Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
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“Until you do know something, let’s play it this way. If I tell you a thing – take it as read. If I say there are dragons, there are dragons. If I tell you, you have a task, then a task you have. If I mention warlocks, magicians, soothsayers, alchemists, sorcerers or, yes, knights-errant – not likely I would of course – but you are to believe. If I tell you Brian Boru and the Queen of England popped in to see you while you were away, you will only say, ‘Oh, what did they want?’ Do we have an understanding?”

Julian didn’t understand, but she was right. He had made a start at understanding. Stretched out across the valley were plots of farmland separated by low stone walls. Sturdy men in each field harvested their crops.

It was all farmland from one side of the valley to the other and from end to end. It had been this way for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.

There was no lake, no pastureland, no cattle or sheep, no stand of trees.

There never had been.

Chapter Eleven
 

The days in Cappel Vale settled into a pleasant routine. The weather remained clement and the people of the village, with some trepidation, accepted Sean Maher and Julian Blessing as their police force.

There was the Case of the Missing Sheep, but that turned out to be nothing more than a drunken shepherd and his lazy dogs allowing the flock of sheep to wonder into the rocky, thickly forested area just north of Cappel Vale.

O’Gavagan’s Fight began as an interesting case, but quickly evaporated when Sean Maher arrived, hung up his coat, stood in the middle of the pub and wordlessly started to roll up his shirt sleeves as he whistled a happy tune. Everyone suddenly became the best of friends and remained that way for the remainder of the evening.

The Digging had to be put into the unsolved case file though. It was the thing everyone in the valley and the village talked about in whispers.

A local farmer, George Sullivan, had sent for Julian and Sean. George had given them some Wellington boots and walked them to a field some distance from the farm buildings. The land rose sharply on each side of the field leaving a rich level bowl of land in the center.

On one side of the field, behind a small stand of ancient trees where the land arched away from the level plain, the hillside had been deeply scarred. There was evidence of heavy boots in the soft ground and pick and shovel marks gouged deeply into the hillside.

The area wasn’t large, perhaps only twenty feet long, but it sheared the hillside showing clearly the different strata of earth that had settled over millennia.

Julian and Sean were not the first on the scene. The farmer had found the dig and notified Father Fahey. He and Sister Eugenia had looked over the site and came to no conclusion. Next, Dr. Dwyer had been called. She too declared the unexplained digging a mystery suggesting it might just be children having some harmless fun, but even she didn’t believe that. That pretty much took care of Cappel Vale’s intelligentsia. Farmer Sullivan thought there would be no harm in calling in the two new policemen to stomp around the crime scene.

“Digging peat to sell in the village?” Julian asked Sean.

“Don’t be daft.”

“Why dig like this then?” Julian asked.

“It makes no sense,” Sean said. Still, there had to be a reason. The problem niggled at Julian and, reminiscent of his dog-with-a-bone days in New York, he knew he wouldn’t let it go.

They all made their way back to George Sullivan’s barn and choked down a jar of home brewed poitin.

Sean and the farmer had a lively discussion where each called into question the ancestry of the other. They moved on to a debate about whether the product was “Potcheen,” “Poteen” or “Poitin.” They were able to agree on a number of basic facts. First of all, they all needed another jar. Secondly, the product was at least 90 proof.

Next, poitin had been outlawed since the 16
th
century which was a slight against God perpetrated by the Godless British and, finally, that this discussion should be taken up again when they had more time to devote to the scholarly study of strong drink.

Julian declared they could have his share as the concoction had singed the hair out of his nose, burned his throat and landed with a thud, the concussion from which promised turn him inside out. Potent stuff was George Sullivan’s poitin.

After very little thought, it was decided Sean and the farmer should reconvene soon and that Julian would be excused. The motion carried unanimously and the meeting was adjourned. The farmer came away from the encounter with the thought that the police were not such bad sorts. Sean had developed a deep and abiding brotherliness for all men and Julian knew that, although momentarily happy, if he didn’t lay down soon he would probably die standing up which could be awkward.

On the edge of a farmer’s field behind a stand of ancient oaks a scar still exposed the earth and no one was any nearer to finding out why.

***

Returning to the police station, Julian found Brendan Maher and Timothy Dwyer sitting on the front stoop. Between them sat a very tired young dog.

“Well, gentlemen, what kind of animal do we have here?”

