Western Fiction posted April 10, 2013 Chapters:  ...18 19 -20- 21... 


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Caitlin is harassed by Sister Abigail.

A chapter in the book AN ORPHAN NAMED JO

Chapter Eight - Part One Five Points

by c_lucas



Background
This relates nine-year-old Caitlin Wiley's troubles to reconnect with her extended family.

CHAPTER EIGHT – PART ONE

NEW YORK CITY

FIVE POINTS - IRISH SLUMS

JANUARY, 1879

End of the last chapter: Rudolpho kissed Caitlin’s cheek. “You will always have a home with us. But first, we need to try and find your family.”

What if the mean man finds me first? Caitlin put her worries aside as she accepted clothing proffered by Mrs. Rossellini, including a multi-colored coat.
 
Rudolpho took Liz’s hand and the pair left the bedroom, closing the door behind them.
 
Caitlin smiled at Mrs. Rosellini. “Grazi.” She waved at all the children and placed her hand over her heart. “La famiglia mia.”          
 
The woman kissed Caitlin’s cheeks and replied, "Saremo sempre la tua famiglia. We'll always be your family,” she translated in broken English.  
 
Mrs. Rossellini opened the door and everyone filed out. She motioned to her son and gave him some coins. Liz went to change her outfit.
 
Rudolpho smiled at Caitlin. “Mother wants me to take you home to your American family.”

**

Caitlin walked next to Rudolpho as they made their way to a main thoroughfare and a horse-drawn trolley. She stopped, picked up some rocks, and put them in her pocket.

“What’s that for?” Rudolpho picked her up and placed her on the trolley’s first step.

“Protection.” She reached for his hand as he dropped four pennies into the bucket and led her to a pair of empty seats. He motioned for her to take the window seat.

“We are quite a distance from Five Points and will have to change trolleys along the way.” He settled himself into the aisle-seat and placed his arm on the top of Caitlin’s seat.

“I didn’t think he carried me very far.” Caitlin didn’t take her eyes off the view of the busy street.

“He must have had a horse or a carriage. Five Points is miles away. Can you tell me anything about the scoundrel?”

“I didn’t see him. I remembered waking up when he held a funny- smelling liquid over my mouth and forced me to swallow it.  I don’t remember anything else until I began to wake up on a table with people talking about me. I was dizzy and my head hurt.”

“He must have used laudanum on you. What happened, then?”

“The woman told a big man to throw him out. I must have gone back to sleep.  The next thing I remember was hitting the ground hard. The mean man said something to the big man and struck him in the side, and the big man fell. I woke up completely when the fire started….”

“A few houses burned down in the red light district a few years ago. That must be the fire you’re talking about.”

“I tried to walk away, but the man saw me and came after me. I was able to free my lower legs and started running. Someone yelled “fire,” and the mean man quit chasing me. He ran in another direction.  Some of my clothes were wrapped in the sheet.  I put them on and tried to find a place to rest. I slept in a doorway, but a fat man chased me away the next morning.”

“Have you seen the mean man since that night?”

“No, and I don’t want to.” Catlin squirmed in her seat.

“Okay, we’ll be changing trolleys in a few blocks.”  He patted her on the arm and drew her closer. She leaned into him and tried to hug him with her free arm. He makes me feel safe.

**

An hour later they reached familiar territory. “There’s my park!” Caitlin pointed, excited to be close to home.

“Did you live close by?”

“Yes, in that direction.” She pointed toward the other side of the park. Caitlin tried to run, but Rudolpho grabbed her arm.

“Take it easy. Remember you’ve been away for a while.”

“Sorry.” She placed her left hand into Rudolpho’s right. “That mean man might be around.” She led Rudolpho across the park and down the street.  They crossed the street and walked to the next block.

Caitlin stopped when she saw the “Closed” sign nailed across the clinic’s name. She struggled to free her hand, but Rudolpho held it tightly.

“We’ll go in together,” he said.

She quit struggling, and when Rudolpho released her hand, she hurried up the steps and entered. He followed.

The word, “Private” was scrawled across the first two doors. Graffiti artists destroyed Joleen’s artwork. Caitlin knocked on the second door, but no one answered.  She hurried back toward the first door and knocked; No answer.

Caitlin ran up to the classroom on the second floor. The word, “Closed,” was neatly painted across the door. I’ll try Mammy’s door.

“Where are you going?” Rudolpho asked as she started up the stairs.

“We lived on the fourth floor.” Caitlin ran up the stairs with her protector in hot pursuit.

Shannon’s door had “Private” scrawled across it. Caitlin hurried to her mother’s apartment. The door was locked. She knocked and an old woman answered.

“Who might yeh be?”

“My name is Caitlin Wiley. I’m looking for me mammy.”

Rudolpho caught up with her and stood behind her trying to catch his breath.

“Wiley yeh be saying?” The old woman glanced at Caitlin and then at Rudolpho. “Doesn’t she know?”

“Know what, ma’am?” He placed his hands on Caitlin’s shoulders. “She’s heard rumors of her mother’s death. This is the first chance we’ve to check it out."

“It’s true. Her mother died a horrid death from fever. Mrs. Sullivan claimed Mrs. Wiley’s husband suffocated her and stole their child. If this be her, Mrs. Sullivan spoke the truth.”

