Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1) (21 page)

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
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Her ability to project her own thoughts came and went, but she felt his words clearly enough. The attacks had continued, although not as concentrated as the last. She was weak and getting weaker.

“This is going to be hard on you, my dear, but it’s for the best,” Moira said tenderly.

Julian resigned, nodded and braced himself for more pain.
“Moira?”
Julian thought
, “I’m sorry I failed you.”

The old woman rubbed her palms together slowly, reached out and set her right hand on Julian’s chest over his heart. He stiffened, arched his back in agony, and drew in a deep breath through his nose as the electric shock shot through him. His back arched again, the veins in his neck were distended and he let out a low cry of pain.

Ailís screamed, “Get away from him. Don’t you see what you’re doing?”

Julian settled back onto the bed still and stiff. He had felt a slight version of this once before when Bridget Bragonier, had touched him. The intensity had been nothing like this touch.

Ailís stood, knocking the chair backwards. Sean made no attempt to restrain her as she made a dash for the bed.

The doctor reached to push Moira Hagan away, but was silenced when Julian grasped her wrist gingerly. Sean Maher crossed himself, but took a step forward prepared to do battle with the witch if she hurt his friend again.

Julian seemed to go limp. His shoulders dropped and his head sank back onto the pillow. Moira took her hand away and Julian stopped panting and took a deeper first breath followed by another and another. These were not normal regular breaths, but they were better and Julian was grateful for the relief from pain.

“Now you two pull chairs up closer to the bed. We mustn’t ask our Julian to shout as he recounts what happened.”

“That isn’t necessary,” Ailís said angrily. “We must let him rest.”

“You’ll soon find out how necessary, girl,” the Hagan said with a bleak smile.

***

With eyes closed, Julian was led through each detail of his ordeal by the firm, even voice of his teacher. She told him that he was not experiencing the events he described but observing them and reporting what he saw. In a featureless voice, he was able to describe each blow and more. The details painted a horrifying picture, but one with clues.

“Two questions. The man you describe as the leader, how tall was he in relation to you?” Moira asked. “How did he feel to you, what was your sense of him?”

“Not tall, under five foot eight inches I guess,” Julian murmured as he concentrated not on the pain that still wracked his body, but on his attackers. “Thinking on it now, he felt dark and angry, but not with me. I was just a punching bag. He was angry with whoever ordered this.”

Moira Hagan motioned for Sean to ask the next question. “Was he right or left handed?”

“How would I know? He was hitting me with both hands,” Julian answered. “And it all hurt.”

“Keep him talking,” Moira mouthed to Sean and he nodded once.

“Which hand seemed to have the most power behind it, boyo?”

Julian thought hard and tried to picture the man’s stance. “Left-handed, he was left-handed. There was less force behind the punches from his right.”

The Hagan nodded to Ailís Dwyer who had no idea what question to ask or why. At last, she said, “What color was his hair?”

“Red. Dark red. Sorry, I should have mentioned it before. I wasn’t thinking,” Julian answered wearily.

The doctor probed further. “Any marks, scars, anything? You said he rolled his sleeves up before,” she swallowed hard, “before he began.”

Julian’s forehead furrowed in intense thought and then cleared and he attempted to smile. “A tattoo of a spider on the inside of his left wrist. I saw it when he pulled on his gloves. I should have mentioned that too. I’m not very good at this. I’m afraid I’m a bad policeman.”

Sean smiled evilly. The information Julian provided would make finding the leader easier, but not easy. The spider was a prison tattoo. It was a start. “Julian, lad,” Sean began. “You said they thought you were laughing at them. Why would they think that?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Julian said with what approximated to a smile. “That’s not true. It does matter a great deal, but it’s personal.” Sean and Ailís exchanged puzzled looks. Moira Hagan smiled slightly. He was unable to protect his thoughts and even in her condition, she read him easily.

They had taken him through it from beginning to end. Moira got up from her chair at the side of the bed. “Rest now, my boy. You did well. It is now for the three of us to put this puzzle together while you rest.” She bent over him and lovingly kissed his forehead.

Tears seeped from his eyes as he whispered, “I wasn’t ready. All your work and I failed you. I’m sorry.”