Brendan stuttered, “She’s a d-d-dog” and smiled. Timothy explained Brendan had traded one of the local cattlemen a week’s labor for one of the farmer’s dogs and Timothy had brokered the deal. Having just come from the farmer, the boys and the dog were tired.

Julian went inside and invited the boys and their companion to follow. He sat them down around the big desk and laid out some Irish tea cookies one of the local women had baked, and gave the boys large tumblers of milk.

He then poured water into a shallow bowl and set it before Brendan’s dog who immediately stood in the bowl and lapped the water noisily until she could take no more onboard. She then stepped out of the water bowl and settled herself between Brendan’s feet.

The boys were ravenous and had managed to make a fair dent in the cookies before Julian said, “Brendan, that is a very fine dog and you will, I know, take good care of her.”

“I-I-I will, Mr. Julian. I will.” Brendan had adopted his mother’s habit of calling Julian ‘Mr. Julian’. It was easier for Brendan to say too.

“Timothy, if you would please give your mother my regards.”

“Aye, sor. That I will,” Timothy said and smiled mischievously.

They left it at that. The boys walked up the street with a very contented dog trotting beside her new best friend, Brendan Maher.

***

For the most part, the nights had been so pleasant for his entire stay in Cappel Vale that Julian had moved the rocking chairs from their place before the fireplace to just outside the front door. He and Sean would sit and rock. Sometimes a passerby would stop for a chat.

Tonight Julian sat alone and reviewed all that had happened during his brief stay. His encounter when overlooking the valley with the Hagan had shaken him. She had met with him several times since and while some things were brought into the light many more remained deeply in the shadows.

The second time he and the Hagan met, he demanded, “How did you do that?” Her answer was quick and hard. “Apparently, where you come from, petulance is tolerated. I can tell you I simply will not wear it. Here you ask questions. You do not demand answers!”

Julian took a deep breath. “You are right. That was rude of me.”

“And petulant,” the Hagan added.

“Yes, and petulant.”

“And insolent and pig headed and stupid,” she chimed in.

“Alright, yes those things too.” This was making him out of sorts.

“What things?” the Hagan said sweetly.

Julian took a deep breath, squared his shoulders and with the taste of gall in his mouth said, “And insolent, pig headed and stupid. Alright? Anything else? Hmmmmm?”

“If I think of anything I’ll be sure to tell you. Now what was it you were asking?”

Julian’s words came out one at a time. He felt to do otherwise would inevitably lead to his strangling this woman. “Please. Tell. Me. How. You. Did. That.”

“Did what?” Moira Hagan sad flatly then cackled wildly.

Julian felt his head would explode.

The Hagan was breathless and said, “Oh, my, I’ve not had this much fun in dog years. I’ll be thanking ya for that.”

Julian was able to eek out through clenched teeth a strangled, “My. Pleasure.”

The Hagan went on to explain, “Oh, that business at the stone wall? Nothing much to it really. I wanted to show you how easy it is to swallow a lie. I pointed and you filled in the rest. I put a suggestion or two out among your thoughts and from there, you saw what you wanted to see.

“Oh, there was a bit of stagecraft, but I just gave you the paints and the canvass. You painted the picture yourself. That you were not seeing what was really there was plain enough. Nobody looks at a bunch of squalid dirt farms and grins like you did.

“I know you are all atwitter to learn how to be a wizard, but trust me, my young eejit, being a wizard is not in the cards for you. This isn’t magic spells and cauldrons. Here, you use your mind to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

“Now, back to the subject. The thought I let loose in your empty noggin was the easiest way I knew. I took the easy way because you are more than a little dim and timid.”

Julian was incensed. The old woman was baiting him. He knew better but he couldn’t stop himself. “A little dim! Timid! I just want you to know…”

The Hagan shot back. “You want me to know what exactly? What is it you think you can tell me about anything that matters? Don’t be looking daggers at me, little man. I said you’re dim and timid and so you are. I told you I took the easy way with you and so I did. Let me tell you a little something,” she said as she gathered steam.

“Had I taken an active role in the vision you created for yourself of the valley, it would not have been a pretty picture you painted. I could easily have planted in that thing you call a brain your worst fears. Believe me boyo, I could have had you runnin’ away like a little girl. Pay attention when I tell you, an image could have easily been put inside that empty skull of yours that would have rendered you barking mad for the remainder of your days.”

