~ the raven chronicles ~ 41

27 Jun

(Chapters are stored chronologically in ARCHIVES.)

Fr. Michael Leavell, OP.
Sacred Heart Church
Raven, Ohio

November 22, 1932

I tucked the revolver in my jacket pocket, resolved to leave the rectory without fanfare, let alone another word with Monsignor Leavell or Mrs. Sullivan.

Utilizing stealth, I entered the upstairs hall and pulled my bedroom door closed; the latch entered the strike plate with a loud click; as if the house itself conspired against a furtive exit. I glanced around; listened to the silent rectory. I checked my watch–nearly 8AM. Monsignor Byrne would be in the church, hearing weekday confessions; Mrs. Sullivan could be marketing; or skulking about. Though I owed her no explanations, once she laid that hard Irish glare on me, I knew my conscience would force me to tell her whatever she wanted to know.

I stopped short in the shadows near the bottom of the staircase when I saw Mrs. Sullivan enter the front office with her Bissell and dust rag. I waited a few moments until the sound of earnest mowing of the carpet arose. I stepped off and went to the tree in the hall, deftly retrieved my coat and made for the rear of the rectory. I padded cross the dining room, and then glanced behind me to insure that my retreat was still undiscovered before I eased closed the swinging kitchen door. I donned my overcoat, switched my revolver to one of the deep pockets, then retrieved the car key from the cup hook on the wall by the back door.

*****

I eased the sedan out of the garage and onto Spruce Street; turned right at Munro’s onto Main and headed uptown. The morning had not warmed at all and activity on the thoroughfare was minimal; a good thing for me, since I would have to enter the Riddle Building near the courthouse.

I hid my car as best I could by parking in the alley behind my Main Street destination. Then, with my head down and collar up, I walked briskly to the side entrance where I could gain access to the residential apartments on the upper floors.

Inside the foyer, I paused at the bottom of the stout wooden staircase, scanned the tenant board, and found my destination.

~ Mrs. Hortense Pomeroy ~ #16 ~ 4th Floor.

I vaulted the stairs then walked the fourth floor hall until I found #16; a northwest-facing  corner apartment that overlooked the intersection of Chestnut and Main. I listened at the door and heard faint music and singing somewhere beyond. With a sense of trepidation, I straightened my coat, took a deep breath, and rapped.

The music ceased immediately. I expected the door to open forthwith, but that did not happen. Dead silence lay beyond the threshold. After a few moments, I rapped again, and was startled by a soft voice that seemed to emanate from the wooden door itself.

Who is it then, came the inquiry.

Father Leavell, I replied; Here to see, Mrs. Pomeroy.

Inside, a chain slid from its track; a night latch clicked; a key turned in the lock; the door came open, and the epitome of Mrs. Sullivan’s description greeted me with a warm smile.

Ah, Father Leavell, do come in, please.

The matronly, ‘British and buxom in the best sense of all that’ Mrs. Hortense Pomeroy, stepped aside and bade me enter.
She closed the door and locked it; then turned about and said, Would you like some tea, Father; To trim the chill.

I don’t want to bother you, I said, as I removed my hat.

No bother at all, she replied; I was just brewing a pot, it’s nearly ready.

Alright then; Thank you, I said.

Well let me take your coat, she volunteered.

My coat–with the Smith and Wesson revolver in the pocket.
Don’t bother, I said, I can’t stay long.

She smiled, nodded curtly and walked into the  adjoining kitchenette. She must have switched a radio back on, for the quiet melodies I’d heard outside in the hall, resumed. While  Al Bowlly crooned Belle Of Barcelona, I took the opportunity of Mrs. Pomeroy’s absence and preoccupation with tea, to scan the premises for any clues as to her motive in my summons.

The sitting area consisted of an overstuffed sofa and chair and coffee table and floor lamp. No books or periodicals or anything other than a small vase of some dried flowers were about; as if the premises awaited showing to a prospective tenant. I guessed that the closed door to my left, was the bedroom. At the front of the apartment, beyond dark walnut French doors, an open room lined with windows on the North and West beckoned; I followed the invitation.

Two chairs at a round wooden table covered with various documents and books indicated that this is where Mrs. Pomeroy spentohio her time. I perused the ersatz desk, littered with an uneven stack of invoices from various European auction houses. Several open books appeared to be catalogues of Egyptian artifacts–an array that underscored the Artifacts ~ Antiquities on her calling card. A variety of maps, including ones of Darke County and Northeast Ohio, lay folded to smaller dimensions. Mrs. Pomeroy entered the room without my notice and startled me.

I see you’ve made your way to my sunroom, Father Leavell; We’ll have our tea in here, then.

north akronWith a degree of embarrassment at having been caught snooping, I stood and watched as Mrs. Pomeroy sat the tray on the table and rearranged things so that on opposing sides, we each had a small space for our tea.

There, that’s better, she said; Please, Father, sit down.
She lifted the pot from the tray and poured. Cream or sugar, she inquired.

A bit of cream, thank you, I said.

I love sugar in my tea, she said with a  twinkle in her eye, helps keep me sweet.

I smiled and nodded, with the sense of her comment being something just short of patronizing; a feeble ploy at intimacy to keep me off my guard.

She placed my tea in front of me, prepared her cup–with cream and 4 lumps–then sat down and proceeded to gently stir while she gazed at me with an expression of muted expectation.