Moira kissed his cheek softly and a tear of her own mingled with his.

Ailís gave him an injection. Moira approached the doctor. “Stay with him. Ask him what he said that was personal. It will take you a few tries, but he’ll tell you, darlin’ and then you’ll know the truth of it. You’ll know it more clearly than you’ve ever known anything.”

Moira shook her head sadly as she looked at her student. Julian had thought of her even in his agony and how he had disappointed her. Moira whispered, “You don’t know how proud I am of you.” She closed the door softly behind her.

***

The door to Julian’s room opened a short time later and Ailís joined Moira in the hallway. The older woman looked at the doctor. The color had left Ailís’s face and she looked deeply troubled as she bit her lip and said, “What am I to do?”

Moira folded the doctor in her arms and Ailís Dwyer began to sob.

Chapter Twenty-five
 

The next morning the Hackett sisters and their apprentice arrived with satchels of potions and evil smelling ointments, plasters, and oddly colored poultices. After two hours, they finished and looked exceedingly pleased with themselves.

***

The room was dark when Julian awoke. The house was quiet as was the street outside. He could sense her nearby. He stretched out his fingers and could feel Ailís Dwyer’s soft chestnut hair. She was sitting beside his bed resting her head on the covers. Her even breathing told Julian she was asleep.

He gently stroked her hair and with that feeling, he fell away again.

***

For several days, Julian passed in and out of consciousness. Ailís entered his room as he was waking fully. She approached and simply stared at him. “Well,” she said grasping for something pleasant to say, “you look, well, festive.”

Julian couldn’t laugh. What didn’t hurt on his body was plastered over or otherwise bandaged. “Festive?” he asked.

“Well, yes, you look very festive. Believe me, that is important. It is far easier to treat people who are colorfully decorated.”

Julian tried to angle his good eye to see what she was talking about.

“It is much more difficult to deal with people who have simply been pulped to a natural black and blue state. No, you look much better in Technicolor.

“It can’t look as bad as it smells,” Julian said.

“I wouldn’t say that. You’ve not seen yourself,” she said and tried to smile. “You, of all people, should know there is a lot to the folk ways – and other ways – of Ireland.” She looked at him pointedly. “If it works, I’ll not argue. And, in truth, if it doesn’t work we’ve not lost anything. The Hacketts do what they do best and I do what I do best. We have a mutual understanding.”

“What do you mean, ‘of all people’?” Julian asked. “And what other ways?”

“Oh, people talk,” she hinted with a small smile.

“And when these people are talking what are they talking about?” Julian demanded. His tongue felt thick and his lips weren’t working all that well so his demand was only relative.

“What are you going to do? Threaten me if I don’t tell you? Are you going to jump out of that bed and come force the truth from me?” she asked making sure to keep out of reach. “Or is it your wizardry you’ll use on me? In any case you’ll not frighten me Julian Blessing,” she said and smiling mischievously, she sailed out of the room.

***

It had only been a few more days and already he was able to sit on the side of his bed. The swelling in his face and lips had gone down slightly and the deep black bruises had eased with a pale yellow cast. The cuts remained as angry reminders. Sutures had closed the deepest ones while butterfly bandages drew the skin together on the minor ones.

Ailís entered Julian’s room and smiled warmly when she saw him trying to get out of bed. “I’ll help you. Do you think you would be able to get dressed and take visitors tomorrow?” she asked.

Julian was quick with his answer. “Absolutely. I won’t even need much help if I have enough time and take it slowly.”

“So you’ve learned moderation, have you?”

“No, but pain has a way of reminding me that stupidity and excess will hurt like hell. Visitors? The police?”

Ailís looked at him in wonder. “You have lived among us for how long and still you know nothing a’tall. The police is it? Maybe in Dublin or some other big city and even then I doubt it. You are a genuine saint and the people of the valley and village will avenge the wrong that was done to you. The police can have what’s left,” she said in all seriousness.

“A saint? What are you talking about?”

“You honestly don’t know? You’ve not figured out your neighbors yet? For the love of God, you are a saint all right – the patron saint of eejits!

“I was going to let this wait ‘till tomorrow, but let me take a random sampling and show you what I mean,” Ailís said.

