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 Nine

July 1995

Larkin City, Maine


SHANNON DECIDED TO CUT fresh roses to put on the dining room table that evening. She was sorry Tom had to leave so suddenly, but was confident he would be back soon to continue his work with Angie. Shannon was highly pleased by the obvious closeness developing between her daughter and Tom. He was absolutely perfect for her, not only physically, but intellectually as well. They thought the same way, were interested in the same things. Whereas Angie could be impulsive at times, Tom had the steadying hand of maturity and experience. "Just like Scott and me," Shannon thought. "When we met, I was young and emotionally unstable. And here came Scott - mature and wise, and definitely highly sexed."

She smiled as she walked onto the terrace. She stooped over in front of one of the larger rose bushes, setting her basket and clippers down on the cobblestone walkway. She looked at the roses, parting some of the branches to get a better look at the healthiest blooms. She loved roses at the dining table. In fact, she loved them anywhere in the house. Their scent was heady, and their stark red beauty was as intense as the color of blood.

She paused in her inspection. Why in the world had she made such a comparison? That the red of the roses was like blood? But they were, she reasoned, continuing with her inspection. The roses were the color of blood. She reached down and retrieved her garden clippers. She snipped a few stems, placing them in her wicker basket. She felt light-headed all of a sudden. She clipped off a few more rose stems, taking a deep breath. A phrase kept pushing itself into the forefront of her thoughts, making her suddenly uneasy.

"Blood and roses," she thought slowly. "Why am I thinking that? What is blood and roses? What does it mean? Blood. Intertwined blood. Intermingled? What is the word I'm trying to find? Nothing makes any sense."

She clipped a few more stems, and then stopped. Her wicker basket was full of roses. She took the last stem and accidentally pricked herself with one of the thorns. She dropped the rose in the basket and stared down at her finger. There was a dot of blood forming where she punctured herself. Nothing serious. She brought her finger to her mouth and sucked gently. The bleeding stopped quickly, so she bent over to pick up the basket.

She paused, hearing footsteps on the cobblestone path. The breeze was blowing the rose branches about lightly, making a rustling sound as they moved. She glanced back toward the open French doors that led into the drawing room. She could hear voices. It sounded like Scott and Sean, talking. The soft glow from the lamps in the drawing room cast a shadow in front of the French doors on the terrace. Then she heard footsteps again, as if someone was walking on the cobblestone path nearby.

Rather than becoming frightened, Shannon was angry. She walked toward the sound of the noise, rounding a curve in the path that led further into the garden. She only went a few steps before coming to a halt in front of a rose bush planted off the path. Her eyes widened in shock as she looked at the bush. "Oh, God, not again," she thought. "Who keeps doing this?"

The rose bush had been completely hacked down, its branches scattered on the path. It looked like someone had taken an axe to do the job - just like they had the first time. Shannon glanced down at the path to see if she could detect any footprints, but there were none. The walkway was clean.

"Who's there?" she demanded aloud. "Come out and show yourself to me."

The only sound was the breeze wafting through the garden. She set her jaw. She wanted the blatant vandalism put to a stop. Someone was invading the private property of the Larkin estate, and she wanted them found. She was furious.

Both Scott and Sean looked up when Shannon entered the drawing room through the French doors. Neither man could mistake the anger present on her face. Sean knew from one glance, having been close to his twin all of his life. She was absolutely livid about something. Scott could tell more by his wife's body language - she was rigid and extremely irate.

She walked over to the two men by the sideboard. Each of them had a drink in their hand, watching her as she approached, their mouths slightly open. She set her wicker basket down on the sideboard and then poured herself a glass of wine. She took it down in one swallow.

Scott set his glass down. "Shannon, what's wrong?"

She glared at him. "Someone has been hacking at the rose bushes again."

"What do you mean, again?" Scott asked.

"A week ago Shannon went into the garden and found one of the rose bushes destroyed," Sean explained.

"The rose bush I just found was fine earlier," Shannon snapped, pouring herself another glass of wine. "I watered the garden this morning. Everything was in order then."

Scott glanced at Sean. "Do you have any idea who's doing this?"

