(Advent) December 7

Monday, December 7

Molly! Molly!

Schrodinger came bounding up the stairs to the second floor, calling for her at the top of his mental lungs. He was so agitated that he actually meowed as well, something he almost never did. Behind him was the tall, lanky form of Mr. Strange, and the first mate’s face was ashen.

Molly, who had been sitting and chatting with Father Christopher about the upcoming Christmas choral, barely managed to move her tea mug out of the way in time as Schrodinger launched himself into her lap. “What ever is the matter?” she said, trying to soothe him with spilling hot tea on both of them. Father Christopher helped by taking the tea mug, leaving Molly free to put both arms around the agitated CrossCat. “What’s wrong, Schrodinger?”

Pavel! Schrodinger said, burrowing his head into her chest and meowing piteously. We have to help Pavel!

“What’s wrong with Pavel?” Molly addressed the question to Mr. Strange, who was wringing his hands in distress. Something was definitely wrong, as Mr. Strange was usually the most self-possessed man she’d met.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “But he’s locked himself in the cabin all night, and there’s been amazing crashes and bangs – I’m afraid he’s going to do something terrible, Molly, and you’re the only one I could think of that could help.” He swallowed. “Please, Molly, come and help us before…” His voice trailed off, as if he couldn’t bear to finish the sentence.

“Of course!” Molly took Schrodinger’s face in her hands, forcing him to look at her. “Schrodinger, we’ll help Pavel. But I need you to go to the Gate Station and get Drew, okay? Tell him to meet us at the ship.”

Okay! Schrodinger gave her a quick kiss and a purr, clearly soothed by her instant acceptance, then jumped off her lap and ran back down the stairs.

Molly reclaimed her mug from Father Christopher with a grateful smile. “Thank you, Father. I’m sorry, I need to go.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Father Christopher told her. “Go and help Pavel.” He stood up. “Is Sarah in today?”

“No, it’s her day off,” Molly said.

“Then show me where everything is in the kitchen, and I’ll cover for you for a while,” the priest said.

Molly stared at him. “You don’t have to do that!”

“No, I don’t.” Father Christopher gave her a sly smile. “But you have a better kitchen here than I do, and it’s not often I get to play in it. So you go and help Pavel, and I’ll, um, mind the kitchen.” He winked at her, and despite her worry over Pavel, Molly laughed.

“Fine. If you’re up to it, I have the makings for cranberry scones in the refrigerator.”

The two men followed her down to the kitchen, where she showed Father Christopher where the scone mixings were, and then grabbed her coat. Mr. Strange had brought Pavel’s black carriage with him, and it was waiting outside.

An icy wind hit her as she stepped out of the warm bookstore, cutting right through her coat and freezing her bones. Molly hurried into the carriage.

“So tell me everything,” she said, as Mr. Strange climbed in behind her. He tapped sharply on the roof of the carriage, then he sighed.

“I don’t know much,” he admitted, as the carriage horses started forward at a run, making them both lurch a bit. “Last night he was fine. Cook brought home your gingerbread ship – and an amazing piece of work that is, I have to tell you, Molly – and Captain was enthralled. He had it put in his cabin, and let everyone see it. He went out to look at some houses, and I assume, did some drinking.”

“So normal Pavel,” Molly said, nodding. “Then what happened?”

“He got a letter this morning.” Mr. Strange shook his head. “No, I don’t know from who. It was delivered as part of the mail this morning, and as normal, I brought everything in to him. After a few minutes, I heard a horrible crash from his cabin. I was afraid he’d fallen or something.” He gave Molly a slightly shamefaced look. “In truth, I thought he was still hung over, and had just tripped. He hadn’t been that awake when Cook brought in his breakfast.”

“Fair,” Molly assured him. “Perfectly fair, and Pavel himself will be the first to tell you that. So what did you find?”

“Nothing,” Mr. Strange said. “He’d locked the door, and when I knocked, he shouted at me to bring him a bottle of rum, and then mind my own business.”

“So what did you do?” Molly figured she knew the answer, but she wanted Mr. Strange to tell her.

“I brought him the rum and then left,” Mr. Strange said. He passed his hand over his forehead. “And when he called for another bottle, I brought that.”

“How many bottles has he gone through?”

“Six,” Mr. Strange said quietly. “As of when I left.”

Molly shook her head. “That’s not good.” She looked at her watch. “When did the letter come?”

“With the morning mail – around 11 am.” The first mate wrung his hands together. “I know it was early, but what was I to do? I can’t disobey my captain!”

“You did everything right, Mr. Strange,” Molly assured him. “Why did you come to get me, though?”

“Because when I gave him the last bottle, I caught a glimpse of him.” Mr. Strange shuddered. “He didn’t look human, Molly. He looked like a tormented shell of a man, and there have been the most horrific bangs and crashes. I’m afraid he’ll hurt himself. And then Cook mentioned that you always seem to be able to calm him, and I thought perhaps it would work.” He swallowed. “I had just come down the gangway when I met Schrodinger. I’m not sure why he was there, but he asked me what was wrong, and when I said I was heading to find you, he agreed and we came to get you.” He looked at her. “You can help, right?”

“I’ll do my best,” Molly said. “That’s all I can promise.”

They spent the rest of the brief ride in silence. Molly looked out at the town rushing past, and wondered what had been in the letter to so upset Pavel. And how had Schrodinger known that the pirate needed him? She hadn’t even noticed he’d left the bookstore. Then again, she thought, you’ve been a little preoccupied lately. Might be time to start paying more attention to him.

