Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1) (7 page)

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
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Sarcasm dripped as Father Fahey said, “Or something, Mr. Blessing? Would that be the best you can do? Oi’ve been after hearin’ confession for more years then you have teeth. You don’t think Oi know when someone like your good self is being economical with the truth? Oi tell you, sor, you will have to improve mightily. Oi know school children that can out-lie you.

“No matter, that is something we’ll discuss during your confession. Hopefully, you’ll have concocted better lies by then. Still, we were talking about Moira Hagan.

“When something comes to her she is simply there – so they say. She doesn’t see it happening; she is there while it is happening. Past or future, it seems to make no difference. Often times she comes away with fragments and nothing more. Other times she is able to produce details with alarming accuracy.

“The people of the village go to her. She is a witch for all seasons if you don’t mind me bending that phrase. Sometimes they come so that she can find a missing sheep or to see who stole a goat. Sometimes they bring their children to her to be frightened.

“It’s true. People need to be frightened from time to time. Sometimes they come to her for things they believe are too big or too small for Dr. Dwyer to deal with or meself or our school principal, Sister Eugenia, for that matter.

“The Hagan heals too – at least that is what the local people believe. Still, there is more to her than that. Oi don’t know what it is and Oi don’t want to know. The people here about believe, no, they know, she protects this valley. This troubles me and has for many years.”

“But you don’t believe in her ability?” This was an important conversation to Julian and he had to keep it going.

“She practices, as Oi said, the old religion and because of it, God has a soft spot in His heart for her.”

Julian looked surprised.

“Do Oi believe? Oi believe she is here and there is no shakin’ her loose. Oi believe she does good work in her own way, but that she has a robust dislike of Holy Mother the Church in general and priests in particular there is no doubt. Oi believe that God loves her as he loves all of us. Is there more in which Oi need to believe?” Father Fahey shrugged.

Very little additional information emerged and Julian was left with unanswered questions. By noon, the men found themselves in front of the police station again having toured the entire village twice.

“I would offer you tea, Father, but I’ve not laid in any supplies. I have many other questions,” Julian said.

The priest smiled warmly, “Oi’ll give you time to settle in and the next time Oi’m in the area Oi’ll stop by for a visit and we can talk. But please, something a wee bit stronger than tea would be called for. Conversation is thirsty work.” The corners of his eyes crinkled with mischief and Father Fahey continued down the main road and back toward St Michael’s.

Julian sat in one of the rocking chairs and stared into the cold fireplace. His thoughts drifted and soon he was recounting all the firsts that had occurred during his day in Cappel Vale.

“First witch who may be more or not. First Lord Mayor. First time at facilitating a young man nearly cutting off some of his fingers. First time yelled at by an exceedingly pretty and exceedingly strange and angry woman. First time being followed by herds of children. First time being chastised by a priest for denigrating a village doctor,” Julian thought.

“Overall,” he thought, “things could be worse.” He didn’t doubt there would be more firsts but he hoped they would be better firsts.

***

When the door of the police station burst open, he was seated at the Desk Sergeant’s desk studying his map.

“Sor, the Mayor says for you to come quick!” a ten-year-old boy shouted from the threshold.

“Why?” Julian asked.

“No time, sor. Just come quick to Mulherin’s Pub! There’s to be trouble with Sean Maher. He is with drink taken. The Mayor says you’re the only man who isn’t out in the field, and he needs all the help he can get. Besides you’re the police.” The clearly thrilled boy had gone at a run back up the street. Julian pushed back from the desk and picked up speed as he reached the road and followed the little boy to Mulherin’s Pub.

Chapter Eight
 

A swarm of women and children had gathered and were peering in the windows of Francis Mulherin’s establishment. The front door hung by its hinges at a sharp angle. Julian worked his way through the crowd and stood in the doorway.

A huge man stood against the bar and shouted, “So, ya little toad, you’ve called a filthy police constable!” as he pointed at Julian.

“Now Sean Maher,” the Mayor began, “There is no need to be testy.” Mayor Cahill was at the opposite end of the bar and gave Julian a beseeching look.

