Quixotic Crossings

Quixotic Crossings by Deidre Dalton is Book #2 in the Collective Obsessions Saga.


Fate continues to entangle the Larkin and Sullivan families amidst madness, murder and obsessive love. Colm and Molly's grandson Jean-Claude Sullivan finds his life driven by greed and perversely tainted pleasures. Beloved family chef Claude Mondoux watches helplessly as Colm slowly loses his mind in ghostly visions of Molly, while Colleen Larkin seeks love in the arms of another man with deadly consequences...

From Chapter Five

Spring-Summer 1928

Larkin City, Maine


    MICK SULLIVAN WAS forty-seven years old in 1928. The year before, he was forced from his position as lighthouse keeper at Banshee Point because the US Lighthouse Service decided to automate the lights by changing from oil to electricity, eliminating the need for a keeper. Mick had been crushed at first, but Roddy Larkin was a decent sort and he saw to it that Mick had a job to go to.


    Roddy opened the Larkin Harbour Tour Company shortly after the lighthouse automation was in place. He hired Mick to guide tours on the harbour as well as a leisurely route around the lighthouse area and the Larkin's private beach. Mick was not a boat-pro, but he quickly adapted to the 65-foot wooden schooner known as Lady Banshee.


    The vessel was constructed at the Shipbuilders Station on the harbour, and was made with traditional two-inch carved cedar planks over white oak frames. The schooner had a roomy fifty-six feet on deck, with cushioned edge seats and grip rails. The beam was fourteen feet with a draft of six feet six inches. Lady Banshee had 18,000 pounds of ballast and carried 1,600 square feet of sail.


    Mick was plenty busy during the summer tourist season, but winter brought a lull to his activity. Apart from general maintenance around the lighthouse once a month, which Roddy paid him for, Mick was left to his own devices from October to April each year.


    It wasn't that Mick needed the money. He rarely touched the $450,000 John Larkin willed to him. He spent bits here and there, but Mick was determined to provide his own income. He heartily disliked being idle. His wife, the former Layla Barton-Brooks, often begged him to relax. "You could retire right now," she told him. "There's no need for all this restlessness. Enjoy life, my darling. Find an interesting hobby, and simply retire."


    But Mick loved the Banshee Point Lighthouse. He didn't care if he had a million dollars, he yearned to work in his beloved lighthouse. Since that was no longer possible, he made do with the harbour tours. Yet it was a poor replacement for his true calling.


    Instead of the blissful quiet of the keeper's cottage, Mick and Layla now lived in a two-story house on the waterfront of Larkin Harbour. Mick dipped into his inheritance to buy the house outright for $10,000, and he allowed Layla a generous $2,000 to furnish the home.


    The house was painted white with beige trim, and included a deck that wound its way around the back of the house which faced the water. There were tall windows on the first and second floors, with boxed flower planters under many of them. Mick attached framed gas lights over the front and back doors, and built deck chairs and a table for him and Layla.


    The inside of the house contained four bedrooms, an attic loft, a large kitchen overlooking the harbour and a parlour that faced the front of the house on Harbour Street Pier. Most mornings Mick and Layla awoke to the gently lapping tide in the harbour, a peaceful beginning to any day. Mick built a shed when they first moved in, where he fiddled with woodwork or fixed household appliances. He was also only a half-mile away from the Larkin Harbour Tour Company, so he never had far to go.


    Mick loved the house, although he still secretly yearned for the keeper's cottage. In the evenings, he liked nothing better than to sit on the deck of his harbour home with a pint of ale to watch the sun set. Layla often joined him, sipping white wine to his ale.


    Mick and Layla had been married for twenty-three years, and their relationship was affectionate and comfortable. He remained enchanted by his wife's head of dark curls, her pale skin and her delicate physique. Despite her apparent outer frailty, Layla was a strong woman with many opinions of her own. She did not view Mick as her lord and master, and he admired her independence.