I took a sip of tea and glanced at the rearranged tabletop; a photo previously not in evidence arrested my gaze.  A group of mrs. pomeroy's visit to egyptwell-dressed Europeans stood in front of a desert monolith–some in discussion, some staring up in wonder–accompanied by a dark-skinned, fez-wearing local. I easily identified one of the women as being Mrs. Pomeroy.

May I, indicating my desire to pick up the photo and examine it.

By all means, she said; A little souvenir from a trip 2 years ago; Do you have an interest in ancient Egypt.

It was part of my antiquity studies at seminary, I replied.

egyptian maniaThere is a mania about it these days, she said, but not in the sense of serious investigation or appreciation, mostly by people appropriating Pharoanic fashions for costume balls, I’m afraid.

I wouldn’t know, I replied, neither costume balls nor Egyptology are my fields of expertise.

She responded, not skipping a beat, with a pointed, yet obtuse, question; What is your, ‘field of expertise’, Father.

For some reason, her comment triggered my anger, as if she were questioning my integrity, and I replied before considering my best response. I am a priest, first and foremost; And I do my utmost to fulfill all the responsibilities attendant to the vocation.

She replied, in a soothing voice, I’m sure you do an admirable job, Father Leavell.

I chastised myself for losing control and gathered my composure.
I try to remain humble among my fellow man and in the presence of the Lord, I answered.

Humility is a trait in scant supply in our modern world, she said, a hint of sarcasm tracing her voice.

Judging by your collection here, I said, you seem to have more than a mere interest in ancient Egypt; And local topography; A fascinating combination of curiosities.

The ancient world has always been a passion with me, Egypt in particular, ever since Mr. Herbert and Lord Carnavorn made their great discovery in the Valley of the Kings; So much so, that you might say that I’ve made it my business.
She stirred her tea again and continued.
As to the regional maps you see on my table, through extensive world travel, I’ve acquired the habit of always familiarizing myself with local terrain when visiting an unknown country.

‘An unknown country’; You make our little corner of the world sound fascinating and mysterious, I said.
I hope you are not too disappointed when all is said and done.

The entire world is fascinating and mysterious, Father; If it were not so, then I think I should rather stay at home and tend to my garden.

Mrs. Pomeroy had readily worn my patience thin; rather than exchange any more serpentine barbs, I decided to get to the heart of the matter.

And what is it, exactly, that you find fascinating and mysterious here in Raven, Mrs. Pomeroy; And how how could any of it possibly concern me.

She took a long sip of tea, set down her cup and eyed me for a moment.

I must say that I am accustomed to clergy being more circumspect, Father, she said, but that is just one of the many niceties I soon appreciate when I am away from England. As an expatriate of the Empire, you are demonstrable proof of the old adage concerning Rome, so I will follow suit, and be blunt. I am searching for an artifact that rightfully belongs to a client of mine; An artifact obtained and possessed under, shall we say, illicit circumstances; I  believe you know of this object; Perhaps you have seen it; Perhaps you have an idea where I might find it.

And what would possess you of such an idea, Mrs. Pomeroy, I said, this notion of yours that impelled you to shadow me at the train station this morning, then flee the scene without identifying yourself when I noticed and you would have had the chance to speak with me sooner.

Her demeanor changed for just an instant, but in that instant, I glimpsed the hard nature of her, hidden beneath the soft, grand-dame exterior.

I am possessed of the idea, as you say, for one simple reason; Residents of a small town like nothing better than to share what they know about their fellow inhabitants; Thus, I am aware of your recent inquiries concerning Gareth Tavish, and after a subsequent bit of sleuthing, I have uncovered information that indicated you were present on the evening in which the item I seek, disappeared.

You’re searching for that wand, I said.

She quickly corrected me.
Scepter, is the proper nomenclature, Father; Wand conjures up tawdry connotations of black magic and other such nonsense; Now, if you would be so accommodating as to describe what you saw, I shall know if I am on the right track.

I’m afraid you have gone out of your way for no good reason, Mrs. Pomeroy, I replied, I have no help to offer.

My comment struck a chord, and her eyes flared for a moment, causing me to think that the wrath of a virago was about to be visited upon me. The flare subsided and she spoke to me with an even tone.

Witnesses present at the Halloween Ball mentioned in their statements to the police that Tavish made a public display of the Scepter that evening, she said; Since you and Mr. Wallace were the first ones in the cottage after the untimely events at the seance,  I had hopes.

I neither saw what you seek, nor am I seeking it, I said.

Aren’t you, Father, she stated unequivocally; I had judged that your recent activities indicated quite the contrary.

A creeping sense of paranoia swept through me; Mrs. Pomeroy obviously had people in Raven supplying her with information,portage county but did she have accomplices; Did she know of my visits to Mrs. Sinclair; Was she somehow allied with the remnants of the Tavish gang; Did she have a part in Sadie’s demise–was that her purpose at the train station this morning, to apprise the results of that heinous deed. With questions of Mrs. Pomeroy’s motives and unknown allegiances swirling through my mind, I decided the best course of action was to leave immediately.

I stood and said, I’m afraid I must be going, Mrs. Pomeroy; I have duties to attend to; Thank you for the tea.

She remained seated, sipped tea, then spoke without looking up; I am disappointed, Father; I had hoped that we might pool our resources, and work together toward the same end.

I donned my hat and said, I am certain that you are mistaken on another count, Mrs. Pomeroy; You and I, are not working toward the same end; Good day.

As I turned and strolled out of the apartment without looking back, I felt her gaze heavy upon me.

©2013 j.edwardfitzgerald  all rights reserved

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