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Excitement on Craggy Island

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Like the rest of the world, on the night of the Great Reveal, Father Ted and Father Dougal sat in their living room, dumbfounded by the stories and pictures on the television. They’d been promised a “monumental revelation that would change the course of human history”, but they’d been expecting at most the collapse of a far-off government or news of a natural disaster. Nothing had prepared them for the truth that vampires existed.

“Would you look at that, Ted. Makes you wonder what other sorts of mad things are actually true,” said Dougal when he was finally able to form a coherent thought.

Father Ted rubbed his hands on his trousers. “Yes...I’m wondering myself about werewolves and zombies.”

“How about the Resurrection, Ted? Wouldn’t it be wild if that were true too?”

“Dougal,” said Ted, his voice carrying a warning tone that was completely ignored.

“Well it would be. Rising from the dead. Not all that different from a vampire, when you get right down to it. Maybe Jesus was the first vampire.”

“He was not, Dougal! And you better mind yourself. If one of the parishioners, or, God forbid, Len, ever heard you talk that way, they’d have your guts for garters.”

“Now Ted, no need to get all worked up. Sure, we’ve all just had a huge shock.”

“Yes, I suppose we have,” conceded Ted, taking a sip of tea in the hopes that it would steady his nerves.

“Do you reckon we have any vampires here on Craggy Island?” asked Dougal, his face lighting up at the possibility. “You know, there are a few people I’ve always wondered about. Like Mr. Doyle. How come we never see him during the day, Ted?”

“Because he works on the mainland, Dougal. And please, don’t let Mrs. Doyle hear you talking about Mr. Doyle like that. I’d never hear the end of it.”

“Right-so, Ted. So you don’t think there are any vampires here?”

“No, I wouldn’t say so. I’d say this is like all the other cultural trends, like illegal immigrants and gay people. It’ll be a long time before we get any of that here.”

Dougal nodded, apparently satisfied by this answer. “You never know... we might get a few to visit some time.”

“Yes, I suppose that would be our best chance of getting to see a real live... er... dead vampire for ourselves.”

Dougal stood up and stretched. “Well, it’s bedtime for me. I sure hope we get to meet a vampire soon.”

“Good night, Dougal,” replied Ted, not bothering to mention that he was pretty sure it would be years, and possibly never, before a vampire landed on Craggy Island. Why would they, when they had all the allure and glamour of places like Las Vegas and New York City. One thing that Father Ted Crilly knew with absolute certainty: if he were a vampire, he wouldn’t waste time on a parochial backwater like Craggy Island.

---//---

Eric growled as he packed his suitcase while Pam sulked in the background.

“I understand the need for PR outreach after The Great Reveal, but Ireland? They might as well send us to hell itself,” said Pam as she filed her nails, frowning.

“There are worse places,” Eric said with a shrug. “Besides, Ireland in the winter is a perfect place for vampires. It’s only light for about 7 hours and the place is full of beautiful red-heads with nearly translucent skin. You can practically see the blood in their veins.”

“I suppose you’re right. Although it’s not like you to look on the bright side.”

“I haven’t fully examined the itinerary yet. I suppose we should do this before we get our hopes up,” said Eric as he meticulously refolded several shirts and placed them into his suitcase.

Pam took the hint and headed out to the office to find the itinerary. She returned a few minutes later with a sheaf of paper, which Eric plucked out of her hands and rifled through, the creases in forehead deepening with each page. He cursed under his breath in Swedish and then dropped the pages into the suitcase.

“That bad, is it?” asked Pam, her voice carrying that borderline taunting tone that only she could get away with.

“I don’t know why you’re so cheerful. You’re going to be stuck there right along with me.”

“Because I already knew this was going to be a miserable trip. You’re the only one who seems surprised. Let me guess - we’re being sent to the back of beyond?”

“Yes, quite, some speck of an island in the Atlantic, that’s probably populated with inbred half-wits. Our meeting is with the local clergy, three priests. And apparently, this place is so far off the beaten track, we won’t get to spend the first night after the main meeting in Dublin. We have to go directly to this shithole....Craggy Island.”

