The Keeper's Journal

The Keeper's Journal by Deidre Dalton is Book #5 in the Collective Obsessions Saga.


Shannon Larkin is forced to confront demons from her past, while her daughter Angie discovers Colm Sullivan's journal in the old lighthouse keeper's cottage. The diary sheds light on the history between the Larkin and Sullivan families, but may be too late to stop the sisters of Mike Sullivan from wreaking vengeance on the Larkin's for sins and tragedies from the past.

From Chapter Six

July 1995

Larkin City, Maine


    SHANNON DECIDED TO HAVE lunch in the rose garden, despite the gathering clouds overhead. There was a wrought iron table in the far corner of the garden, facing the left side of the estate. She covered the table with a cream-colored tablecloth, and then started to set places for six people: herself, Scott, Tom, Angie, Linda and Dana. Shannon felt it important to include Dana, as she was a large part of how the entire story regarding Mike Sullivan evolved.

    She smiled to herself as she set the places. She found it ironic they were about to have lunch in order to discuss Mike Sullivan, and the strange events of his life, and how he affected others. The attention he fought so hard to receive while alive eluded him in the end, yet here they were - the key figures in his short life - twenty years later, ready to embark on the sad tale that was the reality of his time. "Mike would be quite pleased with today's turn of events," she thought to herself. "He would be tickled that Linda and I are together, along with Dana, and my husband. Scott's presence would really delight him. I can just hear Mike sneering to Scott, 'You see, you bastard, I've been dead for two decades, and she still can't forget me.' He'd have a few choice comments for Dana and me, too, but I doubt he would verbally assault his mother."

    It was of no use to speculate Mike's reaction as they would be discussing him soon enough. And now there would be two objective viewpoints, those of Angie and Tom Cimarelli. They had not been involved with actual events, so perhaps the story would shape itself and make sense to those who had been in the eye of the storm, so to speak.

    Shannon smiled lightly as she made her way back inside the mansion through the French doors. Angie and Tom Cimarelli. The pairing of names had quite a nice ring to it, she felt. "I can always hope," she thought. "I never imagined I'd want to see my daughter married off, but if I had to pick a man for her, it would certainly be Thomas Cimarelli."

    LUNCH BEGAN AS A relatively festive affair. Everyone renewed acquaintances, or in Tom and Angie's case, they were meeting Linda Sullivan for the first time. Angie was surprised by Linda's fragile appearance. She was petite and blonde, her features conveying a marked innocence that seemed to be a natural part of her. Instinct told Angie that Linda was a kind-hearted person, who would never intentionally hurt a soul, yet she found it incredible that the diminutive woman was the mother of a monster like Mike Sullivan. It didn't seem to fit, which made the scenario even more extraordinary.

    Shannon served grilled lamb chops with a light red wine. There was also a rice dish tossed with fresh green peas from the vegetable garden, along with green onions and grated carrots. There was a salad on the side, with avocado and shrimp, and warm French bread. For desert, Shannon had prepared a pistachio pudding with slightly sweetened wafers for dipping.

    "Linda," Shannon began, determined to get to the true purpose of the lunch. "Are you up for another trip to the cemetery tomorrow?"

    Linda was startled. "What do you mean?" she asked, mystified.

    "Tom would like to see where Mike is buried," Shannon continued. "We don't have to stay long. Tom and Angie will meet us there. They're trying to cover every aspect of the story, and would like to include a brief description about where Mike was laid to rest."

    Linda paused for a moment. Finally, she said: "The only time I visit Mike's grave is when we meet every year in June. He was my son, but I find it difficult to honor his memory because of what he did to you, and others. I suppose trekking to the grave one more time won't hurt."

    "Thank you, Linda," Tom broke in gently. "Can I ask how your son and Mrs. Page first met?"

    "You mean when I got them together?" Dana asked from her chair. She had been fairly quiet throughout the lunch, but Tom's question perked her interest.