She tucked Julian back in bed and flew from the room. He could hear her moving through her house and down the stairs toward the street. The front door opened, closed, and opened again a short time later. Shoes shuffled down the hallway toward his room and Julian slid deeper under the covers awaiting whatever fate Ailís Dwyer was bringing his way.

The door opened, Ailís stuck her head in and asked, “Are you decent enough to meet decent people? “ Julian shook his head no. “Good, I knew you would be.”

She ushered in two pair of sturdy farm people. “Mr. Julian, let me introduce Mr. and Mrs. Clooney and James McGraw and his missus.” The strapping men nodded and their stalwart ladies made abbreviated curtsies. “Don’t be shy, gather round the sick bed and have your say. You’re the first of his visitors so don’t hold back,” Dr. Dwyer instructed.

“’Tis wonderful to see you alive, Mr. Julian. No one in the village or here about can stop talking about the wondrous things you’ve done,” said Mrs. Clooney.

“Wondrous? Why it was nothing short of a miracle!” chimed in Mrs. McGraw.

“Well, I don’t know if it t’wer either wondrous or a miracle like, but what I do know it was two men’s share you did that night,” added James McGraw.

“You saved us all and it is in your debt we are,” said Mr. Clooney and the others chorused their assent.

Julian stared at his visitors and the doctor. His eyes were large and his breathing labored. He was a monument to confusion. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you are talking about,” Julian said.

Dr. Dwyer smiled indulgently with her most professional doctor-smile and added, “You will understand there is much about that night that is still a little hazy to him what with the nasty business and all.”

“Ay, nasty business it was and it is a nasty and dark business that will be visited on them that raised a hand to you, yor honor.”

“True, true,” the visitors chorused.

The doctor said to the group, “We musn’t tax our poor Mr. Julian so if you would like to speak your minds…”

“’Tis tired he’s getting and we with our gobs flappin’,” Mr. Clooney said. “Say it plain for us all, James.”

James McGraw took a step forward, straightened himself, threw out his chest and hooked his thumbs in his waistband. He cleared his throat as though he was about to address Parliament.

“Mr. Julian, it is proud we are to have you with us. You single handed saved the life of our dear old parish priest, Father Fahey, and took a beatin’ for your kindness, but without thought for your fine self you saved our church by throwin’ your bleedin’ and broken body on the flames them godless hooligans left behind themselves.

“For this we thank you and will forever be in your debt. You’ll not be forgot for what you’ve done and thems that injured you will not be forgiven.”

“Well said, well said,” the chorus echoed and there were many congratulatory handshakes and slaps on the back among the visitors.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Ailís said. “We must now let Mr. Julian get his rest. He must be fully rested, for one never knows when God will place another test in his path.” The doctor grinned and stuck her tongue out at Julian.

Ailís Dwyer saw the group out and returned to Julian’s room with a self-satisfied look on her face. “No more random sampling could possibly be found. I picked the first group of people I saw on the street and dragged them in.”

“But they’re wrong. That isn’t the way it happened. It was nothing like that,” Julian sputtered. “And you know it.”

“No? Well you are going to have the opportunity to convince the entire population hereabout of the error of their ways. Mind you, they will only see you as being modest – as befits any good saint. You’ll never change their minds, so accept your fate.

She continued. “Sadly, you have no choice now but to live up to their expectations and that won’t be hard since nearly everything you do from here on out, no matter how loony, will be ascribed some divine origin,” she arched an eyebrow and added, “even your extracurricular activities.” She got up, arranged his blanket and started for the door. “Pleasant dreams – St. Julian,” she said and her laughter echoed down the hallway.

***

By the end of the week, Cappel Vale’s saint was put on display in the parlor everyday between nine o’clock and ten, and the faithful queued up in an orderly fashion to pay their respects.

At first Julian tried to explain that far from being a saint he was an unfortunate casualty of circumstances. He attempted to tell the faithful that he had actually acquitted himself very poorly as witnessed by the yellowing bruises on his face. He endeavored to instruct his visitors that rather than save the church and its pastor he had actually brought this trouble on them. His reasoning was, if he overstated by one hundred percent and people discounted half of it, they would be near the truth. Julian’s reasoning, of course, was wrong.

