Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1) (6 page)

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
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Chapter Seven
 

“You!”

From a sound sleep, Julian bolted out of his chair. The fire had gone out and the room was chilled and now occupied by a woman who seemed intent on ruining his day.

“You!” she spat out again.

Standing at the door was a woman of middle height, slim and in her early thirties with soft chestnut colored hair. She was dressed out of character for the village in dark slacks and a tan silk blouse.

“Attractive if she weren’t breathing fire,” Julian thought as his mind began slowly gathering data and his other senses came online.

The woman was framed in the doorway as bright sunshine washed in behind her. The force of her personality struck Julian of course, but there was something else. She seemed decisive, professional and accustomed to making hard decisions quickly.

There was nothing pretentious or squeamish about her though her femininity was undeniable. Nerve impulses fired throughout his brain at breakneck speed, encapsulating his observations in less than a second.

For reasons he could not explain, Julian found himself thinking about this young woman in ways wholly inappropriate to the situation. He could not remember ever having been drawn to a woman so spontaneously – or so stupidly. He tried to will himself to concentrate but it wasn’t working all that well.

“Are you deaf or just an eejit? And don’t you be glarin’ at me or it is sorry I’ll make you,” the young woman barked at him and took a step closer.

Her accent was different from that of the villagers. The one point of commonality between the Hagan, this woman and no doubt the villagers at large was their liberal use of the word eejit in conjunction with the name Julian Blessing.

“I’m sorry, how can I help you?” Julian tried to ask in a reasonable tone, although his voice sounded thick and gravelly. The room felt like it was getting stuffy and confined. He was as hot as a mouse in a wool sock.

“‘How can I help you’, is it? I’ll tell you how you can help me. You can stop trying to seriously maim the children of this village. You are responsible for the grievous bodily injury of a young boy. Do you know Jimmy Grogan? Well, you nearly killed him you stupid man!”

“What are you talking about?

He continued with an edge to his voice that he did not intend, “I met Jimmy last night at O’Gavagan’s. I never even spoke to him.” Julian had no idea who this woman was – a relative perhaps? A teacher? He had no idea what she was talking about. He had no idea of how he had nearly killed anyone. He was fresh out of ideas.

“You gave Jimmy Grogan a deadly weapon and he managed to nearly sever two of his fingers. He could have bled to death if someone hadn’t found him. It is that kind of thoughtlessness and stupidity that infuriates me.”

“Deadly weapon? I gave Jimmy a little money for starting a fire here. What deadly weapon? Please start from the beginning. I really don’t know what you are talking about.”

The woman’s features hardened from simple anger to deadly fury. Her hazel eyes turned pitiless as they narrowed. She took a step further into the police station as she shouted, “You gave Jimmy Grogan a bloody great knife and he damned near cut a couple of his digits off you immense fool! How many times do I have to say this?”

The conversation with the Mayor the night before raced through Julian’s head. He moved quickly to the desk, snatched up his duffle bag and emptied the contents of the bag onto the desktop. With eyes and hands, he quickly inventoried the contents. The Swiss Army Knife was missing.

The woman in the doorway watched as a slow comprehension inched its way into her mind. It was too late now to turn back. She was nearly certain she had made a mistake, but there was nothing to do but to see how it played out.

“Listen,” Julian said, “the Mayor sent Jimmy over here last night to get a fire going. Mayor Cahill told me to look through my things, as Jimmy was known to, well, borrow items from time to time. I did take a quick look around and I honestly didn’t notice the knife was missing. Even if I had, I don’t know that there was anything I could have done.”

Julian made a gesture of haplessness. “Where is he? I’ll just wash up some and go see him right now,” Julian continued. “Maybe we can take him to a local hospital where he can get the right kind of care.”

“Not another step will you take,” she stated with force, but the fire was gone. Still, something he said rankled. She could see it all clearly now though. Jimmy had stolen the knife. It was just the sort of thing he would do and had done many times and probably would do all his life.

She looked at the target of her rage. He was perspiring and seemed short of breath. She noted that and intensified her examination.

