1926 (27 years earlier)
It was a stormy night in the middle of May. Thunder rumbled and threw waves high up against the shores and the cliffs, while lightning zigzagged across the sky. It had been brewing all day and Father Brown had been keeping an eye on it, waiting for the heat to break and the sky to fall. Mrs McCarthy put the kettle on and looked, concerned, out of the kitchen blind.
“This isn’t going to do St Mary’s roof any good, Father.” She’d said in her thick Irish accent.
“Perhaps I should go and check.” The priest replied, standing from the little table and joining her at the window. He ought to hurry down and lay buckets under leaky spots, but the rain is lashing down and he doesn’t entirely fancy the trip to the nearby building. Lightning darted across the sky while he looked out the window and debated, and, quite suddenly, with the thunder, another sound. A wail. A child’s wail.
The priest and the parish secretary looked at each other, wide eyed. The baby continued to cry, above the thunder, above the abrupt whistle of the kettle.
“Holy Mother, a child out in this weather.” Mrs McCarthy pushed passed Father Brown and hurried to the door. She pulled it open and gasped at the basket on the doorstep.
Another flash of lightning illuminated the contents; a baby, writhing and wailing, swaddled beneath a white blanket. A raindrop slapped onto the baby’s cheek. At once Mrs McCarthy picked up the basket and pulled it into the house, shutting the door behind her.
“Father.” She said, bustling quickly back into the kitchen and placing the basket on the table, “A child! Abandoned and in the rain no less!”
The child was still crying, flapping their arms, kicking their legs out from under the blanket, bare, wrinkly feet bursting out. Father Brown inspected the basket and found, tucked at the side, an envelope. He took it, unflapped the seal and pulled out the paper inside. He read;
“ This child is Sidney Carter. His mother has passed. Please take care of him. ”
“Does it say who from?!” Mrs McCarthy asked, lifting the child, still wrapped in the blanket, out of the wicker basket. She held him close to her chest and he relaxed at the warmth, quieting as the woman rocked him.
“No.” Father Brown replied, “Do we know any Carters?”
“Not in Kembleford as far as I’m aware.” Mrs McCarthy answered, “Poor thing.” she looked down at the child, “Such a tiny little boy.”
Lightning flashed, thunder growled. Sidney Carter began to cry again.