Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1) (8 page)

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
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Julian tried to repeat the doctor’s name. Doctor and Dwyer came out well, but the first name was a jumbled mess. His tongue was thick and his mind even more so.

“EYE-lish,” Dr. Dwyer corrected. “You’ll get used to it.”

Julian weakly insisted he was not a policeman just before he lolled to the side and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Dr. Dwyer smoothed back her patient’s hair and then inspected again the lump on his head. She followed the contour of his cheek with her long fingers and admired the plane of his face, the broad forehead and the strong jaw. She smiled when she thought of her first encounter with him. She looked at his lips now and decided she was having decidedly undoctor-like thoughts again.

“You’re a fish out of water, Julian Blessing, but a rather handsome fish I think,” she said in a voice just above a whisper. The doctor smiled.

She moved from Julian’s bedside into the station proper, drawing the curtain behind her. “Moira Hagan! What are you doing! You can’t do that. Leave his things alone this instant,” the doctor said. She was trying to keep her voice down. A whispered shout loses much of its power to persuade.

“Well, dear,” the Hagan said, “what does it look like I’m doing? I’m searching the man’s things. Fortunately, you kept him busy so I wouldn’t be disturbed with my work. Don’t worry yourself though, I’m nearly done. If you come help we’ll be done all the sooner.” The older woman was meticulous in her examination of Julian’s belongings and had them spread over the entire top of the station’s desk.

“You’ll not get me mixed up in this outrage. The man is entitled to his privacy. Besides what difference does it make, he’ll be moving on soon I’m sure,” the doctor responded sounding indifferent to the matter.

“Will he?” the Hagan said and looked up sharply, “I have the feeling he will be with us for a while yet. That should please you some, eh?” As an aside the Hagan added with a pleasant smile, “By the way doctor, when did you decide to take up fishing, or is it still fishing if the fish is out of the water?”

Ailís Dwyer stiffened at the older woman’s remark, but said nothing.

“You saw his shirt of course when you took it off of him – along with everything else. By the by, that’s unusual treatment for a head injury, but then you’re the doctor, aren’t you, darlin’,” the Hagan said pointedly and grinned.

Her hand rested on one of Julian’s neatly folded dress shirts. “Now why do you suppose a man would tramp around Ireland in workman’s clothes wearing a shirt that cost a workman’s monthly wages?” the Hagan said thoughtfully. “And isn’t it fun we’ll have finding out the why of it and more importantly, the who of this Julian Blessing.”

Chapter Nine
 

With a dull ache throbbing behind his eyes, Julian sat on the cot in Sean Maher’s jail cell. The big man was a picture of wretched dejection. Earlier he had said he felt sure a pint of porter would lift his depression somewhat, but Julian remained adamant that they needed to concoct a plan before any pints would be consumed.

Maher wasn’t good at making plans and felt this one flaw would leave him parched throughout eternity.

“Let’s go over this again,” Julian said softly.

Sean sighed. “That great brute of a bastard, Liam McMaster, has given me the boot and now Oi’ve no job and no one will hire me because Oi’m a convict and me wife and children will starve and I’ll be forced to go to some filthy place like Cork where Oi’ll be worked to death by a money grubbing bastard who is an even bigger money grubbing bastard than Liam McMaster.”

Julian had to admit it had all the elements of a middling Shakespearian tragedy or a country-western song. It lacked literary force, but Maher’s impassioned telling of the tale made up for that.

“You really have to stay away from depressing thoughts like that,” Julian said.

“Why?” Sean asked. “I’m Irish, it’s what we do best.”

“Well, let’s move along. What can you do?” Julian asked kindly. “If you had the choice, what would you like to be?”

“Oi’ve always worked in the fields. Oi don’t know anything else. It was out of the school Oi was at an early age because Oi got into fights, Oi wasn’t very smart, and the nuns hated me. Never trust a nun. They will do you unto death and never think twice about it and that’s for sure.”

“Sean, Sean, Sean, let’s get back to the subject. If you could do anything you wanted, what would it be?”

Sean Maher had to give this some thought and the effort was wearing him out. He screwed up his face and bit his lower lip. He took deep breaths that would draw his massive shoulders up to his ear lobes. The exhalations were nearly as dramatic. In the end, he had to give the whole thing up. Thinking this through was beyond him.

“Oi’m just not smart like you Mr. Blessing.”

“We went over this before, Sean. You can call me Julian and you are plenty smart. We just have to figure out the best fit for you.

“Why don’t you go home to your wife and children? They’ve not seen you in three days and your sentence is up,” Julian said.

Sister Eugenia had tried, convicted and sentenced Sean to three days in lock up. The nun had decided to go for the upper limits on the cruel-and-unusual-punishment scale by not allowing the prisoner any alcohol. It was the worst torture imaginable for Sean Maher. “Hard labor from a hard nun,” he called it.

“Oi can’t go home for the shame that is on me,” Sean said.