Sean shook his head. "No. Whoever it is, they appear to be using a rather sharp axe. The cuts are clean. I just don't get it. I can't figure out who'd want to do something like this. I'm sure it's not one of the kids. It can't be a maid, either, Shannon, if the rose bush was in one piece this morning. The maids left yesterday."

Shannon sat down on a divan nearby, her wine glass in hand. "I know. That's why it's making me so damned mad. Someone is doing this deliberately."

Scott looked puzzled. "But who else is there? Who could be so viciously destructive?"

"I don't know," Sean said. "I'm going to go and take a look. I'll clear up the mess after dinner, Shan. Maybe I should look into a sensor alarm system for the rose garden on Monday. Do you think?"

"Yes," Shannon replied, sipping her wine. She was still irritated. "I'll even pay for it. I put too much work into the garden to let some wing-nut hack the bushes down, one by one."

Scott agreed. "We should have some sort of alarm outside of the house, anyway. I'll go with Sean on Monday and we'll find something." He looked at Sean. "Let's go and take a look in the garden."

Sean nodded, making his way toward the French doors. Scott paused to give his wife a kiss on the cheek. "It's okay, kitten. We'll put a stop to this, one way or another."

She had calmed somewhat. "Thank you," she said, touching his hand. "You go ahead with Sean. I'm going to go check on dinner, and put the roses on the table."

Scott left the room by the French doors, but Shannon remained seated on the divan. The incident in the rose garden irritated her, but she was also disturbed by the thoughts that ran through her mind while she was alone in the garden. They came to her from nowhere. Blood and roses? She thought hard for several minutes, staring into the contents of her wine glass. Gradually, her face began to pale, as if the blood was draining from her face one drop at a time. Her eyes grew wide with fear. Her skin started to tingle, and it was decidedly not a pleasant tingle. It was very unpleasant. Images flashed in her mind, past remnants coming forward from where they had been hidden for so many years. It held her mobilized, the wine glass still in her hand. She stared straight ahead, her eyes fixed. The eerie feelings kept slamming through her, almost making her sick to her stomach. It was as if the sensations were taking her to a different place, and her physical presence on the divan in the drawing room almost seemed secondary. She felt like she was looking at herself from some other location, desperately wanting to get back. But her thoughts were holding her, and even though she tried to force herself to shake the mood, she was unable.

Her eyes traveled to the portrait of Molly Larkin, to the left of the cold fireplace. Molly stared out from a gold frame, riding crop in hand as she sat on a large rock, the lighthouse in the background. Shannon's eyes grew unfocused as she stared at the picture of her ancestor. Through the blur of her own making, Shannon felt as if Molly was staring at her from behind muted light. She looked angry, her dark eyes hatefully furious.

"Destiny," Molly hissed through clenched teeth. How could her lips be moving? She was a portrait, after all. And then Shannon saw Mike, coming from behind Molly in the portrait, young and handsome but with a look of pure evil on his face. He was angry, too. But why? Molly and Mike functioned in the same frame, seemingly unaware of each other. Shannon felt pressure building in her head, as if her brain was about to explode.

"This isn't happening," she thought hazily. "It can't be. Have I lost my mind?"

Then Mike began to fade from Molly's portrait, retreating behind her toward the lighthouse. He looked over his shoulder at her, laughing and calling her name.

"Shannon," he entreated. "Don't forget our destiny. It's all about the blood, and the roses . . ."

Blood and roses. They had been destined from the start. Their destiny was bound to stay on its course. They were tied together by blood. And roses? The past was the past, but nothing in the future could change the events of history. It was a spiraling nightmare that was speeding out of control, and Shannon could not find the brakes. Mike always had the last word. She felt a flash of anger in her dream-like state. That damned letter. He was like a moth to the light, forever trying to get to the radiance even though it would kill him when he finally got close enough. But he knew that all along, too, and it didn't stop him. He kept pushing and pushing, never giving up. And he had reason not to surrender, she told herself stubbornly, because he knew the truth of what tied them together. She tried to bury it with him, but he never let her do so. He was always there, reminding her, whether he was dead or alive.

