Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1) (9 page)

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
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Julian looked puzzled.

“Brendan and Oi get into fights because of the way he is and because we are best of friends. Oi don’t often win. Oi never win really, but Brendan always does and he tells me Oi get too angry to win – oh, aye, and I talk too much.”

Julian nodded his understanding and his approval of the plan and walked back to Brendan as Timothy ran up the street.

Brendan pointed out the thrush to Julian. Together they admired the small, plump, bird as she constructed her cup-shaped nest.

Before long, Timothy was back with a tote sack. Brendan went into the police station, and changed his pants. As the boys left, Julian told them that they were both welcome anytime. He also told the boys they were welcome to use the toilet in the station at any time. Julian had not moved from the station’s stoop.

He thought to himself, “Knowing that would have made it easy for Brendan. I’ll make sure he understands.” As an afterthought, Julian called out, “Timothy, what is your last name?”

Timothy stopped in the street and answered, “Dwyer, sor.”

Julian closed his eyes and slowly shook his head. “How many Dwyer families are there in this village?”

“Just us, Sor,” Timothy said while cocking his head to the side. The boy had his mother’s eyes and smile.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Julian thought. “Timothy, please tell your mother I am an eejit, would you?”

“Oi would never say you were an eejit, even if you were and Oi’d certainly never say it to me Ma.”

“Oh she knows by now,” Julian thought.

***

In the darkness from a position where he could see all three pubs, Julian sat and waited. Time was on his side.

Shambling down the street in the shadows, Mayor Cahill cut round a corner too quickly and clipped the end of a fence. After cursing the darkness for allowing such a thing to happen, he cursed the householder for living there, then moved on to the fence builders followed by the lumberjacks who cut and milled the lumber and finally the tree itself. He would have followed this line of reasoning further, but cursing God was a sin and it just brought bad luck. Besides, he had lost interest by then as he targeted O’Gavagan’s Pub.

Straightening himself and squaring his shoulders, Mayor Cahill opened the door and the interior sounds of friendly voices spilled out into the street only to be muted again when the door closed. Julian smiled.

Within minutes, the pub’s door was torn open and Mayor Cahill bellowed into the darkness like a wounded animal, “O’Gavagan, you are a rogue and no Christian!” Thomas Cahill drew himself up and marched with all the majesty his office could afford to the steps of Mulherin’s Pub and Julian smiled again.

Moments later the mayor emerged. “Francis Mulherin is an even filthier scoundrel than O’Gavagan!” Cahill roared into the empty street. He staggered to the second O’Gavagan’s only to discover the full impact of his predicament.

“The world is full of nothing but bastards! Not one of them will sell me a pint of ale or a thimbleful of whiskey. Why is God doing this to me?” Mayor Cahill’s lamentations were painful to watch. They were painful for everyone except Julian Blessing who had now moved to a position within striking distance of the mayor.

“So, no one will sell you a drink.” The Mayor had fallen heavily into a chair by the front door of the last O’Gavagan’s. Julian’s voice sent Cahill into a panic and he nearly escaped, but Julian got hold of the back of the Mayor’s coat. “That seems to be a dreadful shame. Why do you suppose that is?” The sugar oozed in Julian’s voice and the Mayor sat very still.

Julian continued. “You know, of course, why none of the pubs will give you a drink. Although I am paying them for not giving you a drink, they would have done it for free just to see you suffer. Cruel men are our local pub keepers, don’t you think?”

“What is it that you want?” Julian had torn away the Mayor’s only comfort and support in this life.

“The village needs a new constable. I’m not the man for the job. Tomorrow before mass, you will appoint a new one. You see, if you don’t, you will never touch another drop of alcohol in Cappel Vale again.” The Mayor thought Julian’s was the voice of purest evil although it never rose above a whisper.

“We have no one to appoint. Nobody will take the job,” the Mayor said.

“I shouldn’t worry about that. Tomorrow you will introduce Constable Sean Maher to the entire village,” Julian said.

“Maher! You’re mad!” The Mayor shot out of his seat and was as rapidly propelled back down. The wail that went out of the Mayor was pitiful indeed. “You don’t know what you’re saying. Sean Maher is an eejit. God forbid we should ever have a crime. He would just start beating people until he found one to confess.

“And old scores? In the name of Christ, Maher’ll be settling them by the score he will. And who is going to pay him? And, and, well, he’s an eejit!”