Julian took a number of deep breaths. Each reinforced the certainty that there would be no winning. “So,” he said. “No wizard stuff.”

“Not for you.” Moira snorted and hid her smile.

***

A few lessons later, he asked Moira Hagan to explain something to him. Julian approached the subject with trepidation. He had been experiencing something and it made him uncomfortable.

“I feel unbelievably stupid saying this. I’ve never felt this before, but I’m getting a sense of people. I wish I had the words to explain. It’s as though I can feel them or sense them somehow. Not everyone but some and some more than others. And the list is growing.

“I’ll give you an example. I was sitting in the station reading last week. I put my book down, walked over and opened the door. Then I put a pot on to boil. I picked up my book again, sat down and said, “Good morning Sean. Water will be ready for tea in a minute or so. I looked up and Sean was standing in the doorway. I don’t know who was more shocked him or me.”

Julian continued and the Hagan didn’t try to explain, but let him go on. “The next day I was walking toward St. Michael’s. I stopped under the big elm tree near the Hackett sisters’ place. I don’t know why, but I just said, ‘Jamie Purcell, you be careful up there. Your mother will be angry if you fall out of that tree.’

“Jamie climbed down and stood and stared at me before he took off home at a dead run. I hadn’t seen or heard him, but I could sense that he was there. This is so frustrating. I don’t have the words to make this make any sense.

“For Christ’s sake this is the twenty first century. I’m a sophisticated man, well read and world traveled. I’m not supposed to be saying this stuff.”

With patience and care, Moira explained how what he was sensing was tied directly to what she had been teaching him. His questions and her explanations lasted well into the night.

For Julian the shadows were being pushed back slowly. Understanding was taking the place of conjecture.

***

He sat on the station stoop in his rocker. He didn’t see her, but suddenly and inexplicably he said, “Good evening, Doctor. I don’t often see you out at night.” A moment later Julian saw Dr. Dwyer approach from the heart of the village. Her usual brisk pace had been left behind somewhere and she walked with a slow, stiff gait.

The doctor stopped at the foot of the police station’s flagstone walk. She looked puzzled for a moment then shrugged and said, “I just finished with my last patient. I needed to get out.”

Julian stood at her approach and indicated Sean’s usual chair. She canted her head to one side and looked at the rocker with real longing. She eased into it and let out a contented sigh.

The doctor turned her head and looked at Julian. “How are you getting on, Mr. Blessing?”

“I have no doubt you could answer that a fair bit better than I could,” he said. “I’m sure the villagers think I’m crazy. For my part though, I am enjoying myself, learning a great deal and find myself baffled most of the time.”

The doctor chuckled, “I wouldn’t let that bother you. If you weren’t baffled, you wouldn’t be in Ireland. There is something else that might help you. Ireland is populated almost exclusively by lunatics. Don’t worry, they don’t think you’re crazy.” She reached out and absent-mindedly touched the cuff of his shirt. She bit her lip trying to suppress her curiosity. Who and what he was had plagued her thoughts since he arrived. She remembered Moira Hagan rifling through Julian’s things.

“Why do I have the feeling you’re not telling me everything. If not crazy, then what?” he asked as he watched her.

In a distracted and matter-of-fact tone she said, “They consider you to be pleasantly strange, that’s all. This is lovely material.” She touched his cuff a last time and slowly put her hand back on the arm of her rocker.

“Well, thank you. These shirts were the only things I kept from my former life. I was,” he thought a moment then continued, “I was in an industry that required such things. These were just part of the uniform. Still, I liked them so I hung on to them.”

Ailís Dwyer said, “They fit you very well.” That was what she meant, but it isn’t what she intended to say. She blanched and tried to cover her forwardness by smiling pleasantly. She continued to look appreciatively at his shirtsleeve while she formulated a distracting follow up question.

“You know it’s strange,” said Julian interrupting the doctor’s thoughts. “Strange or odd, I really don’t know which, but my shirts seem to be a rather hot topic. Mrs. Hagan asked about them too,” he said simply. “Yes, she wanted to know all kinds of details.”

The doctor swallowed hard. Her eyes followed his sleeve over his shoulder to his collar. Hesitantly she raised her glance still higher and found the last thing she wanted to find. He was staring at her and his look was enigmatic. His pale silver eyes were penetrating and unrelenting. She smiled as innocently as only a guilty woman could smile.

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
5.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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