The carriage stopped at the Heart’s Desire, and Mr. Strange hurried to open the carriage door for her. As she stepped out, a loud crash came from the ship, and the first mate winced.

“More rum!” The bellow pierced the air, and Molly watched every single sailor jump. A calm fell over her.

“Don’t you dare,” she told Mr. Strange. “He’s had enough rum.” She looked up at the ship. “Go and tell Cook to make a pot of tea, and have a cup yourself. I’ll take care of this.”

The first mate looked almost pathetically relieved and hurried off. Molly made her way up the gangway after him, taking her time, and intercepted the sailor who was going towards the captain’s door with a dark bottle in his hand.

“No,” she said firmly, taking him by the shoulders and turning him around. The sailor, dazed, let her. “He’s had enough.”

The sailor scurried back the way he’d come, and Molly turned to the door before her.

“Planning your attack?” Drew asked, coming up beside her, Schrodinger on his heels.

“Yes.” Molly nodded. “You got here fast.”

“I bought a fast truck, and I had impetus.” He ran fingers through his hair; Molly noticed he’d forgotten both his hat and his coat in his haste. “What’s the plan?”

She was about to answer when Pavel shouted again, “I said rum, dammit! Where are you dogs? I’ll flay the lot of you!”

“Well, first, this needs to stop,” Molly said. She walked up to the door and tried the knob. Locked. “Pavel, open this door now!”

To her surprise, he did. Molly took one look at him: his blood-shot eyes, tear-stained face and tangled beard, and her heart broke. This was a man on the edge of collapse.

“Did you bring rum?” he demanded.

“No,” she said, stepping closer. The smell of stale sweat and alcohol rising from him made her blink. “You’ve had enough rum, Pavel. Let me in, and we’ll talk. Cook is making you tea.”

“I don’t want tea,” Pavel said sullenly. “I want rum.”

“Too bad,” Molly told him. She continued to walk forward, forcing him to let her in the cabin. He’d obviously been pitching a fit, as the entire room was trashed, except for the table where the gingerbread model of the Heart’s Desire still stood tall. “You don’t need more rum.” She gave him a compassionate look and opened her arms, inviting him into a hug. “What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?”

Pavel glared at her, red-rimmed eyes filling with tears, and they locked gazes while Drew, Schrodinger, and the rest of the crew held their collective breaths. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Pavel crumpled, falling into Molly’s arms, sobbing.

“Drew, close the door,” she said, leading Pavel over to his chair. “I think we’ll want to keep this in the family.”

As Drew did so, Schrodinger came up and, once Pavel had sunk into the chair, the CrossCat jumped up on to the table in front of him, carefully avoiding the gingerbread.

“It’s okay,” Molly soothed Pavel, running her hand over his head as he continued to cry. “Let it all out.” She looked at Drew. “Want to start trying to clean up?” she said softly. “I have a feeling he’ll need to sleep later.”

“Of course.” Drew went over to the large bed and began to make it. A tentative knock on the big door distracted him, and he went to relieve Mr. Strange of his tea tray.

“Is everything okay now?” the first mate whispered.

“It will be,” Drew told him quietly. “Molly will get to the bottom of this.”

“Check the mail,” Mr. Strange told him. “Whatever kicked this off came in the post this morning.”

Drew nodded and closed the door again. He brought the tea tray over to the table and looked at Molly.

“Go ahead and pour us each a mug,” she said. “Pavel? Can you talk yet?”

The pirate didn’t answer at once, but after a moment, he swallowed deeply and looked up at her. “Rum?”

“No, tea,” Molly said firmly. “Rum will not make this better.”

“It will make it go away, though,” Pavel said, but he accepted the mug that Drew gave him. Then he peered at his friend. “Drew? What are you doing here?”

“Helping my wife,” Drew said, handing her a mug as well. “You didn’t think I was going to let her come to your dangerous ship by herself, did you?”

“I didn’t know she was coming,” Pavel said.

“Who else was going to calm you down?” she said, taking the other seat. “Really. Now, tell me what’s going on.”

You can trust us, Schrodinger added, reaching out one soft paw to the pirate. We won’t tell anyone.

Pavel laughed bitterly. “It’s not that I’m worried about,” he said. “It’s not like I have a reputation to destroy.”

“You do, but it’s not the one you think,” Drew said, going back over to the bed and continuing to make it. Molly watched him, and so she saw him pick up a crumpled piece of paper, read it, and then put it in his pocket.

“Yes, the big bad pirate,” Pavel said, bringing her attention back to him. He drained his tea mug and held it out. “Is there more?”

“Absolutely,” Molly said, refilling his mug. “Drink all the tea you want.”

After two more cups of tea, Pavel sighed, and pushed back from the table. “My head hurts,” he said.

“Too much rum?” Molly said, and looked around. “Do you have aspirin?”

“Somewhere.” Pavel waved a hand, and yawned. “I need sleep.”

“Are you going to be okay?” Molly asked, letting a little of the worry she was feeling thread into her voice.

He gave her a sad smile. “I will be, thank you.” Pavel enfolded her in a warm hug. “I’ll come to the farm tomorrow and explain everything. I just need to sleep now.”

“If you’re sure…” Molly said.

I will stay, Schrodinger offered. I could use a nap too, and I’ll keep away all the bad dreams.

Pavel crawled into his bed, and let Molly cover him up like a child. Then Schrodinger jumped down from the table and into the bed, curling up in a ball.

“Come on,” Drew said, taking Molly’s hand. “Let’s let him sleep.”

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