She saw a tall man with dark hair shot with gray at the temples. His deep set eyes were a silvery blue tending toward gray, warm and kind. He seemed the sort of man one could confide in and who could be trusted to keep confidences. She noticed his high cheekbones, straight strong jaw and sensuous lips.

She was near enough to see that when he gestured his hands were strong and expressive. The woman felt a long forgotten warmth wash over her as her gaze continued to take him in.

She shouted silently to herself, “What in the name of God do you think you’re doing? You must be mad. These are not the thoughts to be having now of all times.”

Julian’s visitor said with less intensity than before, “You will keep your distance from him and I shall advise every family in this village to keep their children away from you.” This last was added for effect. She had no intention of following through on the threat, but she’d reached a point where there was no graceful way of extricating herself.

This stranger was innocent of all the things of which she had just accused him. She knew it and she was pretty sure by now he knew it too. Still, he wasn’t innocent of everything and judging by the shortness of her own breath, she wasn’t either.

She walked to the station’s wooden desk. The knife was in her hand and the blade open. She buried the tip of the blade in the desktop, turned, and strode through the doorway slamming the door behind her. She felt mortified as she walked down the fieldstones and into the street. She decided since Jimmy Grogan hadn’t died of his wounds she would kill him for putting her in this awkward position

***

Julian studied the closed door and wondered what had just happened. He reflected, “A bit volatile but damned attractive. Even an eejit can see that,” and he exhaled heavily remembering he had sworn off women forever – for the time being. “Time for a cold shower or to go for a walk,” he said aloud.

***

More than anything, Julian wanted to know if the woman in the doorway would make good on her threat. At any moment, he expected mothers to rush their children indoors at his approach.

It didn’t happen. A sizable number of young children followed him at a discreet distance. Not as discreet as yesterday, but still an acceptable distance.

Father Fahey met Julian along the way, greeted him warmly, and walked with him up the main road and through the warren of cottages.

“Jimmy Grogan was injured last night,” Julian said flatly.

“So Oi understand. He stole the knife and hurt himself foolin’ around with it. There t’wasn’t anything you could have done. Doctor Dwyer stitched him up and now we have to wait and see if there will be any nerve damage.

“Still, I shouldn’t worry, Jimmy has nerves of steel and will be back to his thievin’ ways before long,” the priest said as he gave Julian a sidelong look. Father Fahey’s blackthorn walking stick matched his pace perfectly as it struck the ground precisely at every third step.

“Don’t you think it would be worthwhile taking Jimmy to a town with a hospital and top notch surgeons?” It was a mistake and he knew it as it left his mouth. He had said this to the woman who had been breathing fire in the police station. This time it sounded much worse.

Father Fahey cocked his head to one side and said, “Do you want your head handed to you boyo? If anyone in this village but me heard you say that, your teeth would be on the ground about now.

“Dr. Dwyer is like a saint to these people and they will not hear a word otherwise.”

“I am sorry, Father. I meant no disrespect.”

Before he could finish, Father Fahey cut in, “Oi know what you meant. You wanted the best for Jimmy, as do we all. What we know and you don’t is that he has the best right now. Dr. Dwyer is top notch. There is not a hospital in all of Ireland, and a few outside too, that have not tried to add our good doctor to their staff. A finer physician and a finer person you will never meet.”

“I’m sure that is true and I look forward to meeting the doctor. I’m sure he is an excellent physician.” As Julian said this he glanced at the priest and noticed an odd, nearly cunning look about him, but having impugned the reputation of the village doctor, he didn’t feel it would be wise to go looking for other hot buttons to press.

The two men continued to walk slowly through the village. Children would, from time to time, run up to the old priest and grab his cassock so that they could have their hair tousled by him or a cheek pinched.

Julian encouraged the priest to talk about Cappel Vale and its citizens. It was with melancholy and pride that he obliged.

“The village is dying. Farming and livestock here have been a way of life for many hundreds of years, but that is all changing. Cattle, sheep, crops and pigs are all expensive ventures and lack the lure of technology.

“The young people want to get away from here and the sooner the better. Many of these farms have been passed from father to son since time out of mind. Those days are finished now, I’m afraid.”