“These are not problems,” Julian said. “I’ll be nearby to guide him when he needs it. I’ll even be an assistant constable so I can still have a place to stay for the time being. I’ll talk with him about settling old scores.

“He needs a job after McMaster fired him. I will pay him myself – but understand me, he is never to know that. If, by some accident, he finds out – follow me closely here Cahill. If he finds out – your fault, anybody’s fault, nobody’s fault, everybody’s fault – it will be the driest year of your life.”

“It doesn’t matter, he won’t take the job,” the Mayor said and brightened somewhat.

“Really? Not even if The Hagan had a vision?” Julian said.

“You’re a viper! Oi took to you like you was me own son a
nd
gave you a place to sleep. And how am Oi repaid? How! Oi’ll tell you how…”

“Oh, shut up. The equation is a simple one – appoint Sean Maher and have a drink. Don’t and don’t. Your choice, Mr. Mayor,” Julian said with a malicious smile.

Chapter Ten
 

Alone in a cold study in the quiet manor house, the Pale Man studied a topographical map of the area and wondered. Here? There? Where? In his left hand, he turned a small tarnished coin over and over. He stopped and began to rub the coin in his long fingers hoping it might act like a divining rod over the map.

He selected a book from a stack on his desk and began to read, stopping to look at the map from time to time. Here? There? Where? What he sought could be almost anywhere, but he was close. He knew it. He could feel it.

He said, “Enter,” a moment before there was a quiet knock on the heavy oak door.

A tall, austerely dressed man opened the door and advised his employer of a visitor.

“Farmer McMaster, Sir.”

“You have something for me, McMaster?” There was no real expectation that the farmer would lead the Pale Man to what he sought, but McMaster did occasionally bring bits of information that were of value.

“M’Lord,” McMaster said as he removed the cloth cap from his head. “That numbskull Cahill has appointed Sean Maher to be Village Constable.”

“So the American has moved on? That is good. Maher will make a fine policeman for my purposes.”

“Well, sor, the first Peeler, the one from Amerikie, Cahill made him assistant constable.”

“How many constables does that village need? At this rate they’ll have more policemen then Galway City.”

“Sor, if’n I might ask?” McMaster said as he gave the slender man a sidelong glance.

“Go ahead,” the Pale Man said, but he knew what his visitor was about to say.

“Your honor said Maher would make a fine policeman for our purposes. What are our purposes?”

The Pale Man had been leaning over his books and maps. He straightened and turned his slight frame to face the beefy farmer.

No older than thirty and with eyes so pale they looked as though he had no eyes at all, the Pale Man took a step forward and the larger, more powerfully built McMaster retreated two steps.

The Pale Man smiled, but rather than softening his sharp features, it only made him look sinister. “McMaster, I have purposes and you may be assured they are not your purposes at all. Your purpose is to serve me. I do hope I will not have to make this clear to you again.”

McMaster recoiled as if from a blow. “No, sor. No need for you to make it any clearer.”

“Good. If that is all you have, you can go.” The slender man turned his back to Liam McMaster and bent over the maps and books again. “McMaster,” the Pale Man asked over his shoulder. “Do you remember Donny Pearce? His head exploded not a dozen meters from where you stand now. I did that once. I can assure you, I can do it again. Remember that, won’t you?”

“Yes, sor,” McMaster said and ran from the room.

The Pale Man smiled. He had a gift for inspiring fear in others.

***

These were early fall days, days of morning ground fog when softly veiled wisps would steal along the valley to inhabit the low areas. The mornings were thick, quiet, and intimate, and Julian enjoyed them immensely.

He would rise early, dress and with a mug of hot tea sit outside and watch the fog, listening for the bark of a dog in the distance or the clop of a dog cart as it trundled up the main road.

He sat and he listened and watched as the fog swirled around the village houses and shops.

There, on the road in front of him stood the Hagan. He was sure she hadn’t been there a moment ago and he hadn’t seen her coming. The fog wasn’t so thick that he wouldn’t have seen her. Yet, there she stood looking at him. She said, “Walk with me.”

Julian set his mug down and walked down the flagstone path to the roadway. Wordlessly, she took his arm and walked him out of town and through the thick forest that surrounded Cappel Vale.

She led him along a narrow path skirting peat bogs and outcrops of rocks, up a small hill and across a flat pasture until they stood looking down into an adjacent valley. The Hagan relaxed visibly, let out a contented sigh and smiled lazily. “Have a look. That is the Ireland I’ve loved so much for so long.