“What shame? You did the entire village a huge favor.”

“Oi brought shame on meself and all of me family, Mr. Julian.”

“It’s just Julian. Sean, it didn’t happen that way. You discovered that Mulherin was diluting his beer. The entire village now knows he is a man who can’t be trusted. All of that led to your fellow citizens being able to drink up all the pints they wanted for free for three days.”

“True. True,” Sean Maher said as he cocked his head and tried to look thoughtful once more.

“Of course it is true. Go home. Hug your wife, hold your children, and know that the entire village knows you for the hero you are. We’ve got to find you a job, but we’ll figure that out later.”

“Julian,” Sean said as he rose from the cot, “about that pint? Mayhaps not a pint so much as a dram?”

Julian was distracted, but said at last, “Huh, no, do as I say and go home to your family. Then you can send someone to the pub to bring you back a pint. You’re to stay out of pubs for awhile.” As Julian spoke, the germ of an idea was beginning to sprout.

***

Liam McMaster wasn’t an imposing man. He wasn’t a smart or even a clever man. He was, however, cunning and as cunning men are wont to do, he was backing the winners and trashing those likely to lose.

“’Tis exactly as Oi’ve told you, m’Lord. The village has a constable and that eejit, Sean Maher knocked him down. Oi had the pleasure of firing Maher too. The man won’t work again.”

The Pale Man sat behind the desk and steepled his fingers as he listened to McMaster. He thought for a moment and then asked, “Not an auspicious start for the policeman. Who is this new constable? What is known about him? How did he come to be in the village?” His eyes narrowed and he continued, “What is his agenda? Why is he here and why now?”

The man’s voice was cultured with barely discernable Irish English cadences. He was an Irishman, but one of substantial means, highly educated, well traveled and well read. He was a man who knew his business, a man who had secrets and a man who inspired fear.

McMaster should have guessed the pale man behind the enormous carved oak desk would have questions. Still, he was prepared to appear knowledgeable without actually knowing anything at all.

“M’Lord, these are all questions that have occurred to meself and Oi am busy getting to the bottom of ’em now. Oi will have answers shortly. Oi have spies throughout the village. Oi can tell you the man’s name is Blessing.”

That much was true, but the rest was a tissue of convenient lies. McMaster had no inside sources. He had overheard someone mention Julian’s last name. McMaster was a man not at all well liked in the village. Even Father Fahey didn’t like him and Father Fahey liked everyone.

Liam McMaster always felt Father Fahey was listening to him in the confessional, but only begrudgingly. It didn’t really matter. McMaster made up the sins anyway for the benefit of the old priest and any parishioners who would see him enter and leave the confessional box. “Hell with ’em all!” McMaster thought, “’tis nothing but jealously that Oi am prosperous and they are dirt poor. That is why they all hate me.”

This man behind the desk – that was different. If McMaster was prosperous, this man was wealthy beyond words. He had leased a large manor house some distance from the village and staffed it entirely with people from the big cities of Dublin and Wexford and Cork. The staff, McMaster knew, had instructions not to mix with the locals and that included him.

***

Julian slept late into the day and awoke with an appetite and a plan. He showered in what turned out to be quite a modern facility. He shaved, and quickly dressed with every intention of putting his plan in motion. His head still throbbed and when he closed his eyes lights still popped behind his eyelids. Still, things were looking up.

He opened the door and found a young man sitting on the police station’s stoop. The young man seemed fascinated as he watched a bird in a nearby bush.

“What can I do for you?” Julian asked cheerfully, but the last word caught in his throat.

At Julian’s feet sat a young man of perhaps seventeen. Handsome in every way and as big as a bull, the young man had a distracted smile and his eyes held the iridescence of a child. He hadn’t suffered the ravages of living in this world because he lived in a world of his own. Julian saw this and more and he knew.

He sat down next to the young man and asked his name.

Through the obstacle of a pronounced stutter the boy said, “Brendan Maher.”

“Would Sean Maher be your father?”

Julian winced as the young man worked on and finally forced the simple answer out.

“Yes,” he said.

“Well, Brendan, you should be very proud.”

“Me da got free beer for the village.” Each word from Brendan’s lips was an effort and each pulled at Julian. The boy capped his stumbling sentence with a child’s smile.

“That’s true. But far more than that.” Julian glanced around conspiratorially before he looked into the simple handsome face and sparkling blue eyes of Brendan Maher, “More than that he is a good man and being a good man is one of the most difficult things to be.”

There was a moment of incomprehension as though the words were somehow disconnected from their meanings. Then what was said seemed to settle in. Brendan sat up taller, pushed his broad shoulders back, and smiled with a pride beyond compare. A guilelessness unknown outside of absolute innocence illuminated the boy’s face.

For all his life, it had been like this. Things were said, words spoken, but very few of them involved him. In Brendan’s world things were simple if not always easy. Sometimes he had to try very hard to be good and not fight even when some of the village children tormented him for his simple ways.