    Tom shook his head. "No, when they first met - as kids. From the bits and pieces I've heard, I gather the two of them met as children in the local grocery store."

    "That's true," Shannon said. "My memory is there, but it's a bit vague. I was only nine or ten years old, I believe."

    "Mike was five, and I was pregnant with my daughter Sara," Linda spoke. "I remember it so well because it was the first time I met Mary Larkin, Shannon's mother. She was so kind to me. We talked about the hot weather. Mary told me she'd been after her husband to install air conditioning in the grocery store. We were in line at the bread counter, I think, and that's when Mike and Shannon first met."

    "Do you recall meeting him, Mum?" Angie asked, taking out her notebook.

    Shannon glanced down at her daughter's notebook briefly before she replied: "Oddly enough, yes I do. And I thought later - years later - when I met him for the second time how strange it was. Our first meeting as children was so brief, but it stayed in my memory. We giggled at each other, and said hello. Then Mike told me I was pretty, and I told him he was cute."

    Linda picked up the story. "That was the first encounter, simple as that. It never struck me as odd, but as Mike grew older he always asked me questions about the Larkin's. They were just general questions, entirely innocent questions, or so I thought at the time."

    "In June 1970 Mike started working at The Byre," Dana said. She glanced at Shannon, who remained expressionless. "He asked me if I knew Shannon. I told him yes, we were best friends. You have to realize how innocent all of this was back then. I can't stress it enough. Even though Mike was fourteen, he looked and talked like a young man. He was tall, and physically stunning. I told Shannon about him, and she agreed to meet him." Dana paused, sipping her wine slowly. Scott touched her elbow lightly as he noticed her hand shaking.

    The gesture was not lost on Tom. "If this upsets you, Dana, we can stop," he said. "If this is like reliving a nightmare . . ."

    "It wasn't a nightmare then," Dana said softly. "But it was later." She took a deep breath, setting her wine glass down. "I'm okay. Let me finish. I arranged for Mike and Shannon to meet at the Shamrock Bowling Alley. That's all it was supposed to be - a meeting - but right from the start, I knew something was different about it. Mike and Shannon looked at one another, and it was as if all the other people in the bowling alley ceased to exist. I was surprised by their reaction to each other - I'd never seen anything quite like it. They were oblivious to their surroundings. There was like a . . ." Dana groped for words to convey her meaning, "high energy charge between them. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true."

    "He was physically perfect," Shannon added, her eyes on Dana. "I was completely enthralled, and Mike was devoted from that moment on."

    Scott felt uncomfortable, but he said nothing. Linda was toying with her napkin, looking down into her lap. Angie was writing in her notebook at a furious pace, and Tom was totally engrossed as Dana and Shannon took turns speaking. However, Dana looked like she was going to be ill. She was ashen.

    "What happened after that?" Angie wanted to know, looking up from her notebook, eyes switching back and forth between the three women who had been there: Shannon, Dana and Linda.

    For the next hour, the story was recounted as best remembered. When it came time to recall Mike's escape from the mental hospital in 1975, Dana put her hands over her face and began to sob softly. Everyone fell silent, except for Scott.

    "Dana, why don't you call it a day?" he suggested.

    She nodded, standing from the table. She kept her head down. "I need to take a walk, to clear my head," she said shakily.

    "Are you sure you want to be alone?" Scott asked her.

    "I won't be alone," Dana responded, pushing her chair under the table. "I'll take a walk and find Sean. Please, I'll be fine."

    After Dana walked away from the table, Tom asked: "Do you feel like going on?"

    Both Shannon and Linda nodded.

    Angie set her notebook on the table. She stared at her mother intently. "I have a few tough questions to ask, Mum."

    Shannon smiled. "Do your job, Angie. I'm ready."

    "After it was all said and done, how did you really feel about Mike Sullivan?"

