Friday, November 30, 2012
Camden Corners: The Merryweather - Not in the Plan
Not in the Plan
“Hello Ben, I'm glad you are here. I have something for you,” Holly said as she handed Sheriff Benjamin Murphy the revolver Herbert Bradley decided not to make use of. “If possible, can we just dispose of it without calling attention to a loaded gun being found at The Merryweather?”
Ben examined the gun. “This hasn't been fired and I'm assuming no crime has been committed.”
“No, Ben, trust me. I'm sure it has not been fired.”
“I do trust you Holly. You know I shouldn't ignore this, but I don't want to cause anyone to be suspicious of any of your guests, especially today. I'll add it to the lost and found collection. Whoever belonged to this was serious, it's loaded. I'm glad you talked the owner out of doing something very foolish.”
“Believe it or not, Ben, it wasn't me, it was a voice from beyond.” Holly smiled, glad to be rid of the heavy firearm.
Ben Murphy was a relative newcomer to Camden Corners. He had lived his entire life in New York City. He never dreamed of living anywhere else. His father and grandfather had been members of the NYPD and Ben always thought he would follow in their footsteps.
Through a football scholarship, Ben was able to attend college. While there he roomed with Jim Farrell. Ben and Jim became instant friends.
“Ben, why not take the summer off? You deserve it after four grueling years here with football and your studies. I'm sure the NYPD can wait another couple of months while you take some time for yourself. Camden Corners is a great place in the summer. My parents' old farmhouse has loads of bedrooms and they always welcome visitors.”
Ben was afraid it was too much of an intrusion for Mr. & Mrs. Farrell. Besides, his own parents were anxious to have him back home again. After talking with the Farrells and his parents, everyone was in agreement that Ben did need some R&R to help him recover from four years of playing college football.
Pamela and Ray Farrell always liked Ben. They were happy their son had such a level headed friend. Jim had a bit of a wild streak and Ben seemed to help him curb it. Jim would be starting law school in the fall and his folks were afraid he would move away from Camden Corners for good when he completed his studies. They were anxious for him to be home with them for what could be the last summer the family had together before all their children went off in different directions.
“Mrs. Farrell, Jim said you folks live in a farmhouse. I never expected anything like this. I've never lived in a house this big with so much land,” Ben said with his mouth open.
“Ben, this house has been in my family for years. If you hang around Camden Corners for any length of time, you will hear about the Mackenzies and the Burkes. I'm from the Mackenzie clan. There are so many of us in town they even named the land surrounding the library Mackenzie Park. Please Ben, call us Pamela and Ray.”
“Thank you Pamela. Now, what can I do to earn my keep? I noticed the hinge on the front door was loose. Do you think Ray would mind if I fixed it?”
“Mind? I'm sure he wouldn't but I don't want you to feel you have to work for your room and board. You are a guest in this house and we want you to relax and enjoy your leisure time. Soon enough you will be on the streets of New York City saving the good citizens from crime and corruption.”
Ben laughed. He liked Pamela Farrell. He could see where Jim got his positive attitude.
“Make yourself comfortable, Ben. If there is anything you need just let me know. I think I'll help Maxine with the sandwiches. She has been with our family since Jim was a baby. She's slowing down somewhat these days and sometimes needs a little help. I know Jim is anxious to get to Camden Lake this afternoon. It's such a warm day, I'm sure the beach will be a nice treat.”
Maxine was busy in the kitchen as Pamela expected she would be. “I could use some help with these sandwiches, Missy. You keep bringing extra people into this house as though I don't have enough to do around here. I don't know why those ungrateful young people can't make their own sandwiches.”
“Now, Maxine, you know you love waiting on the children. Here, let me help you with these.” Pamela knew Maxine enjoyed being cantankerous and didn't mean anything by it.
“Maxine, my darling. How is my best girl?” Jim said as he came charging through the door.
Maxine blushed as she told him what a foolish young man he was.
“Where's Ben? You haven't put him to work already have you, Ma?”
“Of course not, he's getting settled in his room. Where have you been, Jim? You just left your friend to fend for himself.”
“I've been checking on the boat. Looks like Dad has kept it in good working order. I thought we'd do a little water skiing this afternoon. Ben should be hilarious on skis since he's never been on them before.”
“Trying to humiliate me on my first day here, buddy?”
Pamela introduced Ben to Maxine. She took an instant liking to him when she discovered he was a fellow Irishman. “Let me get you a pint, young man. Mr. Farrell always keeps cold Guinness in the refrigerator.”