“I’m not from the police, Mr. Maher. I’m just a visitor,” Julian said and with a remarkable grasp of the obvious noted the larger man was slightly drunk and built much like a rhinoceros. Even Julian, with only his book-learning knowledge of the natural world, understood an ever so slightly drunk rhinoceros was a very dangerous animal indeed.

“No, Sean. Mr. Blessing is the police. Don’t listen to his denials. He is but a modest man. He lives in the police station as you well know…” The Mayor was cut short by simultaneous glares from Sean Maher and Julian Blessing. Their looks were filled with equal parts rage and disgust. The Mayor looked to Julian with deep pleading, but found little sympathy.

In the low, nearly inaudible voice he saved for business negotiations that had reached a delicate stage Julian sighed and said, “Please tell me the problem.”

Sean Maher roared, “That is the problem!” and pointed at an old man cowering behind the bar. Francis Mulherin is the God rotting problem!”

“Mr. Mayor, are there some details Mr. Maher has left out?”

The Mayor swallowed hard. “Sean believes Landlord Mulherin here has watered his beer and thus is selling an adulterated product which Maher says is not fit for the beasts.”

“Believes is it. Believes! Be God, Oi believe the lot of you would look better if Oi pulled your bloody heads off!” Maher took a step toward the Mayor and Julian interposed himself and smiled as he faced the big man.

Maher was a head and shoulders taller than Julian. The man’s biceps were as large as Julian’s thighs, he had no discernable neck. His hands were ideally suited for pulverizing stone or strangling cattle.

Julian did not move but called over his shoulder. “Mr. Mulherin, if you please? Pull me a pint, but don’t top it off.” The Landlord trembled and shook his head indicating that he would sooner drive a fork into his eye than meet the terms of what was being asked of him.

Julian faced the barman and repeated himself, turning a request into a demand and dropping the smile. Mulherin pulled a light pint and with trepidation pushed it across the bar toward Julian. The Landlord then jumped back and resumed his cowering. He seemed remarkably good at cowering.

Julian took the glass and raised it to look at the color. He then set it down and looked from Maher to the Mayor. Maher’s look was one of smug, undisguised disgust. For the big man, watered beer was a sacrilege. It was the sort of unspeakable act whose reward could only be unprecedented violence.

The Mayor’s eyes showed ferret-like quickness mixed with fear. His look told Julian this had better go the right way or things were going to turn ugly very quickly and that activity in the pub would turn vicious.

Julian pushed his shoulders back and lifted the pint. First, he plunged his nose into the glass and inhaled deeply. He set the glass down on the bar and exhaled. Maher’s lip twisted into a snarl.

The crowd outside went silent.

Julian hefted the glass again and lifted it to his lips. The amber beer slanted as the glass touched his moth. He took a mouthful and seemed to chew the liquid all the while looking thoughtful, his eyes tight in concentration.

He swallowed.

Everyone waited.

The glass was gently set back on the bar.

Julian Blessing, the great Solomon of Cappel Vale, spoke.

“This beer is watered,” Solomon said.

“HA! You milky bastard, Mulherin! Jaysus, Mary and Joseph! Even a feekin’ policeman and not even an Irish one knows you watered your beer!” Maher barked.

“This is a serious offense Mr. Mulherin,” Julian cut in, “and one that should not be dealt with lightly. For the next three days, or as long as it lasts, you are to serve your beer free of charge to any adult customer who comes into your establishment during your normal hours of operation. You can, of course, continue to sell your food and sundries as usual.”

“You heard the police. You’ll be ruined with everyone rushing in here to drink up all your nasty profits,” Maher cried gleefully.

The Landlord’s eyes turned into a squint as he calculated his potential losses. His forehead furrowed as he thought over the punishment. His eyes locked on Julian’s as realization set in.

There would be no loss. Mulherin would close down both of O’Gavagan’s Pubs as people flocked in for free watered beer. He would more than make up for his losses on the bar side from the profits on food and sundries. The entire thing was flawless. This policeman was a genius, something of which most policemen could not be accused. The Landlord made a note to find out what sundries were and then get some quickly.