The perverse delight children take in torturing their own, although well documented, is little understood. As real and as serious as children take their playing, they seem to take no heed of the damage they cause, and the damage they cause to the damaged is a cruelty beyond words. It flails alive those with scant defenses and bores into the marrow of those whose frailty is demonstrable.

The cruelty of children is Darwin’s theory taken to the extreme – not only do the strongest survive and thrive, but they do so at the expense and heedless of the tears of the beautifully innocent.

“Brendan, I need to go up the street and visit someone. Will you be alright here?”

Brendan closed his eyes and pushed the words out one at a time again. “Should Oi sit here?”

“You can if you want. I might be gone for awhile though so make yourself comfortable.”

***

The lush vegetation grew wild in the Hagan’s front yard and Julian had to pick his way with care up to the front door. His knock had an authority he did not feel. The front door opened slowly and Julian glimpsed a back door on the opposite wall closing hurriedly before the Hagan came into view. Her strong, stark features looked out onto Julian and she let an uncomfortable silence hang in the air like drifting smoke.

“I would like to see the Mayor,” Julian said. The Hagan could tell he wouldn’t be put off as before.

“Would you? I’ve not seen him in,” the left corner of her mouth twisted into something like a smile and her eyebrow arched, “awhile.” She closed the door and left Julian steaming.

He knew what she meant. The Mayor had dodged out the back door only moments before and the Hagan’s “awhile” meant anything from three days ago to three seconds ago.

Julian hammered at the door this time. It opened again with greater speed, but before she could speak Julian said, “My business is not entirely with the Mayor. I am here to see you.”

Again, silence hung between them as she barred the door to her home. Her features softened, she turned her back and walked toward her turf fire.

“By all means then, come in. When our village constable wishes to see a citizen, why ’tis that citizen’s duty to comply.” She sat in a chair by the fire and indicated another chair to Julian.

“My business with you touches only slightly on my business with Mayor Cahill. I will catch – that is I will
find
him later when it is,” and Julian paused, “convenient.” It was his turn to arch an eyebrow and the Hagan smiled slightly and inclined her head.

***

An hour later, he returned to the police station and found a young boy sitting with Brendan Maher on the stoop. The boy was about twelve years old, had red hair sticking out from under his cloth cap and freckles across the bridge of his nose. The boy rose but indicated to Brendan that he should remain sitting.

The boy approached Julian. At a respectful distance, he stuck out his hand and announced that his name was Timothy, and that he was a friend of Brendan’s. The boy’s hazel eyes were clear and spoke of spirit and intelligence. To Julian, he couldn’t quite place it, but there was something familiar about the boy.

“May I talk with you Constable Blessing, sor? It is regarding Brendan so you wouldn’t mind if we stood over there, would you?”

Julian attempted to look suitably grave as he stifled a smile at the grown up language and manner of the young boy.

“Sor, did you tell Brendan to wait here for you?” The boy’s manner was direct and efficient.

“No, Timothy, I did not. I told him I would be visiting with someone up in the village. He asked if he could sit on the stoop and I told him that he could and to make himself comfortable.”

“Oi thought as much,” Timothy said. “You see, sor, it sits like this. Brendan is me best mate in all of the world, but he is simple as you can see. When you said he
could
wait he understood that he
should
wait. It seems he waited too long though.”

Timothy and Julian turned to look at Brendan who shot to his feet and as he did the matter became perfectly clear.

“He’s pissed himself you see.”

Indeed Julian could see a large spot on the front of Brendan’s pants. Julian motioned for Brendan to sit down which the young man did.

To Brendan Maher the matter was a simple one. An important man in the village had told him he would be back. After fifteen minutes of watching a thrush in a thorn bush, Brendan became aware of a need. The important man would return soon and tell him it was all right to use the toilet in the station. He had told Brendan to make himself comfortable, but what if while making himself comfortable he missed the important man’s return. These conflicting instructions played back and forth in Brendan’s mind to the exclusion of all else.

After an additional thirty minutes with his fists clenched in excruciating frustration there was no choice. Brendan urinated on himself just as his friend Timothy spotted him from the road and waved. Brendan waved weakly back and Timothy approached and saw at a glance his friend’s predicament.

“Oi’m sorry,” Brendan had said to Timothy and tears had welled up in Brendan’s eyes.

“’Tis nothing,” Timothy responded and bumped up against his big friend. In an easy silence, they both sat and watched Julian approach the police station from the far end of the village. While they waited, these two friends watched the thrush in the thorn bush.

“It stands like this,” Timothy said. “If you will sit with Brendan, Oi will run to the Maher house and get him some fresh trousers. Then he and Oi will walk home as Oi’m to have supper with the Mahers tonight. If Brendan doesn’t change his clothes he will be in for no end of ribbing as we make our way home and frankly, he and Oi can’t afford to get in trouble again for fighting.”

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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