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 Sixteen

August 1995

Larkin City, Maine


SEARSPORT, MAINE FOLLOWED THE shore of Penobscot Bay, approximately fifteen miles from Larkin City. Searsport itself was a miniature Larkin, full of quaint shops and seaside restaurants. The major source of employment came from the fish canning plant, which did a brisk business with vendors on the east and west coasts. With its sheltered harbor, Searsport had at one time been a major shipbuilding area. In the center of town was the Penobscot Marine Museum, highlighting the town's history with the sea. A multitude of sea captains lived in Searsport in the 1770's, resulting in an abundance of old mansions lining the stretch of Route 1. Nearby was the public state park called Moose Point. It was open to the public from May until October, and boasted picnicking facilities with some barbeque pits. There was also a large area of evergreens, dense with foliage, part of which overlooked Penobscot Bay.

It was a humid, warm Saturday as Carly O'Reilly drove her shiny black Camry from Larkin to Searsport. She passed through the busy part of the town, turning onto Elm Street. She had been here many times, but had never stayed long enough to appreciate the quietness of the place. Carly was not one to notice that sort of thing, anyway. She had one purpose in mind, allowing nothing to distract her from her course of action. Something had to be done about Marianne Dobson. Her drunkenness had always been a problem, but now it was becoming a damned nuisance as well. Carly wished Sara didn't harbor warm feelings for the liquor-sodden woman, but it could not be helped. With Sara safely at work at the animal clinic in Larkin, Carly felt it was the best time to visit Marianne and explain to her that she would no longer be involved with "the plan." Hopefully, the former Mrs. Sean Larkin would not raise too much of a fuss, or Carly was prepared to take drastic measures to end her interference.

Carly pulled into the driveway of Marianne's small home. Walking to the front door, she noticed the screen was latched but the main door was open. Someone was home. Carly rapped on the frame of the screen door and called out: "Hello. Is anyone here?"

After a few seconds, Carly heard the shuffle of feet coming from somewhere in the house. Momentarily, Marianne appeared at the door.

Carly looked at her and felt immediate disgust well within her. Once stunningly beautiful, Marianne had no pride in her looks anymore. She was wearing a faded housecoat of reddish color, and her hair was piled high on her head, tendrils escaping down her neck. Her face was bloated, as usual, and there was the ever-present cigarette dangling from her hand. She looked surprised to see Carly, smoothing her free hand down the front of her housecoat.

"Fancy seeing you," Marianne said, unlatching the screen door and opening it wide. "I wasn't expecting a visit today."

"Neither was I," Carly responded. "May I come in?"

"Of course. I just put on some water for a bit of tea, unless you'd care for something stronger this time of day?"

Carly stepped into the house. "No, thank you. I just had lunch. I'm fine."

"Well, if you don't mind, I'll have some bourbon with my tea," Marianne was saying as she waddled toward the back of the house where the kitchen was.

Carly followed her and could not hide a shudder of distaste as she noticed the untidiness of the place, the sheer drabness of it. Having been used to the Larkin mansion for some fifteen years now, Carly found most other places lacking. But this house was a veritable mess from entrance to kitchen. Clothes were flung over chairs, ashtrays lay heaped with dead butts on tables, and there were empty drinking glasses everywhere. It was a pig sty. Carly was relieved Marianne could not see her sour expression as they made their way to the kitchen.

Marianne sat down at the table, motioning for Carly to join her. Gingerly, Carly sat in a chair across from the coarse woman. Carly seemed out of place in her rather expensive dress suit and leather shoes, a fact Marianne did not ignore.

"I used to be fancy like you, too," Marianne said, her voice nearly a sneer. "I lived in the mansion, and my name was Larkin. So don't look so high and mighty when you come into my home, thinking you're better than me. If I can end up like this, so can you - in a blink of an eye. The Larkin's take care of their own. If you don't watch your step, you'll find yourself out in the cold, just like me. Without a dime to your name and without the benefit of seeing your child grow into an adult."

"I am certainly not like you," Carly said haughtily. "I have my own business. If I were put out tomorrow, I would not end up like you. I make my own money, thank you, and I could live very well by myself if I had to."