With gratitude, the Landlord winked without changing his otherwise ashen appearance. He then closed his eyes looking every bit the broken man.

The crowd outside erupted in laughter and shouts.

Sean Maher did a drunken jig and began repeating the refrain of a song he had just recently created, “Mulherin is a bastard. Mulherin is a bastard, Mulherin is a bastard.” It was a song short on lyric qualities, but sung with real feeling.

“But,” Julian said.

Singing, dancing and laughter faded away and all waited for the words of the great Solomon, wellspring of all wisdom and lawgiver without equal.

“Even for watered beer it isn’t half bad.”

Pandemonium erupted outside as the crowd picked up where it had left off. Nothing had changed. Everyone got free pints and, by all reports, rather good pints at that. The Mayor slumped and smiled knowing that much tragedy had been averted.

“What! What do you mean not half bad!” For all the racket, it was hard for Julian to hear Maher over the bedlam. “It’s watered beer. Do you know nothin’!” the big man roared.

“Mr. Maher, watered or not it was good enough to get you a little unsteady on your feet,” Julian tried to shout above the crowd’s raucous celebrations.

“Unsteady is it? I came into this rat hole of a pub in that condition. I’d been drinkin’ at O’Gavagan’s across the street most of the morning.”

“Oh,” said Julian before looking toward the Mayor. “Oh,” was the last thing Julian remembered saying before his head bounced off the floor.

How he got to the floor was something of a mystery to him. He was vertical one moment and horizontal the next. What happened to cause this perplexed him. There was a roaring in his ears, but he assumed that was just the noise of the crowd. From this angle the wood planking on Mulherin’s floor seemed remarkably straight, smooth, and only slightly uncomfortable to lie on.

That is what Julian thought before the floor faded into gray and then black as his eyes rolled back in his head.

***

Father Fahey and Sister Eugenia arrived at Mulherin’s Pub and shouldered their way to the door through the now silent crowd.

The priest moved immediately to Julian’s prone body. He felt for a pulse and finding one that was strong and regular, nodded to Sister Eugenia. The stately nun picked up Father Fahey’s blackthorn walking stick, stepped over Julian and strode up to Sean Maher who had retreated to the end of the bar after having pole axed Julian.

The punch to Julian’s head had been delivered to an area between his temple and his left ear. Sean Maher had delivered it at half speed and at half strength and was as surprised as anyone when Julian didn’t see it coming and kissed the floor with what appeared to be real gusto.

At the nun’s approach, Sean drew himself to his full height and towered over her. If he thought this either intimidated Sister Eugenia or afforded him some sort of protection he was much mistaken, but he would soon find this was not to be his only regrettable mistake with this nun.

“Did you do this?” the nun’s diction was impeccable and the implied growl was palpable. She was a slight woman, but her bearing made her appear every bit as large as Sean Maher. She held the walking stick in her right hand and tapped it rhythmically into her open left palm.

“What do you mean, Sister? Oh that? Well, yes. Just a wee bit of horseplay. Ach, ’tis nothin’ to get worked up about and that policeman would tell you the same. But you’ll be excusing’ me, Oi have to get back to the fields.”

“You, Thomas Donnelly,” the nun said never taking her eyes off Sean Maher’s face. The runner who had brought word to Julian appeared. “Yes, Sister,” said the boy as he ran to the nun’s side.

“Liam McMaster employs Mr. Maher does he not?”

“Yes, Sister, he works for Farmer McMaster same as me Da,” the boy said and began to suspect he was about to be given a starring role in this production.

“Good. Go tell Bobby McMaster’s father that Sean Maher will not be able to return to work today. Go now and be quick.”

“Now wait just one minute!” Maher bellowed.

When exactly the big man realized his error was hard to calculate. It could have been when the nun caught him behind the knees with Father Fahey’s walking stick. Taking Maher’s knees out dropped him to a convenient height so that the nun could take hold of his entire ear. That might have been a dead giveaway of the magnitude of the blunder Maher had made.

