “Did you know that Kent Fordham has been recaptured this morning? He has but a month to live before he is executed for the murders he committed, and for the distribution of illegal narcotics to young people. I have to ask, if I might - why did you let him know Frank was coming here? You had to have known he would be on the bus.”


The principal looked at Jessica and scoffed. “It wasn’t that stupid idiot they were after, it was you. You were on his list of people to – take care of – one way or the other. If you hadn’t been so nosy, he never would have been caught. If something happened to him, the others have orders to deal with those who were involved as well.”


Willie saw Frank flinch at the principal’s words. Several of the teachers moved away from him, not sure what he was capable of at this point.  He regarded the principal. “You don’t get it, do you?  All of what you believe in was made up by Fordham. You were a puppet and he was pulling the strings. He and his family have been lying about things for decades, just so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the responsibility of their actions - blackmail, theft, rape and murder. One of your group was responsible for telling someone to try and kill Anthony, and many people innocent of it all, including a boy named Cal, were in the way. He was five. His parents died on impact. The seat belt that is supposed to save lives ripped up his insides and snapped his ribs as if they were toothpicks. What sort of a man is worth following who brings that upon children?”


The principal smirked. “In war, there are always sacrifices, and the death of innocents.”


There were footsteps in the hall, then into the classroom as several state police entered and went to where the principal sat. “Would you come with us, sir, to answer some questions?” asked the sergeant politely.


Frank looked at Ms. Peters as she shifted in her seat and saw something that glistened in the sunlight. Clearing his throat he interrupted the sergeant as he began to read the principal his rights. “Um, you may want to talk to Ms. Peters as well,” he began.  Willie caught her hands as she suddenly tried to reach across for her purse. Somehow Frank knew there wasn’t just lipstick in it.


When the two of them had been led away leaving the stunned assembly of teachers behind, Willie stepped up to the table and placed his hands on it, leaning towards Mr. Murphy. “Right now, Frank’s Aunt an’ I stopped in your classrooms and turned on the air. Couldna hear a word from where the ones in the back like Frank were sitting the whole term. Did ye never sit back there yourself, lad, or wonder why Frank was squinting so at the board?”


Frank saw Miss Shellie look at Mr. Murphy. “I did. You were there, Carol, when I reported to both of them that I had my concerns about Frank’s vision.” She turned to Frank. “I even tried to have a letter sent to your parents in regards to it, but that didn’t pass approval by Wally. I am sorry, Frank, that we failed your needs.”


Shrugging, Frank said softly, “It’s okay. If I hadn’t failed myself, I never would have had the summer that I have had already, now would I?”


Carol cleared his throat. “Well, then, the next thing that we have to do is arrange follow-ups weekly visits, and note your progress with the program.”


Scrunching up his face but not saying anything, Frank looked at Jessica.


“Mr. Murphy, I understand your concern regarding Frank’s summer English classes, but are weekly visits back here really necessary? Wouldn’t written progress reports be better? It’s a ten hour trip here, then another ten hours back by bus, and would become a great expense to continue over the next eight weeks, unless the school board is going to pay for that cost?”


“The school board has been very firm regarding the tutoring of students by teachers who are not board certified by the district. We can’t have just anyone taking over there education.”


“Aunt Jessica isn’t just anyone!” said Frank, trying very hard not to shout. “Nor is Willie Mac,” Frank continued as he pushed the book Belladonna at Mr. Murphy.


Carol Murphy looked down at the book and sighed. “Being a writer isn’t quite the qualifications that the school board would approve of,” he said gently.


“Even if that writer graduated from Cambridge and is a doctor or that my Aunt Jessica has taught English longer than Ms. Peters has been alive?” asked Frank, exasperated.


Jessica laid her hand on Frank’s shoulder. “It’s all right, Frank.” 


Willie shook his head. “Nae, it just won’t do. Mr. Murphy, Mrs. Fletcher is quite capable of overseeing her nephew’s quality of education throughout the summer, an’ has been certified by the State of New York to teach at their universities for both English an’ criminology. If your board does not recognize the tri-state’s certification over a district one, then your rules need to be changed a bit, an’ he won’t be available to be coming back here next week or the weeks to follow He has another matter to attend to. You will be getting a report of his progress by mail, and seeing him in the fall.”


“Won’t be available?” asked Shellie, curious.


Jessica looked at Frank, then at Willie. “He will be traveling to visit relatives.” 