Marianne laughed, taking a mouthful of her bourbon tea. "You forget," she said, leaning forward over the table. "The Larkin's gave you the catering business. They, or rather Liam, gave you the money to begin with. You're just lucky that it took off and made its own money. Before you met Liam, you were most certainly like me. By the time Liam came along, you were a bar-hopping fly looking for sex like I was when I met Sean. I bungled my chance real bad, but at least you've made it fifteen years without completely screwing up. That's the only difference between you and me. It can go either way now, depending on what you do."

Carly regarded the other woman coldly. She was quite detestable, a mockery of what she used to be. Deciding to ignore her remarks, Carly said: "Maybe I could use a cup of tea. Only tea - none of that bourbon you're having. Do you mind?"

"Not at all. I thought for a minute there that you thought you were too good to drink out of one of my cups." Grinning, Marianne stood from the table. "What do you take in your tea?"

"Sugar, please."

Marianne turned around to face the stove, lifting the kettle and pouring the steaming water into a chipped coffee cup. Carly watched the back of her head, and then her eyes slid lower, and her lips once again curled in disgust. Over the years, Marianne had let herself go, and it was most apparent in her hips and thighs. "I don't need this fat-assed bitch being involved in my life," Carly thought suddenly, with rising anger. "Who does she think she is? She's a nobody, and who would care if she disappeared off the face of the earth? The Larkin's - not even Brose - would care. She is a sloppy, drunken pig, and the world would be better off without the whining whore." Amazed at her own crude thoughts, Carly caught herself. It was not like her. It was only bringing her down to Marianne's level, and that was the last thing she wanted.

Marianne returned to the table and handed Carly a cup of tea. After she sat back down, Carly said: "Thank you. Now I need to talk to you seriously for a moment. That's why I'm here." She sipped her tea. It wasn't bad, but it was not like the great high teas at the mansion.

As if reading her thoughts, Marianne laughed harshly. "Sorry it isn't like those fancy teas Shannon gives. Remember, she has that nice spring water. All I have here is the crap coming out of my faucet."

"The tea is fine," Carly said crisply.

"Okay, then, what do you want to talk about?" Marianne asked.

Carly set her cup down on the table carefully. "The situation we're in. You, Sara, and myself."

"What about our situation? Aren't things going like you wanted? Isn't that bitch Shannon scared out of her wits yet?"

Carly shrugged. "I wouldn't know. Shannon is very hard to read, and she has never considered me someone she could talk to."

"She treated me the same way," Marianne said scornfully. "The rich and snooty bitch. She never accepted me, not from the start, and I think that's what put the first seeds of doubt in Sean's mind. That bitch tuned him against me."

Carly sighed. "Marianne, we're not here to rehash your past glory. There is too much at stake to take any risks. I'd rather you weren't privy to all of the actions Sara and I take. The less you know the better."

"What do you mean, the less I know the better?" Marianne asked harshly, sitting straight in her chair. "Just what are you trying to pull on me?"

Carly reached over and touched Marianne's hand resting on the table. "Calm down," she said gently. "I'm not trying to pull anything on you. I'm just saying, I think it would be better if you remained ignorant of some facts. It's for your own protection. You don't need to know every step Sara and I take to insure our future. You're not involved with that part of it, anyway. The Larkin's know you, they'd recognize you."

"You don't trust me," Marianne said petulantly, drawing her hand away from Carly's touch. "What have I done to make you not trust me? I haven't breathed a word of this to a soul, and that includes my husband. How do you think I feel, keeping things from Joe? I am involved in all of this, Carly, and I don't see why you want to shut me out."

"I'm not shutting you out, so to speak," Carly said quickly, returning her hand to her lap. "The deal still stands as we all agreed. The only thing I'm suggesting is that you not be aware of the stunts we're pulling on the Larkin's."

Marianne stared at Carly for a moment, her eyes hostile and untrusting. Marianne was not a stupid woman by any means, but she was not in the league of Carly O'Reilly and she knew it. There was something going on, and Marianne did not like it. As Joe would say when something was untoward: "There is something rotten in the state of Penobscot Bay." Finally, Marianne spat out at Carly: "Whatever you do, you're not going to cut me out of my share of the money. If you even try to hoodwink me, I'll run to the nearest cop and spill my guts. Better yet, I'll run to Angela Page and tell my story, her being a reporter and all. Don't mess with me, Carly. I won't make it easy for you."