    Shannon glanced at Scott. He was passive, patiently waiting for an answer to the question he had been asking for years.

    "My feelings involve a mass of tangled emotions," Shannon said honestly. "First, there was intense affection and desire. Then I tried to be friends with him, but that never satisfied him. When he killed David Bonham, I felt anger and hate." She paused, taking a swallow of her wine.

    "The biggest mistake I ever made with Mike was to underestimate him," she continued, her voice hollow. "I made that mistake over and over again, right up until the end. I always felt Mike and I would be connected, no matter what happened. And he felt the same way, but in a different, twisted fashion. Despite my attempts to forget him, he never really left the back of my mind. He was something in my peripheral vision at all times. It was like an insane destiny from the start. Nothing either of us did would change the final outcome of our relationship.

    "I remember the look on Mike's face when Scott shot him in the cave at Seal Harbor," she spoke quietly. "He looked so surprised. In that moment, I recalled the Mike I once knew - the boy with the perfect beauty and the adoring eyes. I went over to him after he fell. The last thing he said was all I ever wanted was for you to love me. Then he closed his eyes and stopped breathing. Strangely enough, I felt sorry for him at the end. I hated Mike, but I was regretful that he was dead, too."

    Linda wiped tears from her eyes. She had never heard the story of Michael's final moments; she never asked what happened when her son died. Now she knew, and she wasn't sure how she felt about it.

    Tom was moved by the story, and Angie seemed spellbound. Only Scott appeared to be slightly grim.

    "Did you notice any changes in Mike after he started seeing Shannon?" Tom asked Linda.

    Linda nodded. "I didn't know how to deal with it. He withdrew into himself. He barely talked and ate very little food. I knew it had something to do with Shannon, so I called her and we talked about it. But neither of us had the slightest clue he was so far gone, or that it was too late to stop him even if we had known."

    Angie finished writing in her notebook. She gulped the rest of her wine. "I have one more question," she said. "And then I think we should call it a day. We can continue this tomorrow." Both Shannon and Linda agreed, so Angie proceeded: "There have also been rumors that Mike wrote you a letter, Mum. A letter he wrote just before he escaped from the hospital in Bangor. Is it true?"

    Shannon inhaled quickly, while Linda turned pale. Only Scott seemed mildly surprised, but he was more than curious. He'd wanted to know about the letter for years. Perhaps now he would finally get an answer.

    Linda spoke first. "They found a letter in Michael's personal belongings at the hospital," she said. "It was sealed, and addressed to . . . I think the exact wording was to be opened by Shannon Larkin only. I never opened it, but gave it to Shannon after Mike's funeral."

    Angie looked at her mother. Shannon seemed distraught, her eyes downcast. She remained silent for a long time, and then Scott spoke up: "You took the letter from Linda at the funeral. You walked over to the gravesite and read it. I watched you. When I asked you what the letter was about, you told me it was more of Mike's usual nonsense."

    "It was," Shannon said, turning her eyes to her husband.  "It contained nothing more than what he said to me while he was alive."

    "So the letter is not important?" Tom asked, sensing the tension between Angie's parents.

    "No," Shannon said firmly.

    "Where is the letter, Shannon?" Scott asked calmly.

    "I don't remember," Shannon replied, avoiding her husband's intense gaze. "It's in my things somewhere. It's probably up in the attic in a box."

    "Do we have your permission to look for it?" Tom persisted gently. He felt the letter was important, or Shannon would not be so vague, so reluctant.

    "Of course," Shannon said, smiling at him. "Be my guest. Some of the things go back to John Larkin's time in the 1800's. I believe the more recent items are nearest the attic door."

    Angie snapped her notebook shut. "Well, I think that's enough for one day.  I don't know about the two of you, but I'm mentally drained. I can only imagine how you must feel."

    Tom agreed. "We can continue this another time. Angie and I will look in the attic tonight, and we can meet you and Linda at the cemetery early tomorrow afternoon."