However, it surely must have dawned on him that something was amiss when she bent near to his face and with the sort of menace he had seldom heard, the nun said in a language he understood clearly, “You, Sean Maher, will come with me and it is sorry I will make you if you offer even the slightest trouble.” She measured out each word with painful slowness. “Resistance will only embarrass you and shame your family in front of the entire village. Now, come along you great thug.”

With the big man bent in half and the nun holding onto his ear like a limpet, Sister Eugenia walked Maher through the silent crowd. The beginning of a snigger was heard and the nun wheeled on a girl from the 6th grade class. Later in life, she would claim Sister Eugenia had frozen the blood in her veins on the day Sean Maher knocked down the policeman.

Having quelled that, and any contemplated disturbances, the nun and her prisoner moved off toward the police station.

Father Fahey had two of the larger village boys remove what remained of Mulherin’s front door. The priest and the boys then rolled Julian onto the door. Using it as a stretcher they too trotted off to the police station.

***

Julian woke slowly to a world devoid of all light and only a slight rustling sound of nearby movement. He had been undressed and found the bed covers tucked in tightly underneath him, pinning his arms to his sides. He made an odd gurgling sound and moved only slightly.

“Shhhhhh. You’re to stay still.” The voice was a woman’s, soft, slow and gentle. It sounded dimly familiar to Julian.

The voice continued, “Do you know your name?”

“Of course I know my name,” Julian said as he tried to sit again. “What I don’t know is where I am or who you are or how I got here or what happened. How long have I been this way?” Nausea swept over him and he lay back on the bed exhausted by his efforts.

“You will just have to lay still for now. As for the other, politeness forbids me from speculating on how long you’re been the way you are,” the voice said and chuckled.

“Tell me the last thing you remember,” the voice whispered.

“I was in Mulherin’s Pub. I must have tripped on something. I don’t remember falling down. I do remember my head hitting the floor, but that doesn’t make sense and God, my head hurts.” He tried to think more slowly and connect the dots one at a time, but his thoughts wouldn’t slow down.

“It is true, you were in Mulherin’s Pub, but you didn’t trip.” The Irish-English accent sounded musical to Julian. The voice continued, “You were knocked down. Sean Maher struck you. The room has been darkened and you have a compress over your eyes as a precaution.”

“Precaution against what?”

“Well, a blow to the side of the head could have done nasty things to your eyesight temporarily, but, as easily, it could be far worse – a detached retina, although I seriously doubt that. You could have a concussion for all we know, but I doubt that too. There really is no way of knowing right now. Symptoms could show up immediately or a week later. Any punch delivered by Sean Maher is always serious business.”

Julian tried to focus. It wasn’t working. “If it’s a concussion. I’m not supposed to go to sleep because I won’t wake up. I heard that somewhere.”

“Then you listen to odd things from even odder sources,” the voice said softly. “Concussions happen when your brain violently bangs the inside of your skull. One of the primary symptoms of a concussion is fatigue.

“Your body,” the voice continued, “is experiencing fatigue in order to tell you that your brain needs rest. Rest is, in fact, one of the best possible ways to treat a concussion.

“Not to worry though, we’ll have you taken to a proper hospital where you can receive proper care from a top flight specialist,” the voice said leaving acid in its wake.

“That’s okay. I’ll take Dr. Dwyer’s opinion for what should be done. When can I speak with him?” Julian said.

Julian felt the woman move closer to him. Her voice became softer still and low as though she were sharing an intimacy. He could feel her breath on his ear and smell her hair. She whispered, “You are.”

“Are what?” That voice, there was something about it. “Sweet Jesus!” He thought suddenly as he placed the voice. “She hadn’t been whispering when she came to the station to tell me what an idiot I was!” He tried to sit up, but the doctor pushed him down.

“You have Dr. Dwyer’s opinion for what should be done. I don’t know if you noticed, but I am not a he,” she said. My name is Ailís Dwyer, Doctor Ailís Dwyer if you like or Doctor Dwyer or just Doctor, whatever pleases you, Constable Blessing.”

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
8.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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