“Oh no, Maxine. I'd better keep my wits about me if I'm going to be water skiing this afternoon. You remind me of my granny. She always made sure there was a cold one ready for my pop and grandad as soon as they walked into the house after a hard day,” Ben said with a twinkle in his eye.
Maxine blushed again, obviously flattered by the comparison.
Ben wanted to help clean up the kitchen after lunch but Maxine shooed him out the door. “A young man needs time to be with his friends. Now you go and while you are with Jim, teach him some manners too.”
Jim laughed and gave Maxine a hug. Everyone loved the old lady in spite of herself.
“I like him, Miss Pamela, I hope he will meet a nice young woman and settle down in these parts, don't you?”
“I don't think there is much chance of that Maxine, he is a New York boy and has his future mapped out already. I hate to think of him on the streets of the city. It is so dangerous.”
Ben was amazed at the number of Jim's friends that had gathered at the lake. They had boarded the boat on the dock behind the Farrell house. Jim dropped anchor a short way from the shore. He introduced Ben to everyone there. Ben found himself looking into the prettiest blue eyes he ever saw. Her name was Vanessa Mackenzie. Pamela said he would run into that name often and the first Mackenzie he did see was very much to his liking.
Several of the group piled into the boat. Jim drove it out into the deep water and insisted Ben be the first to try skiing. Although Ben had never skied before, he was determined to make Jim eat his words. Being athletic, he was able to catch on rather quickly.
Ben sat next to Vanessa although they didn't speak. The motor was too loud to carry on a conversation and everyone was busy watching the skiers.
Vanessa jumped overboard when it was her turn. She had skied often and it showed. Ben was admiring this beautiful girl with her dark hair flowing behind her and a bright yellow two piece bathing suit showing off her slim figure. Before anyone else saw it, Ben noticed a large tree stump that appeared in the water out of nowhere. He was the first to see the ski hit the stump and fly off of Vanessa's foot hitting her directly on the head. Without thinking, he jumped into the water, grabbed the unconscious girl and swam to shore with her under his arm. On shore, he breathed into her mouth until she began to choke up the water in her lungs. Someone brought a towel and held it to the gash in her head applying pressure.
Vanessa came to, not knowing what had happened and why she was on the shore with everyone looking down at her. She notice Ben right away. She had been immediately attracted to him and now she realized he had probably saved her life.
“Thank you Ben,” she whispered.
“Don't try to talk. That's a mean looking gash you have on your head. We'd better get you to the hospital so they can check you over. You may have a concussion too.”
“I'll drive,” said Vanessa's friend, Candy. Ben, why don't you come along? They may have questions for you about how long Vanessa was unconscious.”
“I'll be fine, I just have a little headache. I really don't want to go to the hospital,” Vanessa said as she tried to sit up but dizziness overcame her.
At the hospital, the ER doctor said she was a lucky girl. The cold water of the lake helped to stop the bleeding before she lost too much blood and the quick action of her friend probably did save her life. He stitched up the gash while Ben held her hand. She was trying to be brave but the sight of that needle and thread made her want to cringe. She had a slight concussion and would need to rest for a few days.
Candy called Vanessa's mother and she was pacing in the waiting room when Vanessa came out guided by Ben.
“Are you all right, darling?” Mrs. Mackenzie cried.
“I'm fine, Mother. Ben here saved my life. He is a hero,” Vanessa introduced the two.
“I just happened to be looking in the right direction at the right time. I'm no hero, Mrs. Mackenzie.” What Ben didn't say was he couldn't take his eyes off Mrs. Mackenzie's beautiful daughter.
The summer went quickly. Vanessa recovered from her head injury with a barely visible scar just above the hairline. People were still talking about Ben's lifesaving actions when a toddler ran in front of a swing at the playground. The swinger's feet caught him just under his rib cage throwing him in the air. Ben and Vanessa were walking near the swings when Ben caught sight of the child, he reached out and caught him mid air saving him from possible injury.
Ben's quick actions caught the attention of Sheriff Timothy Roland. He knew Ben had studied law enforcement and was planning to return to New York City in the fall to apply to the NYPD. “Sally,” he said to his wife one morning, “I wonder if Ben Murphy would consider joining the department. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders and he is well liked in town, especially for a newcomer.”
“Tim, it would be wonderful if you had some help at the office. Someone who would be able to take over for you in a few years. I'm not sure Ben would be willing to stay in Camden Corners. You know he and Vanessa Mackenzie are an item. Vanessa has talked about moving to New York City for as long as I can remember. Candy Taylor said she thinks the two of them are talking about moving there together. You know his family is from Brooklyn. It would be wonderful, but I doubt he would accept.”