“Sounds charming. I bet it’s packed with local color. I can’t wait,” said Pam with a roll of her eyes, just in case the dripping sarcasm had been missed.

Eric snapped his suitcase shut and pulled the zipper a bit more harshly than was strictly warranted.

“You know why we pulled the short straw, don’t you?” asked Pam.

“Pamela, I am warning you,” said Eric, but his voice lacked the ice that would have stopped her cold. He sounded a little tired and annoyed, so Pam knew she could press at least a little more.

“You piss off Nan Flanagan, this is what happens.”

“How do you even know about that? It was 200 years before you were even made.”

Pam’s eyes danced. She’d only ever suspected that something had happened with her maker and the powerful vampire bureaucrat. Getting any sort of confirmation was like all of her Christmases had come at once. She played it cool, though, offering Eric a mere half-shrug and an inscrutable smile.

“What can I say, Pam? The bitch can hold a grudge. I know better now.” Eric smoothed his hair into place and then straightened up. “We leave tomorrow at dusk. Don’t be late.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” replied Pam as she left.

---//---

When Father Ted first heard the news that a contingent of ‘goodwill envoy’ vampires were to be dispatched to Craggy Island, he dismissed it as Father Dick Byrne playing a joke. It had taken a call from Bishop Brennan to convince him that the visit was for real. And that he better not screw it up.

“Crilly, against my better judgement, I’m entrusting you with making a good impression on our visitors. Don’t make me feel sorry I did this, or I promise you that you’ll regret it a thousand times over.”

The icy disapproval echoed in Ted’s ears as he provided last minute instructions and surveyed his troops: an uneasy Mrs. Doyle and a giddy Father Dougal. Father Jack, thanks be to God, was crashed out.

“I can’t believe this, Ted. Vampires on our very own Craggy Island. And you said it would never happen.” Dougal’s eyes were shining.

“Ah Dougal, that wasn’t exactly what I said,” insisted Father Ted. “I just thought it would take a bit more time. Now remember, this is a very big honor and we must work very hard to make a good impression.”

“But Father, what if they want to...” Mrs. Doyle looked around as though she expected to find a vampire eavesdropping on their conversation. She finished her thought in a whisper, her voice barely audible. “Bite us? Are we meant to let them?”

Father Ted flushed and stammered. “Now, Mrs. Doyle, I’m sure you’ve nothing to worry about. I don’t know all the ins and outs of vampire etiquette, but I imagine it would be poor form to bite one’s hosts. Besides, you’ve stocked up on True Blood, haven’t you?”

“Indeed I have, Father. I got Mr. Doyle to bring in a supply from the mainland. The fridge and pantry are both stocked to the gills. It wouldn’t do to run out, after all.”

“No, it wouldn’t,” muttered Ted, wondering what in the world they’d do with all the leftover bottles of blood substitute. Their guests were only staying one night and weren’t even sleeping over during the day. He couldn’t imagine either of them would need more than a bottle or two.

“Look, Ted, the sun’s set. They’ll be here soon, won’t they?” asked Dougal. He walked over to the window and pressed his face against the glass, cupping his hands around his eyes to reduce the glare from inside the room.

Ted was about to suggest that it would take their visitors a little longer than that to arrive when the doorbell proved him wrong. A nod to Mrs. Doyle sent her to answer the door. Ted could hear the stilted introductions and then Mrs. Doyle ushered them into the sitting room before disappearing into the kitchen, the look on her face equal parts terror and delight.

“Welcome, I’m Father Ted Crilly, the pastor of Craggy Island,” said Ted in his most convivial voice. He extended a hand to the tall blonde vampire, whom he’d been told was a 1000 year old Viking. He was accompanied by a beautiful lady vampire in a skin-tight dress, a sight that would doubtlessly haunt the priest’s dreams for weeks.

The vampire looked at the extended hand like it was a dead fish and offered a tight smile with a slight nod. “I’m Eric, Sherriff of Area Five in Louisiana, and this is my assistant, Pam.”

“Area Five? Is that anything like that mad area with all the aliens? Area Fifty-something?” asked Dougal, who was half-hiding behind Ted like a shy child.