    One evening in late May, Mick and Layla settled on the deck. Each had their favourite libation in hand as they watched the sun set together in silence. Their time was quiet, apart from the sounds of harbour bells and buoys.


    Finally, Layla spoke. "I talked to Jean-Claude this morning. Jennifer miscarried last night."


    Mick was dismayed. "Oh, God no. Is she all right?"


    "Yes, but very depressed."


    He felt a twinge of sadness, the loss of an unknown grandchild bringing a tear to his eye. "The poor dear. Should we go and see her? Is she still at the hospital?"


    "Jean-Claude said she's going home from the hospital in the morning," Layla told him. "Maybe we should stop by tomorrow afternoon."


    Jean-Claude and his wife, Jennifer O'Connor, had married the year before. Jean-Claude worked at the offices of the Larkin Gazette, where he edited articles for the daily publication. He had fallen into the job after graduating from Larkin City University with degrees in English and American history. He started at the Gazette as a part-time clerical worker, but the editor soon recognized his talents and promoted him to assistant editor.


    Mick shook his head. "I don't want to intrude. You should call first. You know how Jennifer is about her privacy."


    "You're right," Layla agreed. "I'll telephone Jean-Claude before we go over."


    Jean-Claude Sullivan, named after the uncle Johnny he never met and the effervescent Claude Mondoux, was parsimonious with money. The $100,000 John Larkin left him sat in the bank earning interest. Even Jennifer wasn't aware of the fortune, but Jean-Claude had his own reasons for keeping the knowledge from her. He was meticulous, careful and organized. Jennifer was an unknown quantity so early in their marriage, and Jean-Claude wanted to be certain she would be with him for the long haul before he let her in on his bounty. It was unromantic and calculating, but he planned for the future with exacting detail, viewing the inheritance as his retirement nest egg.


    Mick drained his glass of ale. "I have this funny feeling Jennifer doesn't like us."


    Layla sighed. "I get the same feeling, but I don't understand it. We've been nothing but kind to her."


    "Jennifer is different," Mick admitted. "She seems obsessed about her privacy, and almost paranoid about outside interference."


    "Jean-Claude appears to be happy enough with her."


    "That's all that matters," Mick said. "As long as he is happy in his marriage, we can't complain."


* * *


    JENNIFER O'CONNOR SULLIVAN glared at her husband Jean-Claude as he tucked her into their bed carefully.


    "Why can't you just leave me alone?"


    Jean-Claude ignored her and continued to see to her comfort. He resembled his father to a remarkable degree, and thusly like his grandfather Colm.


    "You are a bastard," Jennifer sneered. "You think you're handsome and smart and debonair because you work at the paper, but you're nothing more than the son of an unemployed lighthouse keeper."


    Jean-Claude ignored her again. She glanced at the water vase on her night stand. Without hesitating, she grabbed the vase and smashed it down viciously on her husband's head.


    He staggered and then stumbled to his knees. He clutched at his head, feeling the wet mixture of blood and water. His own blood.


    He stood to his feet, looking down at his wife. She appeared pleased with herself, returning his stare with a small smile.


    "You're a crazy bitch," he muttered.


    "Oh grow up! Don't start bleating about how I abuse you," she taunted him. "Who in this town could believe a man - a real man - would let his wife intimidate him?"


    Jean-Claude still held his hands to his head. "You need help, Jen."


    "What I need is peace and quiet," she exclaimed. "You're no help at all. Leave me alone, for the love of God."


    Jean-Claude left the room gladly. He walked down the narrow hallway to the small kitchen, where he found a tea towel and pressed it to the wound on his head. Then he went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Removing the tea towel, he inspected the damage. There was a thin cut on his left temple, but he didn't think it was worth a trip to the doctor. Not this time, anyway.


    He had known Jennifer since they were young children. She was the granddaughter of Patrick O'Connor, one of the four men John Larkin hired in New York off the boat from Ireland in 1881. In high school, Jennifer and Jean-Claude became good friends, although by the time they graduated their relationship took a romantic turn.