She shook her head, coming out of her reverie. She finished the wine in her glass and set it down on the coffee table. She closed her eyes, Mike's letter flashing in her mind. She recalled the end part of the letter, word for word, as he had written it:

I cannot apologize for what I've done. I just can't help it. I would do it over and over again if I could. But, like I said, if you are reading this, I'm in a place where I cannot get to you. At least, not yet. It seems like when my eyes are closed, I still see you. When I'm wide awake, I still dream about you. It never changes.

"And is never forgotten," Shannon whispered to herself on the divan.

She heard Sean and Scott walking on the terrace. They were coming back into the house. She quickly stood and went over to the sideboard, refilling her wine glass. She felt a bit weak, physically, but she could sense the color coming back into her face. Blood was returning to her face. The intertwined blood. Sipping more wine, she returned to the divan, sitting back down.

When Scott and Sean entered the drawing room, Shannon was reclining on the divan, watching them as they approached.

"Did you see the rose bush?" she asked them.

"Yes," Scott replied, going over to the sideboard. "Whoever is doing this knows how to handle an axe. Those cuts were clean, like they were aimed from an angle. There are no rough cuts on any of the branches."

"I'll clear the mess after dinner," Sean told his sister. "We'll get a sensor alarm installed as soon as we can."

She nodded. "Thank you, Sean. I appreciate it."

Shannon watched her husband and brother from under her lashes as they refilled their glasses at the sideboard. She felt almost fully recovered from her mental confusion. She convinced herself that's all it was - temporary mental confusion. There had been too much talk of Mike Sullivan in the last few days, and it was getting to her whether she admitted it or not. Tom and Angie had little left to investigate, so the dredging of the past should be over in a few days.

"Thank God," she thought to herself. "Angie can have her story and we can all get back to normal. Maybe after this, we'll never have to mention Mike's name again. Perhaps it's time I stopped the yearly visit to his grave, too. I'll tackle that issue with Linda next year. I don't want to go to his grave anymore. I've had enough. Besides, Mike is long dead. There is nothing left in this world he can do to me. It's over."

She felt a chill go up her spine. It might be over, she concluded, sipping her wine again. But it was not forgotten.

ANGIE WOKE EARLY ON Sunday morning early. She rolled over on her back in her large bed, still drowsy. She stayed up rather late last night, trying to find the right words to start her story. She wanted to have something to show Tom when he returned today. She managed to type ten pages, but it was only a rough draft. She secretly hoped Tom would call her from New York, but he never did. What reason would he have to call her? None, she reasoned. But she missed him, and the feeling puzzled her. In the space of a few days she had come to care for Tom Cimarelli a great deal. She always liked him, but working directly with him had drawn them closer.

"What the hell," she muttered as she sat up and put her feet on the floor. "I enjoy him, period. He's great. He's sexy." She giggled. "And I hope he hurries back today." She stretched her arms above her head, yawning. She glanced at the clock on her bed stand and groaned. It was only quarter to six. She was awake now, so she decided to get dressed and go downstairs. She was dying for coffee, and maybe a piece of toast.

After putting on a loose-fitting pair of old jeans and a dark blue tee-shirt, Angie went into her bathroom and combed her hair, putting it into a pony tail. She brushed her teeth and slipped on a pair of slippers, which were old and worn, the purple fuzz wearing thin at the heel.

She quickly made her bed, and left her room. She walked down the corridors and stairways until she came to the foyer of the mansion. The sun was just beginning to peak through the windows. She paused in the foyer, her eyes on the table.

It was Tom's briefcase. She grinned as she walked over to the table. He was already back from New York. She was about to open the case and sneak a peek inside when she heard a noise in the kitchen. It sounded like the clattering of plates.

Tom was in the kitchen. Angie stood in the doorway, trying to remain quiet so she could watch him. He'd made a small pot of coffee and was peering into a cupboard, probably looking for a mug. He looked like he'd slept in his clothes. His pants were wrinkled, and a shock of black hair was protruding from the back of his head. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up, and she noticed the dark hair on his forearms as he fished around in the cupboard.

"The coffee cups are in the cupboard above the sink," she finally said.