“The pasture land and the lovely shade of the lake along with that glen on the far side of the valley with its army of trees that have endured for a century or more – all of it blends together seamlessly, naturally,” the Hagan said and sighed again.

Julian saw a small, still lake that sat at the bottom of the valley. Pastureland had encroached and left the edges of the lake in soft focus. Cows grazed nearby and in the distance a thick stand of trees stood tall and straight. Sheep could be seen just beyond that.

The fog continued to hug the sides of the hills and obscure and soften the valley below. The bleat of sheep could be heard hushed in the distance. Moira Hagan looked into the valley and then took in the near horizon. She sat on top of a broken low, thick stone wall and indicated Julian should join her.

This was a different woman then the one he first met or the one with whom he conspired to persuade Sean Maher to become the Village Constable. Perhaps it was the time of day, perhaps it was the fog, but something had softened her features.

She stared at him frankly and smiled. Reading his thoughts she said, “I come here daily and it is the place I am most alive.”

“You’re her, aren’t you,” Julian sad flatly.

“You know I am. You’ve known from the first.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner? I thought there was some God awful hurry.”

“Keep in mind, laddie, I needn’t explain myself to you – or to anyone. I will on this occasion only so that you will know how wonderful a person I am,” she sneered.

“I wanted to watch you. You aren’t interesting enough to study, but you are worth observing. We’re short on entertainment here in the country so your comic value alone was worth watching.”

Julian wasn’t pleased, neither was he in a position to do or say anything. “So you are supposed to be my teacher and I am to be your student. Cozy.”

She let the sarcasm slide off easily and asked him, “Disappointed are you?”

“No, of course not. Doesn’t matter to me in the least. However, I should point out…” Julian tried to sound matter-of-fact.

“Liar,” she interrupted. “You are indeed disappointed. You wanted someone who would speak softly to you and answer all your questions patiently. If your teacher turned out to be someone as winsome as the good and pure Dr. Dwyer well, money for jam, eh?”

The Hagan held up her hand. “Don’t bore me with your pathetic bleating. And don’t lie to me anymore – or yourself. I know the truth of it and you know I know.”

“My mentor or sponsor or friend or whatever, said you would be different from her. However, I…” the Hagan cut him off again.

“Well, then you are lucky a wise woman found you. Often we don’t get what we want, boyo, but what we need. Believe me, I am what you need,” the Hagan said.

Julian was insistent. “As I’ve been trying to say, I have to tell you, as I told my friend, I’m not sold on any of this yet.”

Julian’s companion let the last sentence hang heavy in the air. “May I ask you a question?”

Julian smirked and answered, “Would it matter if I said no?”

“Not a bit. I would pretend I didn’t hear you and ask my question anyway. Perhaps I wouldn’t even bother to pretend. In any case I will ask and you will answer, because, you’ll never let no-answer answer for you.”

“Then I suppose you should ask. I’m ready when you are,” Julian said while he chuckled.

“It may seem an easy question, but don’t be fooled. I ask few easy questions.”

Julian smiled broadly, “I stand warned.”

“Warned you may be, but ready you are not,” she smiled and continued. “Do you believe in what you cannot see?”

The question wasn’t difficult on the surface, but it wasn’t what he had bargained for. He needed time to think. “I suppose I do,” Julian answered tentatively.

“You don’t know? Don’t be daft, of course you know.”

“Alright, I do believe in things I can’t see. I’m here and I can’t see the Empire State Building, but I know it’s there.”

Moira Hagan shook her head slowly. “Nothing gets by you, now does it. Do you have any more of those? I certainly hope you won’t continue to spout off about the sorrowfully obvious. In any case, I’m not talkin’ about the physical, but the incorporeal.

“So we’ve established two things thus far. The first is that you do believe in what you can’t see. So much so that you gave up the safety and security of your way of life to find your way. You, son, are committed to finding the things you cannot see in the hope they will change you for the better. The second thing we know for certain is that you’re an eejit.”

“Thanks awfully.”

“It is my pleasure. Now let’s see if you are willing to understand what you can’t rationally explain.

“The supernatural, the unexplained, do you believe in those? Do you believe in things that seem like a dream but are not? The mysterious, the miraculous, the magical, are those on your list of beliefs? You have been living an illusionary life. Are you willing to believe in an extraordinary life with a truer sense of reality?”