    "Do you want to go with us tomorrow, Dad?" Angie asked Scott.

    Scott was still watching his wife. He did not avert his eyes when he replied to his daughter's question. "No, I'd rather not."

    Linda rose from the table. "If you will excuse me, I think I'll go to my room and freshen up," she said uneasily. "Maybe I'll take a walk before tea. Didn't you say we're having tea with the lady in charge of all your maids today, Shannon?"

    Shannon nodded, her eyes on her husband. "Yes. Her name is Mariko Woods. I always offer her tea when she comes out to the mansion to supervise the maids."

    "I'll see you then," Linda said, and she quickly left the table.

    Angie was concerned about her parents. They were so quiet, and they had been staring at one another for the longest time.

    "Mum, Dad," she said softly. "Is everything okay?"

    Scott looked at his daughter, unlocking his gaze from Shannon's. "We're fine, Angie-cake," he said with a slight smile. "Don't worry. This is old territory for your mother and me."

    Angie seemed unconvinced. "Are you sure?"

    "We're fine, darling," Shannon said firmly.

    Tom took Angie gently by the arm. "We'll be back for tea," he said. "Thank you again for lunch. It was wonderful."

    Scott and Shannon barely noticed as Tom and Angie walked away.

    Then they were alone.

    Shannon refilled Scott's wine glass, and then her own. She sighed. "Are you happy now?" she asked him.

    "I am if you're telling the truth," Scott responded.

    "Have I ever lied to you?" she countered.

    "Not that I'm aware of." She sipped her wine, watching him. At length, she said: "I don't understand why the letter is such a big deal to you. My God, it's been twenty years."

    "Exactly," he stated, lighting a cigarette. "It will remain a big deal until you tell me the truth about it."

    "I have told you the truth," she insisted, watching him inhale his cigarette with a hint of longing in her eyes.

    Scott noticed. "Would you like one of these?" he asked her, pushing the pack of cigarettes across the table to her.

    "I quit years ago," Shannon scoffed. "Why would I want one now?"

    "You tell me."

    "For God's sake," she snapped. "You're being ridiculous."

    "Am I?"

    She laughed shortly. "Do you want to know what I was thinking while I set the table for lunch?"

    "What were you thinking?" He was outwardly calm, but she could see the flash of anger in his eyes.

    "That even after twenty years, Mike is still getting the last word," she said.

    "He always has the last word," Scott said, crushing out his cigarette in an ashtray on the table in front of him.

    "What's that supposed to mean?"

    "You know exactly what it means," Scott replied, his voice tired. He rose from his chair. He looked down at her. "I've been fighting the ghost of Mike Sullivan ever since I met you. I love you more than anything, kitten, but I thought after all these years you might trust me a little more. What are you trying to hide from me?"

    Shannon appeared puzzled. "I don't understand. I'm not hiding anything from you. You know the entire story of my life - every intimate detail."

    He sighed, shaking his head. "No, I don't. Not every intimate detail." He held out his hand to her. "Come on, let's go for a walk. We both need the fresh air."

    "I love you, Scott," Shannon said as she reached for his hand.

    "I know, kitten, and I love you," he said, pulling her into his arms. They held each other for a moment, and then kissed.

    She smiled at him, feeling some of the peace restored between them. "Where would you like to go for a walk?"

    He grinned at her. "How about paying a visit to the lighthouse keeper's cottage?"

    She laughed. "Perfect."

    Scott and Shannon walked off the terrace onto the lawn of the estate, holding hands.

    FROM TWO FLOORS ABOVE, a pale face peered out of a window, watching the couple with intense interest. Anyone who chanced to look at the face would see a building rage and hatred, with blue eyes flashing, once reminiscent of another who came to the mansion with murder and fury in his heart.

    As suddenly as the face was in the window, it was gone, replaced by a rippling sheer drapery.


THE KEEPER'S JOURNAL ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.

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