“You are probably right, my dear. I think I'll talk to him about it just in case. Who knows, maybe he will be able to suggest someone from his class who would be interested in a job here.”
Later that day, Ben walked into the Sheriff Roland's office. “Hello, Sheriff. You wanted to see me? I hope I haven't violated any laws,” Ben said with a questioning smile.
“Nothing like that, son. I wanted to talk to you about the possibility of joining our department here in Camden Corners. Professor Short and I are old friends and I was talking to him about you earlier today. He tells me you were an excellent student and a fine young man. I know your ties are in New York City, but I wonder if you would consider a position here? I'll be retiring within a few years and as much as I respect George Rigby, he is perfectly content to be a deputy and has no desire to take over my job.”
“Sheriff, I am truly honored by your offer. I never thought about being anything but a New York City cop. I must admit, the idea of living in Camden Corners permanently is very appealing. I feel very much at home here. I'd like to discuss this with my folks and a few people in town. How soon do you need my answer?”
“Take your time, son. Just the fact that you are willing to think about it gives me hope. Feel free to ask any questions about the job. You do know it is an appointed position and not subject to reelection. I have spoken with the mayor and he agrees you would be an asset to our fair town.”
“Thank you, Sheriff. I'll be in touch very soon.”
If Ben had been three years old he would have skipped out of the sheriff's office he was that excited. He was dreading the day he would be leaving Camden Corners. He knew he was going to accept the offer. He'd even spotted a house near the lake that was for rent. The real estate office was on his way to Vanessa's house. He stopped in and before he knew it, he had given the agent a check for the deposit plus one month's rent. He knew Vanessa talked about living in the city but if he had a house for them and a job, maybe she would be happy to stay in Camden Corners after all.
“Hi sweetie,” she greeted him at the front door. “You look like the cat that swallowed the canary. Maybe you'd better come in and tell me what that look is all about.”
“Van, I know you talked about moving to New York and I think you would enjoy visiting there but I'm not too sure you would like it as a permanent home. Sheriff Roland offered me a job.”
“Ben, you're scaring me, you wouldn't even consider taking it, would you?”
“Yes, I will be accepting the offer. Not only that, I rented that cottage down by the lake that we saw yesterday. The one you said belonged to a family named Blackburn. I was hoping you and I could live there together. I haven't bought a ring yet, but I want to marry you as soon as possible and start our life right here in Camden Corners.”
“Ben! I can't believe you would do this. We talked about living in New York. You know how important it is to me to try my wings in the city. How could you take it upon yourself to change our future? Ben, we have no future together if you insist on being sheriff of this jerkwater town. Now, tell me you will not accept that job.”
“Vanessa, I love you and you know it but I will be taking the job and I will be living here with you or without you.”
“Then it will be without me. Now, leave my house and have a nice life Benjamin Murphy.”
Ben's face was as red as a beet. She'll come around, he thought to himself. Vanessa will see that the city is not for her. She is just a small town girl at heart. I suppose I could tell the real estate agent I've made a mistake. It would probably be worth forfeiting the deposit and forgetting about living here just to keep Vanessa in my life. No, she is just being stubborn. I can be stubborn too.
Ben accepted Tim Roland's offer and Vanessa kept her word and moved to New York. The last Ben heard she was working for some big shot television producer. It had been almost four years since he had seen her. If she ever visited Camden Corners, he never knew about it. Tim retired three years ago and, as promised, Ben took over his job. He still lived in the little house on the lake. He bought it from the owners two years ago and spent most of his spare time remodeling it. He was one of the most eligible bachelors in town. He never lacked for female companionship, but never felt about anyone the way he had about Vanessa.
Ben spotted an elderly gentleman looking out over the water. He wondered if this was the owner of the revolver Holly had turned over to him. The man had a satisfied look on his face. Holly didn't want to take credit for averting disaster by talking the old guy out of using the gun on himself but he suspected her gentleness had a lot to do with his change of mind. Holly was Vanessa's younger cousin. He was tempted to ask about her but didn't want anyone to know how much he missed her.
Ben said he would be as inconspicuous as possible but would watch the arriving guests for the grand opening of The Merryweather. Politicians and celebrities of sorts were expected and it was better to be safe than sorry.
He was standing off to the side when he spotted her. She was just as beautiful as ever and was dressed elegantly with her arm linked to an actor he recognized as Cameron Swank who played a detective in one of the most popular shows on television. She was beaming as she walked into the hotel still clinging to the arm of the handsome Mr. Swank. Vanessa didn't even glance in his direction.