“There is nothing to be done? There is always something,” Julian said gently.

“Oi believe you are a kind man, Mr. Blessing, otherwise you would not ask a question you knew the answer to as clearly as I do. You did it politely and it did buoy my spirits for a moment, but sadly, the village of Cappel Vale will soon be no more.

“There simply is nothing to sustain it. But there’s more. The people here are troubled in their minds. They all know the village will fall away soon enough, but that process is being hurried along.”

“What do you mean?” Julian asked and concern etched his face.

“We’ve had a sudden spike in crime and some of it violent. Unusual for this part of Ireland. Acts of vandalism, mysterious digging in the area no one seems to understand. We’ve had a couple of rather vicious assaults and something else, but…” The priest considered.

“But?”

“Ach, it makes no difference to a man who is only visiting now does it? No matter, it will pass in time. All things do.”

The priest talked of people he knew as no one else knew them. He talked of the gentle and the dull, the bright and the bold, the angry and the agreeable. There was no one in the village who could escape his acquaintance. With real warmth and depth of feeling, the priest painted a picture in broad strokes of the inhabitants of his portion of Ireland.

He talked of his early days, those he knew then and of those whose graves he tended now. He spoke of the living and the dead in a way only one who approaches life from the spiritual viewpoint can do.

All the time, Julian knew no real secrets were being given away. Everything he was being told was common knowledge. No violation of the confessional seal would take place today and Julian knew it never would. Secrets, real secrets, were safe with Father Fahey. Julian felt for the first time in his life he was talking with someone who could be trusted.

Julian was walking beside an old priest for whom trust was his world. He was no innocent though. Father Fahey knew people. Through his faith, he knew that people were at once frail and strong, dauntless and timid, calculating and innocent. He knew people and he managed with equanimity to love them all.

Julian asked about the woman who had accused him of giving Jimmy Grogan the knife, but received little information. A widow with a son who came from Dublin was all the priest would say.

“Tell me about the Hagan,” Julian said and watched as a shiver passed through the priest.

“She is a witch of course, but then everyone knows that. If they didn’t, the poor woman would be posting a signboard outside her door stating the fact. They say she practices the old religion and has the knowledge and powers that entails.

“Although Oi’ve never been able to confirm it, Oi believe she comes from one of the ancient families of Ireland. There’ll be no ‘Ach’ and ‘Oi’ coming from one of those. She is frighteningly intelligent and well bred. She does everything in her power to hide it from view, but that kind of mind is impossible to hide – except in a place like this.” The priest raised his eyebrows and smiled.

“Here there is almost no distance a’tall between a nimble mind and magic. We are funny that way.”

“She knows things? Has powers?” Julian prompted and his eyes narrowed in concentration. He knew someone else like that. He would not have attached the title witch to Bridget Bragonier though. He would not have associated her with ancient religions either. “The Hagan,” he thought to himself. “She fits the bill to a tee, I just haven’t seen her caldron yet – but Bridget?” Things were falling into place in ways he did not want them to fall at all.

“Oh, know things she does. Oi wouldn’t go so far as to say she predicts a thing will happen, but at some basic level, she simply knows it will. Oi have watched her from time to time as Oi watch any of my little flock. It isn’t as though she ‘sees’ things either. Oi don’t know what to call it really. The villagers say ’tis the Darna Shealladh. Oi don’t hold with such things meself.”

“You mean Second Sight,” Julian said and knew instantly he had made another misstep.

The priest’s face was darkened in deep concentration. “Mr. Blessing, Oi find it passing curious a man like you would know a thing like that.” The priest’s eyes were narrow and penetrating as he looked up into Julian’s face.

“Oh,” Julian began to back peddle. “I talked to a man once who knew something about it. I’ve probably also seen some mention of it in a book or brochure or something.” Julian held his breath to see how far that explanation would get him. “Note to self – admitting to any knowledge of Second Sight is a distinctly bad idea you eejit. Admitting to knowledge of anything else doesn’t seem to be working well for you either,” Julian thought to himself.

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
13.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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