Tom whirled around, a look of surprise on his face. He was unshaven, but the appearance of tiredness fled as he saw her. She noticed the gladness in his eyes, and she felt warmth spreading through her. He began to grin slowly, and then held out his arms to her.

She was in his embrace almost instantly. He held her tightly, kissing the top of her head. She hugged him back, holding him around the waist.

"God, I missed you, kid," he said softly in her ear. "Why do you think that is?"

"I don't know," she said, raising her head to look at him. "But I missed you, too."

"I've only been gone for twelve hours," he pointed out.

"I know," she said. "I counted them. Did you sign your contract?"

"Yes, and then I made a beeline back to the airport."

"Why?" she wanted to know.

"You know why," he replied.

"I want to hear it from your lips, Cimarelli," she teased him.

"I told you. I missed you. You're getting under my skin, Page. You'd better watch out."

She reached up to touch his face, looking into his eyes. He lowered his head and began kissing her. After a moment she moved away, breathless. They stared at one another, both of them smiling.

"What do I have to watch out for?" she asked him.


"Bring it on, Cimarelli."

Tom laughed, warmed to hear her words. He hadn't been able to stop thinking about her the whole time he was away. And here she was, warm and willing and in the flesh.

"What's your plan for today?" he asked her.

"Coffee and breakfast," she replied airily, stepping away from him to grab two mugs out of the cupboard above the sink. "Then I want to show you the rough draft I typed last night."

"All business as usual," he grunted as he took a steaming cup of coffee from her.

"Not quite," Angie responded, sipping her own coffee but keeping her eyes on him. "I thought after you read the draft, we could take a walk down to the lighthouse. We can pack a lunch and have a picnic on the beach." She stepped closer to him, putting one hand lightly on his chest.

The move was not lost on Tom. He put his hand over hers. "Does the lighthouse have a bed?" he leered at her.

She laughed. "No, but the keeper's cottage does. It's right next door to the lighthouse."

"We won't be bothered, will we?"

"By who? The seagulls? The humpback whales offshore? The puffins?"

"Puffins?" he exclaimed. "What the hell are puffins?"

Angie laughed. "Your New York City roots are so transparent."

"Well?" he prodded.  "What are puffins?"

"Puffins are birds," she answered him. "They look like miniature parrots. They tend to nest in colonies on rocky ledges. They're usually nocturnal, so you might not see any."

"I've got to see a puffin," he declared, draining his cup of coffee. She refilled it. "A mini parrot, you say?"

"Puffins are unusual," she said. "You won't find one in Manhattan."

"When do we go on the picnic?" he asked her.

"Around one o'clock?"

"Okay. I'll leave it to you to pack lunch."

Angie smiled at him. Tom looked at her even, white teeth, and the pink color of her lips. He felt an overwhelming desire to hold her close, so he pulled her into his arms again and began kissing her passionately. "I missed you so much, Angela," he mumbled between kisses. "I'm crazy about you."

She moaned slightly, kissing him on the nose and eyes, her hands touching his face. "I'm crazier about you," she whispered. "I want you in the worst way possible."

They continued to kiss and touch one another, oblivious to their surroundings. It was several minutes before they became aware they were no longer alone in the room.

Kevin stood in the doorway of the kitchen. His hair was a mess, and he looked more obstinate than usual. He wore a pair of jeans, his shirt unbuttoned and un-tucked, hanging to the sides of his hips. He was barefoot. As he looked at Tom and Angie in their embrace, he reached up and scratched the top of his head, messing his hair even further.

Angie pulled away from Tom slowly, glaring at her mother's cousin. "Did you sleep in your clothes again, Kevin?"

He grunted as he walked toward the coffee pot. "So what if I did, you little twit? I didn't get home until four this morning. I found your editor on the front doorstep, waiting to be let in like a family pet." He poured himself a cup of coffee and took a long sip. He leaned his head back and vocalized: "Aahhhhh," and then looked at Tom and Angie, who were observing him quietly. "What the hell are you two staring at?" he demanded, disgruntled. "I wasn't the one caught in the kitchen about ready to disrobe."

"Kevin, mind your manners," Angie said sharply.

Tom held up his hand. "No, it's okay, kid. Kevin did let me into the house. I'm surprised he remembered it, although it was only about two hours ago. He reminded me of a staggering giant."