“No,” replied Eric without elaboration.

“This is Father Dougal MacGuire and, of course, you’ve already met our housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle,” said Ted, stepping back and half-pushing Dougal forward. Dougal stepped up and immediately began smiling and nodding like an eejit. He looked blankly from one vampire to the other, unable to speak a single word. Ted hadn’t see him so flummoxed since they ran into Roy Keane in the laundry detergent aisle in a supermarket on the mainland.

“Pam,” hissed Eric. “Stop glamouring our co-host.”

“I’m not!”

“Ah no, that’s just how Dougal gets sometimes. No glamour here,” laughed Ted, slapping Dougal on the back. “Sometimes he just needs a good whack to unstick his mental processes.”

It took another hard slap before Dougal blinked and then introduced himself like nothing had happened. Pam stepped up, a hand outstretched, but Eric stopped her with a warning about it being no time to play games. She pouted a little, but the storm passed quickly.

“Shall we sit down and chat?” suggested Ted, hoping he sounded more urbane and well-traveled than he felt in the presence of these two glamorous and beautiful vampires.

“Yes, that is, in fact, what we’re here for,” said Eric, pulling a dining table chair over toward the couch. Pam settled onto the middle of the couch with a sniff, leaving Dougal and Ted to take seats gingerly on either side of her.

Before Ted had a chance to get the conversation started, Father Jack burst into the room and made a beeline for Pam.

“Wo-man,” leered Jack.

“What is this thing? I didn’t think zombies existed,” said Pam, unfolding herself from the couch. She tried to put distance between herself and the disheveled elderly priest, but he could move fast when he wanted to.

“Wo-man.” Jack’s outstretched hands grabbed for Pam. He nearly caught an arm, but she skipped away and started to move quite quickly, until she was just a blur that nearly gave Ted motion sickness.

“Dougal, can you take care of this?” asked Ted.

“I suppose Ted, but it’s a bit of excitement at least, isn’t it?”

“Dougal!”

“Okay, okay,” responded the younger priest as he petulantly peeled himself off the couch. He reached behind Father Jack’s chair and pulled out a whiskey bottle dangling from the end of a long stick.

“Father Jack, look at what Father MacGuire has for you,” Ted called in the sort of sing-songy voice one would use to distract a toddler.

Dougal waved the bottle near Jack, but he wasn’t deterred in his pursuit of Pam.

“A little more persuasion there, Dougal,” instructed Ted.

“Right-so, Ted.” Dougal swung the bottle back and with expert aim, hit Jack solidly in the side of the head. The older priest paused momentarily and shook his head, then refocused on the bottle. His hands reached out for it and Dougal walked him out of the sitting room.

“Now, where were we?” asked Ted as he settled back on the couch, struggling to project an air of normalcy.

Pam finally stopped moving and stood next to Eric, murmuring something about being trapped with lunatics in the godforsaken middle of nowhere. Eric spoke to her sharply in another language, which caused her to roll her eyes and cross her arms.

“Now that the introductions are out of the way, I suppose we can get down to business,” said Eric.

“Yes, yes, of course. Business,” replied Ted, nodding even though he hadn’t a clue what business they were meant to be discussing. He’d come to understand that vampires were quite good at making money but he was confused because he thought this was mainly a social visit.

Mrs. Doyle came in pushing the tea trolley. “Who’s for a nice cup of tea?”

“I will, Mrs. Doyle,” said Ted.

“And how about our vampire friends? A nice cup of t...” Mrs. Doyle made a face as she struggled to make the appropriate offer. “True Blood?”

“No, thank you,” said Eric while Pam just shook her head.

“Ah, go on,” insisted Mrs. Doyle while Eric and Pam politely refused.

“Go on, one little cup,” she wheedled.

“No, really…”

Around the fifth round of offer and refusal, Ted stepped in. “I’m afraid the only way to get her to stop is to accept.”

A look that Ted couldn’t interpret passed between Pam and Eric. Then Eric stood up and gazed into Mrs. Doyle’s eyes.

“We won’t be needing anything, Mrs. Doyle,” said Eric in a soothing, yet commanding voice.