    She had been sweet and lovely then, with long blonde hair and large blue eyes. She was a happy person, full of humour and kind deeds. After their wedding a year ago, Jennifer seemed content to throw herself into their marriage with enthusiasm. She enjoyed fixing up their small cottage on Curry Street while Jean-Claude worked at the Gazette. Although their home was small and fairly bland, she kept the two bedrooms clean and cheerful with flowered wallpaper, fresh linens and small bowls of chopped cinnamon and vanilla. The kitchen was spotless, even down to the drab olive colour of the walls. Jennifer added little touches here and there - frilly white lace curtains and decorative place mats on the table - and she was a superb cook. Their living room window faced the tiny front yard and Curry Street, and most evenings they would sit and read after dinner, or talk about their respective days.


    Jennifer suffered her first miscarriage four months after their wedding. Afterward, she developed extreme mood swings. She would strike out at Jean-Claude with regularity and no warning, once breaking his finger when she tried to pull his wedding ring off. He had gone to the hospital then, explaining to the attending doctor he had caught his finger in a cupboard door.


    She became pregnant again, and her moods seemed to settle. But she miscarried a second time, and the hostility began anew. When Jean-Claude tried to talk to her about her hysteria, Jennifer refused to acknowledge she had a problem, instead blaming him for her reactions. Jean-Claude was too embarrassed to ask her doctor about the circumstances he found himself in, so he continued to live in shameful fear of his wife. The idea of divorcing her never entered his mind. They were married for life, whether the union was miserable or not.


    Now she had miscarried a third time within a year. Jean-Claude dreaded what the coming months would bring.


    The telephone rang, startling Jean-Claude. Leaving the towel on the bathroom sink, he returned to the kitchen and picked up the wall receiver.


    "Jean-Claude, it's mother," Layla said. "How is Jennifer doing?"


    He tried to keep the frustration from his voice. "She's very depressed, as you can imagine. I just got her settled into bed."


    "You're father and I would like to come and see her," Layla continued. "Would tomorrow morning be convenient?"


    Jean-Claude hesitated. He couldn't allow his parents to see his injury. "Why don't you give her a couple of days before coming over? She needs to rest so she can recover fully."


    "Very well," Layla said, sounding surprised. "Please give her our love, and tell her we'll stop by in a few days for a visit."


    "Thank you, mother."


    Jean-Claude sat at the kitchen table after replacing the telephone receiver. He looked around the room and frowned at the mess. There were dirty dishes in the sink, crumbs on the floor and newspaper strewn all over the table. In her right mind, Jennifer would be stunned by the disarray.


    He stood from the table. He was going to clean up before going to bed. He wanted a good night's sleep before returning to work at the Gazette tomorrow. When Jennifer was in her difficult way, he usually slept on the lumpy couch in the living room.


    Before he could move, a blood-curdling scream rent the air. Jean-Claude froze, recognizing Jennifer's wail. "Oh God, what is it now?" he thought in a panic.


    He raced into the hallway, and then heard a second scream. He stopped short near the bathroom, seeing his wife standing at the sink. He came to the doorway, and she looked at him, her head moving with a twitching motion.


    "What is it, Jen?" he asked. "What's wrong?"


    There were tears streaming down her face. She had the bloody tea towel in her hand, holding it out to him. "What have I done?" she sobbed. "The blood….it's like the colour of roses. Is it mine? Is it the baby's? Or is it yours?"


    Jean-Claude wanted to go to her, but he was uncertain. If he held her in his arms, would she turn on him as she had so many times before? He kept his distance. "It's my blood," he said quickly.


    She threw her head back and let out another slow-building squall. She took the tea towel and began rubbing it over her face, her chest, her belly.


    He was shocked by the display. Jennifer had lost her mind, he realized with devastating clarity. She was completely barmy.


    He went to her then. She collapsed in his arms, dropping the bloodied towel to the floor.



QUIXOTIC CROSSINGS ©2011-16 Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.

"Quixotic Crossings" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Quixotic Crossings" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.