Angie started to giggle. Kevin gave Tom a flinty look through half-closed eyes. Tom continued: "What sort of family pet do I remind you of, Kevin? The hair of the dog?"

Kevin gave Tom a full glare, his lower lip curling. Then Kevin cracked a smile, slight though it was. "More like the back end of a dog," he quipped, draining his coffee.

Tom laughed. "Why, thank you, Mr. Larkin."

Kevin refilled his coffee cup. He raised an eyebrow in Tom's direction. "Why were you fondling the little twit in the kitchen, Cimarelli? Is that part of your story, too?"

"That's enough," Angie said, stamping her foot on the floor. "Quit being rude, for God's sake."

Kevin shook his head and walked over to the kitchen table, where he set his bulk on one of the chairs. He propped his long legs on the table, crossing them at the ankles. He lit a cigarette, watching Tom and Angie.

Angie put on another pot of coffee. Tom sat at the table by Kevin.

"Why were you so late coming home?" Angie asked Kevin.

He snorted. "There was a bachelor party at The Coven last night." He rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand. "I didn't even know the poor blighter biting the bullet in church today."

"Biting the bullet?" Tom asked.

"That's Kevin's term for a wedding," Angie said dryly. "He has successfully avoided biting the bullet in all his fifty years. He thinks marriage would be like a jail term."

"It would be," Kevin insisted.

"Look at Mum and Dad, and Sean and Dana," Angie pointed out. "They don't seem too unhappy to me."

"Scott and Shannon are the rare example of once-in-a-lifetime love," Kevin said, turning serious. "If I ever found something like that, I'd chew down on the bullet. Sean and Dana, too, although he had to make one mistake before he found happiness with Dana. She was right under his nose for years."

Angie began looking in the refrigerator. She was not thinking about breakfast anymore, but interested in picnic food. She spotted a platter of cold chicken, and a macaroni salad with shrimp. There was also a bottle of white wine, and a plastic container filled with rice pudding. Perfect!

"Are you going to cook some chow, little twit?" Kevin asked her from the table.

Angie shut the refrigerator door and glanced over at the table. Tom was regarding her with warm eyes, while Kevin was glaring again. "For your information, Kevin," she said sweetly, "I was searching for some leftovers to put together a picnic lunch for Tom and myself. We're going to Banshee Point, and maybe look for some puffins."

"Puffins, my . . ." Kevin stopped himself. He looked annoyed. "At least you'll have privacy on the beach. It beats tripping on the two of you first thing in the morning." He yawned loudly. "I'm going to take a shower. If no one else is up and about by the time I'm done, I'll start breakfast."

Angie laughed. Kevin was known for being able to cook only one dish: an omelet filled with spinach, anchovies, garlic, onions, and topped with the strongly pungent Greek feta cheese. "The whole family will come down on you like a ton of bricks if you cook your monstrous specialty," she exclaimed. She turned to Tom and explained Kevin's omelet.

Tom shuddered visibly. He rose from the table. "I think I'll go take a shower, too." He winked at Angie, and mouthed the words I'll miss you. Then he left the kitchen.

"Does your city friend think I'm an idiot?" Kevin asked Angie after Tom left.  "He'll miss you, indeed. He's just going upstairs, for cripes sake."

"Mind your own affairs, so to speak," Angie told him defiantly. "I don't pry into your so-called personal life. And I'll thank you to be more polite to Tom. He doesn't climb all over you every time you move, does he?"

Kevin grunted. "No, but he leaves himself wide open."

"I'm going upstairs to wash," Angie announced. "The new pot of coffee is almost done. Help yourself to it. If you can wait, I'll be back down to cook a real meal. Biscuits and gravy always hits the spot on a Sunday."

Kevin watched Angie flounce out of the kitchen, a slight smile on his face. Contrary to his remarks, he was pleased with the relationship developing between her and Tom. They were perfectly suited for one another, whether they knew it or not. Standing from the table, Kevin groaned. If he hurried, he could beat them both back downstairs after his shower and wait for a real meal. He started whistling as he left the kitchen.


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.