“Yes, you won’t be needing anything,” echoed Mrs. Doyle. She blinked a few times then shrugged and wandered out of the room.

“That was fantastic. I’ve never seen anyone handle Mrs. Doyle like that. Well done,” Ted said. “You couldn’t teach me…. oh, never mind.”

Eric flashed a cold smile before settling back into his seat. “Now, time is short and we really must get down to business. Pam, why don’t you go... entertain... the other one, so that we’re not interrupted here.”

Pam looked like she might argue but a glance from Eric shut her up. Another vampire trick, no doubt. Father Ted wished he had the power to silence Dougal and make Jack behave with a single look. On the other hand, he was now in a room alone with Eric.

---//---

Eric waited until the door shut behind Pam. He had no idea how she was going to entertain the half-wit and only hoped that she didn’t leave any marks on him. Nan Flanagan had made it perfectly clear that they were not to bite anyone, not even the willing, and certainly not one of the clergy.

Eric looked around the room, spotted a bottle of Jameson and a few glasses. He got up and poured Father Ted a generous measure, then pulled his chair closer to the couch and sat down.

“So, Father, do you know why we were sent here?”

Ted took a small sip of whiskey and shook his head. “Because Craggy Island is lovely this time of year?”

“I’m sure it is, but no, that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to discuss any issues that you or your parishioners might have with vampires. To talk things out so that there’s no misunderstanding.”

“Right, right. Well, the thing is…I really can’t think of anything. We’re quite accepting here on Craggy Island. I know this just seems like some provincial backwater after all the exciting places you’ve been, but we’re with the times.”

“Is there anything you’d like to ask me?”

Ted leaned back and pressed a fist to his chin. “Well, now that you mention it. How do you get people, like Mrs. Doyle, to do what you want?”

Eric smiled. He could answer these little questions all night, but he hoped that he wouldn’t have to. After being around for 1,000 years, he could tell things about people, particularly things that would be useful to him. Father Ted was a man who could be useful to him, but it was going to take a fair bit of whiskey and conversation to get him there.

The night wore on slowly, but soon Ted was slumped in his seat, chain-smoking. The whiskey supply had dwindled below a quarter bottle and Eric could sense that the time to make his move was now.

“So, Father, if I might ask you a question,” began Eric, pausing to allow Ted to nod. “When we were in Dublin, meeting with the church officials, one of them made a comment that I found puzzling. Bishop Brennan said something about minding my wallet on Craggy Island. Do you have a problem with pickpockets?”

Father Ted’s face turned red.

“That money was only resting in my account! How many times do I have to tell him that?”

“Between you and me, he seemed like an officious prick.”

Ted’s laugh was bitter. “That’s one way to describe him. Utter bastard would be another.”

“So, is it safe to assume that he exiled you here as a form of punishment?”

“Exile is such a strong word,” began Ted, trying to put a good face on things. Then he shrugged and surrendered to his foul mood. “Yes, that’s exactly what happened. Exiled here. Craggy Island must seem such a step down to you. I’m sure New Orleans is much more glamorous.”

“I’m not stationed in New Orleans,” replied Eric, more sharply than he’d intended.

“Oh, sorry. I just assumed... ah well, you know what happens when you assume. Not that I want to be making an ass of anyone. I’m sure... what’s the name of this place again?”

“Shreveport.”

“I’m sure Shreveport is just lovely. And very cosmopolitan.”

“Hardly.”

Eric found himself not even bothering to cover up his bitterness. Nan Flanagan had made sure he was marginalized at every point.

“Then why are you there? Can’t you put in for a better place?”

“I think, Father Ted, that we’re very much in the same boat in many respects.”

Ted thought about this for a long time, his mouth opening and closing as he tried to voice his thoughts. He was looking like a befuddled goldfish, but Eric waited for him to finish processing. He found that his plans worked that much better when the humans thought that they’d come up with the idea.

“We’re both at the mercy of officious pricks,” Ted finally announced.

“Exactly.”

Eric beamed at his star pupil.