Something in the way her eyes twinkled and the look that she gave Willie caused Carol Murphy to sit back in his chair. For the longest time he looked at Jessica. “Forgive me, but have we met before?” he asked, perplexed. “I keep thinking I have seen you before.” 


Frank giggled. “Well, um, you do like mysteries.” He turned and saw Willie giving Jessica  a curious look.


Carol Murphy looked at the remaining teachers, waiting for his decision. Miss Shellie gave a nod to him. He would have to speak with her later, but by the look she was giving Jessica, it was clear she felt Frank would exceed the requirements for the course.


“Well, visiting relatives won’t be an answer that I can give the school board that they would accept. Where exactly do they live? Perhaps a review at one of their schools would suffice…”


“Across the big pond,” said Jessica, her eyes twinkling as she saw Franks confusion over the reference.


“Well, there you go,” said Miss Shellie. “There is no way they can expect him to come back for a half hour review, and I for one don’t see a problem with his tutors, do you?” she asked directly. 


Carol Murphy sighed. “All right. I will inform them of the change, and I expect a full summery when it arrives, as well as a written presentation of your report. Is that understood, young man?” 


Frank nodded. “Yes sir. Thank you.” He looked down as his belly grumbled loudly, then up a bit sheepishly


“Well, I can see by the clock on the wall that it’s time for lunch. Would you care to join us?” asked Mr. Murphy as the rest of the teachers began to stand and stretch a bit.


“Um, is it cafeteria food?” asked Frank, screwing up his face as if he had stepped in a pile of wiggling worms.


Miss Shellie laughed. “Oh, no. We had it catered.”


Willie looked at Jessica and Frank, then back to the teachers. “Thank you for your offer, but we will decline - we have some things to discuss before we are to catch the bus for the ride home.” He looked at Frank. “Gather your things, that’s a good lad.”




Frank walked alongside the low wall musing that the summer, as short as it had been, was proving to be a bit more than he expected. He listened as Willie made a brief call to Mort informing him about the developments, and to keep an eye out for any activities. Jessica had spoken to Mort as well, telling him of two people she knew that may have had a connection to Fordham that were still in Cabot Cove. Frank insisted on stopping at the flower shop and it didn’t take long for him to pick out and pay for the flowers to be sent off to Miss Shellie. Once that was done they walked to the bus station and checked the schedule. It was a bit late for the lunch crowd at the neighborhood deli that was next to the bus station. Frank stood and looked at the menu and said “Anything that moo’s” to Jessica. 


Unwrapping his double cheese burger, Frank regarded Willie. Something Jessica had said earlier had startled Willie, and Frank could tell that either it was a slip, or that there was something bigger that was happening. He glanced at the clock. They still had half an hour to go before they needed to get in line to board the bus home.


“I know you have a lot of relatives Aunt Jessica, but what state is the town of Big Pond in and who lives there?” he asked her, but kept his eyes on Willie.


Jessica opened her purse up and pulled out a small cardboard envelope that contained a photograph in a plastic evidence bag. She placed it on the table as she looked at Willie. She saw that the photo didn’t bring any emotion to his face, and realized he had never seen it before. Taking a slow breath she said to Willie, “When you first claimed the sword, you showed Mort what was in the chamber of the sword and this happened to fall away. It wasn’t until later that Mort found it, and made the connection. He gave it to me in the hospital after verifying that the photo was genuine. It’s how he knew Frank would be in good hands.” She turned it over revealing the words on the back.  Frank could tell by Willie’s sharp intake that it was something important. Craning his neck he tried to read the upside down writing.


What he could make out was a year, and the scrawl, “Mac…”  Taking a bite of his cheese burger Frank chewed it slowly.  “But how does that involve me? ‘Mac?’ She’s your mum? But she looks like Aunt Jessica,” said Frank before he noticed that Willie was gripping the table to prevent from falling over.


“Short for MacGill,” said Jessica softly. “Most of us look alike, and there is no doubt in my mind that your mother is one of the clan MacGill.”


“Oh, well, I’ve told Taylor that I will be marrying her and tha’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’ I would have you as my best man, an’ Jessica for a witness. Tipper, if she would come, will be her maid of honor,” said Willie, still distracted by the photo he now held in his hands.


“You told her you’re marrying her? You didn’t ask her first?” gasped Frank.


“I didn’t want her to say no… Finish tha’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’ like a gentleman, and let’s go home,” said Willie helping Jessica up. “We’ve packing to do,” he said, slipping the photo in his coat pocket.