Carly held up her hand as if to stop the flow of the vulgar words. "Don't talk like that," she said, almost in a whisper. "For God's sake, Joe could walk in and hear you. You have all of the windows open, and the front door. Will you please keep it down?"

But Marianne would not be stilled. "I can't help that all my windows are open," she fairly shouted. "I can't afford an air conditioner, like you. I'm getting fed up with waiting for some money to get nice things, and now you tell me you don't want me involved? The hell with you, Carly. I want an answer now. Are you trying to screw me out of this deal?"

Carly closed her eyes, mortified by the other woman's tone and her loudness. This would not do. They needed to go somewhere else and talk. She had to calm Marianne down somehow, to assure her that she would not be cut out of the financial deal, but rather the planning of events to make Shannon go crazy. Carly didn't think Marianne could handle the truth - that she was an unreliable drunk, and more than likely one day would let something slip in one of her liquor-driven stupors.

"Can you leave for a short while?" Carly asked the Marianne, noticing the woman's breathing had become labored in her excitement. "I don't want to talk here. It's not safe."

"Where do you want to go?" Marianne asked.

"I don't know. Anywhere but here. Can you leave?"

"I'll need to change," Marianne said, looking down at her attire. "It wouldn't do for me to be seen in a posh car with you, and me in my grubbies."

"Hopefully we won't be seen," Carly thought. She said aloud: "Then change your clothes. We'll drive through Searsport and get an ice cream or something, and then we can park in a quiet place and talk."

Marianne nodded. "Let me change, it will only take me a lamb's shake. I'll be right back." As she left the room, Carly watched her with a stunned expression on her face. The woman was not to be believed, and not to be trusted. The idea hit Carly like a thunderbolt. She had to rid herself and Sara of the greedy and all too knowledgeable Marianne Dobson. And who would miss her, besides her simpleton of a husband? Maybe he would not even miss her.

Carly stood from the pathetic excuse for a kitchen table, horrified by her own thoughts. What was wrong with her that she had to resort to ridding herself of a person so unpleasant and unstable as to be described? Was she becoming so desperate that she was willing to do anything? She'd managed to stay within the confines of Larkin morality for years now, so what was a little while longer? And why lower herself to do this trashy woman over? Would it be worth it?

She sat down again, her mind in a whirl. In all of her forty-six years, she thought of herself as an educated and stable person. Her mother raised her to be a lady to some degree, and she had been blessed with extreme good looks. She used those looks to full advantage when she met Liam Larkin, and it worked. Sighing, Carly put her head in her hands, resting her elbows on the surface of the table. All of a sudden she felt so very tired.

"Whatever I do now will serve Liam and his damn family right," she thought. "I can be free and wealthy at the same time if I play my cards right. And my father will be none the wiser." Despite George Sullivan's fount of information about the blood ties between them, he never once insinuated they try and benefit financially from it. He felt it was a matter of heritage, not to be used in any unscrupulous way.

But Carly had other ideas.

Marianne re-entered the kitchen, now wearing tight black slacks and a short-sleeved pink blouse. Carly blotted her eyes from the sight. Marianne looked like a walking fashion disaster. Folds of skin hung from under her arms, and the tightness of her slacks accentuated the thunderous thighs and stomach. "God help me if I ever end up like her," Carly thought contemptuously.

Puffing on her ever-present cigarette, Marianne said: "I'm ready. Let's go."

"Do you feel like having an ice cream?" Carly asked her, forcing a tone of civility.

"Sure. Beats a slap in the face, you know?" Marianne laughed at her own phrase, snorting as she inhaled a drag on her smoke.

"We won't be long," Carly assured her. "Are you certain you aren't expecting your husband? Do you need to leave him a note?"

"No. Joe doesn't get off until six tonight," Marianne said, grabbing her cloth purse from the kitchen table. "I'll be back way before then."

As they walked toward the front door of the shabby house, Carly thought to herself: "That's what you think, you stupid, ugly bitch."


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.