“Do you know where they buried the body?” he asked, as Caitlin twisted around, and hugged him around the waist.

“If she be a good Catholic, she be buried at the church.” The old woman closed the door and locked it.

Rudolpho held Caitlin gently as she freed herself of tears.  After a while, the girl stepped away from him. “Can we go to the graveyard?”

**

Caitlin was in a solemn mood as she led Rudolpho behind the church and into the grave yard.  She stopped at Cullen Sullivan’s grave, knelt, crossed herself and said a brief prayer. Rudolpho followed her lead. He stood and helped her to her feet.

“He must have been a good man.” Rudolpho scanned the site filled with flowers and notes. An oil painting was fastened to the bottom of  the stone.

“That’s a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan. Their daughter, Joleen, must have painted it.” Caitlin glanced the far end of the cemetery. “Me mammy must be over there somewhere, in a pauper’s grave.”

They searched for several minutes and found three of the graves unmarked.

“None of the graves has your mother’s name on them. She must be in one of the unmarked ones.” Rudolpho’s heart went out to the tearful girl as she looked from one grave to the other. A cardinal landed on the one at the extreme right and began pecking for food.

“That one be her grave.” Caitlin knelt in front of the grave, crossed herself and mouthed a silent prayer.

Rudolpho knelt beside her, crossed himself, and began praying verbally ‘The prayer for the dead.’ He finished long before Caitlin and remained by her side.

The girl lay prone and kissed the ground. She stood and a voice from the past startled her.

“Is that you, Caitlin?” Sister Abigail’s voice brought back bitter memories.

“Aye, Sister Abigail, it be me.” Caitlin answered in a pain-filled voice.

The nun glanced at Rudolpho. “Your name, sir?”

“Rossellini…Rudolpho Rossellini.” He placed his arms around Caitlin. “I am trying to help her find her family.”

“Are you searching for the Sullivans?” she asked Caitlin.

“Yes, ma’am.” A spark of hope grew in the girl’s eyes.

“After the shooting, the family moved,” Sister Abigail said with a hint of satisfaction.

“Do you know where they moved to, sister?” Rudolpho took a disliking to the nun’s attitude, and the way she glared at the girl.

“Yes. I’ll inform Sister Ruth that the wayward lamb has returned. She’ll send a wire off to Mrs. Sullivan. It’s by Mrs. Sullivan’s instructions that we keep Caitlin here, and she’ll send one of her sons to pick her up. Thank you, Mr. Rossellini, for bringing her to us.”

“Did you hear that, Caitlin? Your grandmother wants you. She’ll send one of your uncles to bring you home.” Rudolpho lifted her in a hug and kissed her cheeks. Caitlin put her arms around his neck and returned the kisses.

Caitlin forced a smile. “Tell Liz and the girls good-bye for me. I’ll write them as soon as I’m settled.”

 When Rudolpho set her down, she went to Sister Abigail. “Thank you, ma’am.” She opened her arms and the nun reluctantly hugged her.

“Would you like to visit with your mother?”

“If you don’t mind.” The girl looked at Rudolpho's departing figure. He turned and waved. She waved back.

**

After about an hour, the nun interrupted Caitlin’s visit. “It’s close to dinnertime. I need to let Sister Ruth know you’ve returned.”

“Yes, ma’am. Can I come back, tomorrow?”

“After you are settled in, attended your classes, and completed your chores, the Reverend Mother may let you visit.” She turned and walked toward the convent.

Caitlin took one last look at the grave, blew her mother a kiss and followed Sister Abigail.

The nun led the way to the Reverend Mother’s office, knocked,  waited for permission to enter. She opened the door, stepped aside, and allowed Caitlin to step into the office.

“The prodigal child has returned,” Sister Abigail closed and locked the door.     

Mother Ruth looked at Caitlin for several minutes. “Finally, you are here. Are you ready to atone for your sins and accept your punishment?” She reached into her desk drawer.

The girl looked over her shoulder; Sister Abigail was guarding the locked door. "Never show fear." Heather’s words whispered in her mind. Caitlin took a deep breath and looked at the Reverend Mother. “Sister Abigail said you knew where Grandmother Sullivan moved to. Would you please contact her and ask her to send Conor for me?” Eyes locked on her former tormentor, Caitlin waited for an answer.

“Yes, I do and I can, but you need to atone for the trouble you caused me and Sister Abigail. Take off your coat, pull up your dress and lay across my desk.” She pulled a leather strap out and laid it on the desk.

“I done nothing you didn’t deserve. You punish me when you knew I was innocent.” Caitlin stepped deeper into the room, away from the nun behind her. “Will you tell me where Mrs. Sullivan moved to, or do I have to ask Father Paul?”

 “Father Paul doesn’t know. Do as I told you.” The Reverend Mother’s look was filled with venom.

“No!” Caitlin put her hand in her coat pocket.

“Grab the little troublemaker!”

Sister Abigail spread out her arms and came at Caitlin in a crouch.

Caitlin’s first rock hit the nun on her ankle bone. She fell down, screaming. The second rock hit the Reverend Mother above her left eye, and she fell over her desk chair. The girl ran toward the door, and fumbled with the lock. In her haste, it took her longer to unlock the door.

“You’ll pay for that, you little brat.” Sister Abigail hobbled toward the girl, almost reaching her before Caitlin opened the door and fled.  



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