Like people of faith the world over, his protestations only fueled a more fervent belief. They put it down to the humility and modesty that one could ascribe to any of God’s anointed. In the end, he gave up trying to change minds and resigned himself to a neutral expression with the occasional shy smile and gentle word.

Dr. Dwyer was right. He needed to accept his fate. In being right, she exercised what Julian told her was an exceedingly unattractive smugness that did not became her profession, her nationality and her sex. His characterization of her only elicited wall-shuddering laughter from Ailís.

Julian even tried to extract the help of Father Fahey. He begged the old priest to read out from the pulpit what Julian saw as the actual sequence of events. In this, he was to be stymied. The priest’s recollection was hazy at best and what he did remember tended to support the view of Julian-as-champion rather than Julian’s view of himself as a hapless crime statistic.

Otherwise, the days progressed with painful slowness. With each, Julian ached a little less. Each day the swelling and bruising faded a little more. Each day he found moving a little easier. And each day he felt Ailís become more distant. For this last, he had no explanation.

True, Julian wasn’t the perfect patient, but he tried to follow her directions and he found that she was becoming more stern with him the harder he tried. It seemed to him that with each advance in his physical condition, each improvement in his strength, Ailís became more cross with him.

He couldn’t understand her attitude and attributed it to his inability to understand women in general. In the end, he returned to the notion it was something he was doing or saying. That was the easiest answer. He was very far off the mark. The easy answers are often the wrong answers.

***

“You’re disappointed in me, huh?” Julian asked Moira Hagan as she visited him one afternoon toward the end of a week filled with the visitations from the faithful and Julian’s discovery that he wasn’t indestructible.

“Disappointed? Why ever would I be disappointed?” she answered.

“After all the time you’ve invested in me it seems to have done no good at all. I should have known I was not alone with Father Fahey in the church. I could have felt it if I had focused on my entire surroundings rather than just a small portion. I should have been able to take myself out of the situation by using my advantages.

“Instead I reverted to being the idiot I was when I arrived. It was as if you had told me nothing, as if I had learned nothing. I made a hash of things from beginning to end and I’m sorry I failed you.”

“Failed me, do you say?” The Hagan smiled, cocked her head to one side and suddenly Julian’s mind was filled with her words. Her ability to use this talent was unpredictable.

“No, you didn’t arrive at the church soon enough to save that old fool of a priest from getting a lump on his pate – that he doubtless deserved. No, you did not detect what must have been an impressively ugly presence put out by your attackers. No, you didn’t keep them from attempting to set fire to the place. No, you didn’t use the talents you’ve developed to turn the situation to advantage. No, you didn’t capture the evildoers.

“And no, you did not disappoint me. You were concerned for that priest – although why you should have been, I will never know. He has a head made entirely of granite and the thumping he received has made him the object of substantial sympathy, which he will use to get invited to untold free meals while causing his collection plate to be just a little heavier.

“According to Sean Maher, the men who beat you were cunning in the way they went about their job of work. By the time they started in on you, it was already too late for you to collect yourself. In the end, you made the dual choices of getting help for the priest and putting out the fire rather than let Sean go after your assailants.

“On the whole, you made more right choices than wrong ones.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. What happened, happened. Learn from it and prepare for the next onslaught – for there will be one – on that you may depend, laddie and the consequences may be dire.

“What, nothing to say?”

“No,” Julian said out loud.

***

Late that night Ailís looked in on Julian as he slept. He looked better. His color was returning and much of the swelling was down. She approached his bed. Extending her hand, she touched his lips with her fingertips. Her touch was as soft and tender as his kisses had been.

Reaching up she brushed hair off his forehead, then her fingers traced the deep scar on his cheek she knew was under the bandage. The last time she had changed the dressing it had looked better but was still livid.

Ailís Dwyer the doctor, looked at Julian and in assessing his condition had reason for optimism.

Ailís Dwyer the woman looked at this man, this man with the soft, gray eyes and the sensuous lips. She looked at this man with the gentle touch and a tenderness she had not known before and whispered, “I am sorry – for both of us, more sorry than you will ever know.”

She leaned down and kissed his forehead as a tear rolled down her cheek onto his.

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
3.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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