“If only we could do something about it,” moaned Ted, slumping against the couch so his head lolled over the back. “I don’t know how it is in Vampire World, but in the Catholic Church, once someone gets to be Bishop, it’s pretty much impossible to stop them.”

“I think we might be able to help each other,” said Eric.

“I’m not sure how much help I can be. I’m just a parish priest. I can hear your confession. Say a mass. Give you the last rites... although, I’m not sure, given that you’re technically dead, that I could even do that for you.”

“Last rites are unnecessary, at this point. But… you can bless water to create holy water, can’t you?”

“Yes, of course. Child’s play, that is.”

Eric explained his plan. Simple yet devious. Ted would bless a vial of holy water and put in a specially rigged box, addressed to Nan Flanagan. When she opened the package, it would explode in her face, scarring her grievously. She wouldn’t be able to act as the public face of vampires anymore – for a good long while, at least – and hopefully, her power would wane and she might even be replaced. Either way, she would have a tough time of it, which was good enough for Eric.

 

In return, Eric would do some digging and get some quality blackmail material on Bishop Brennan. After watching the man for a few hours, Eric had no doubt that the bishop’s weakness for the ladies had led him astray at some point in time, and probably often. It took Father Ted only 30 seconds to sign on to the plan. Eric sealed the deal with a handshake, then made his apologies and left. He was sure that somewhere on this island, a beautiful red-headed woman with translucent skin was waiting just for him.

---//---

“Anything else, Father?” asked Mrs. Doyle as she prepared for a trip to the shops.

“If you could just drop that package into the post and pick up anything that might be waiting for me there. I’m expecting an important package, so if you could check for it each day, I’d appreciate it.”

“Sure thing, Father. What’s in this? It feels heavy.”

“Just a spot of holy water, Mrs. Doyle. Nothing contraband or illegal,” assured Ted with a hearty laugh.

“Right so. Off I go then.”

At the post office, Mrs. Doyle was given a small green customs sticker to fill out. She dutifully wrote “Holy Water” as the contents of the package although she was flummoxed when it came time to assign a value. Surely holy water, of all things, was priceless.

About a week later, Mrs. Doyle picked up a package for Father Ted and brought it back to the parochial house. As was her habit, she opened the package, finding a video tape. She popped it into the VCR and made a mental note to tell Father Ted about it.

---//---

Dougal dashed into the sitting room just in time to hit the Record button on the VCR. Roy Keane was doing an interview and Dougal wanted to be able to watch it over again, because Roy Keane was a genius, on the pitch and off.

The interview was just wrapping up when Ted came in, so Dougal rewound the tape and played it back for him.

---//---

“Who’s for a nice spot of tea?” asked Mrs. Doyle.

“Me! Me!” announced Dougal, waving his hand like a schoolboy who had the right answer.

“Ah, so you found the video then,” said Mrs. Doyle as she poured a cup of tea.

“Video?” asked Ted.

“Yes, it was waiting in the post office this morning. I popped it in the old VCR for you, figuring you’d be keen to watch it. And look, it’s Roy Keane.”

“Dougal, did you just record again without checking the tape?”

“I had to, Ted. The interview was after getting started.”

Ted groaned as the phone rang. He got up to answer it, cursing Dougal and Mrs. Doyle. Any evidence that Eric had turned up was lost forever.

He answered the phone. “Father Ted Crilly speaking.”

“Father,” came a familiar and icy voice. “I understand that you’re exiled to the island of morons, but I didn’t expect that you were a moron yourself.”

“Excuse me?” asked Ted.

“Writing ‘holy water’ on the customs form for an exploding package rather defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?”

“I didn’t....oh, I see,” replied Ted, his heart sinking. “I see where that would be a problem.”

“You’re lucky she’s not transferring me to Kansas. And after the tape I sent to you. Your problems are over.”

“Yes, about that,” said Ted, sinking into a chair.

Why did these sorts of mix-ups always happen to him? It was a good thing that Craggy Island was lovely most times of year, since it was looking more and more likely that he would be there for the rest of his life.

Then again, that might turn out not to be such a long sentence if the Sherriff of Area Five ever decided to come back and exact a little vengeance for failing to deliver on his end of the bargain…

/fin