Julian sat looking into the valley below. The pastureland was a ribbon of deep green stretching up the valley. The stand of trees drew his eye. The abundance of trees and their variety matched the profusion and range of his thoughts.

Moira Hagan snapped her fingers in front of Julian’s face. “Did you forget I asked you a question? Are you going to be all day thinkin’ up some feeble answer? I’ll take my answer now if you please.”

“That my life was an illusion I can’t really accept. It was all too real. Still it never felt genuine somehow. It never felt like it was the life I deserved or the one I was meant for. It’s true, I believe in and want a life that gives me more than I have, that will make me more than I am.”

“Stop right there before you compound your stupidity. There is a life waiting for you that will do nearly what you describe if you are willing to not only believe but also take hold of it.

“I say, nearly what you describe, because nothing will ever make you more than what you are. The object is to be all that you are. To an eejit like you that may seem to be a difference without a distinction, but it isn’t, so follow along and see if you can learn something useful,” the Hagan said and Julian snorted.

“Don’t think to get cheeky with me, Blessing. You can’t afford to know what I can do when I receive sass from the likes of you – little man.

“We, you and I, are in the knowing business,” she continued. “Part of what you’re required to know is the reality of reality. The mysterious, the miraculous, the magical if you will, are all real to be sure, but for you, separating reality and unreality is what you need to learn.”

She continued. “But for now, you must believe. For now, you need to disregard your senses. Close your eyes on what you know. Those senses and the knowledge you brought with you from your old life will do you no good here. Distrust them for they will distract you. The only sense you need is your sense of self. Trust, but not the man you used to be. Trust the man you want to be, need to be, will be.

“You have a task and it is an important one, this I know. How you handle this challenge will have far reaching… What is it you find so humorous, eejit?” the Hagan snapped.

Julian shook his head and chuckled. “Well, this has all been very pleasant – if a bit odd – but you will have to deal me out. I’m not in need of any sort of paranormal supernatural mumbo jumbo. Not today. You need somebody to fight a dragon, but that someone isn’t me. You need a knight-errant to find what must be found? Well, you‘ll have to find someone crazier then me.

“Granted that won’t be easy given the way I feel just now, but maybe you can place an ad in the newspaper. I’m sorry, that was flippant and uncalled for. You take this seriously and I must respect you for it.

“Mrs. Hagan, if this is a disappointment to you, I am sorry. I am sure you are very good at whatever it is you do. The woman who brought me into all of this, well, I hate to disappoint her. She really is a lovely lady. Still, I’m not the guy for either of you.

“Been great talking to you, but I’ve got to go.” Julian said.

Moira Hagan let the moment dangle. “Where?” she asked mildly and looked bored.

“Pardon?” Julian asked.

“I asked where you planned to go. ’Tis a simple enough question, surely.”

Julian was silent.

“No answer? Oh well, be that as it may, I can see by the look of you that you are tired. Best we are going. Why don’t you lead the way?” Julian looked into the dense forest and the dark lake below with its lush pastureland framing the scene.

“I’ll miss this,” Julian thought. “It really is very beautiful, restful somehow but this isn’t the place for me.” Submerged in his own thoughts he turned and started back to the village of Cappel Vale. The Hagen followed, a small smile touched her eyes and lips.

As they approached the village Julian felt rather than heard a whisper. His had reached a point at which whispers brought only bad tidings, but he had become resigned to them.

“Go back and look. Go back to where we sat just now and look again. Look at what you saw, or thought you saw.”

Julian turned. The Hagan’s cool gray eyes were penetrating and locked on to his. Her smile was crooked and cunning.

“I won’t delay you further, but go back and look hard at what you see.”
He heard it as clearly as if she had whispered it into his ear. Her smile turned kind and she swept past him toward the village.
“Hush. Quiet your thoughts. Go back and look. You’ll understand – at least you’ll begin to understand. We’ll talk again.”
With that, she left him in her wake.

***

Julian stood at the stone wall. He stared into the valley below. None of what he now saw made sense. Then he heard it. The Hagan’s voice was unmistakable and not a whisper this time.
“We don’t really need you to prattle on about what you do and don’t believe in and what is and isn’t real, do we? You can save your protests and your puny notions. I said we were in the knowing business. I think we’ve established a simple fact – you don’t know anything.

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