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                                        CAPPAWHITE




                                         CHAPTER 1

                                      BERING SEA 1830



       Darkness enveloped the great man-o-war as she climbed up into another mountainous

wave and violently lurched on a roll to port. The timbers, masts and rigging creaked loudly

from bow to stern as they strained under a wind and sea so powerful that it threatened to

break the vessel into a thousand pieces as the waves crashed around and over it.

       A mighty lightning bolt turned night into day as it forked its way majestically across

the dark clouded sky; stretching its powerful talons over the sea, and betraying the condition

of the ship below with its ripped and tattered sails that blew like colourless streamers on some

faraway grotesque battlefield.

       Midshipman Roberts stared out from the forward hatchway, his eyes widening with

fear, open mouthed as he stared up at the mast head and the scene he was witnessing high

above him. ―Dear Lord, I must tell someone,‖ he cried as the sky lit up again and he scurried

quickly down below.

       The gale-force wind was unrelenting as it pushed and pulled at the ship from all

directions, forcing it uncontrollably toward its doom. Another flash and the deserted decks lit

up again, deserted save for the sea and rain that thundered across them, stripping the last
                                                                                                  2



barrel of its tether and flinging it far over the side as the foaming waves forced their way,

unstoppable, across to the other side and beyond.

       Below decks there was a great fear among the sailors and marines as they clung to the

bulkheads with whispered prayers, praying for some divine providence to come save them as

sprays of sea came showering in all around, freezing and wet. ―Stay at the pump will you

man?‖ A distant voice raged at someone from the deck below them.

       Master‘s mate Collin nodded at the frightened midshipman who had just whispered a

message frantically into his ear. A message that would see him battle his way back toward the

stern, back to the great cabin. Collins shook his head in disbelief at what the midshipman had

just told him, but he would have to inform the captain immediately, and before walking away

he patted Roberts gently on the arm.

       ―Take it easy lad,‖ he said as he smiled and nodded at the youngster who wasn‘t quite

yet a man.

       He held tightly to the rope rail as he stumbled and tripped through the darkness as the

incessant heaving increased.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



       He moved quickly through the shadows, fighting constantly against the roll and pitch

as the out-of-control vessel lifted into the crest of yet another large wave, only to be forced

back again when she plummeted into the valley below, but he struggled on regardless.

       The roaring noise from the clash of thunder overhead was louder than Collins had

ever heard before, and he could not hide his fear as he pounded his fist on the great cabin

door. ―Captain,‖ he shouted, unheard as the storm raged all around him. ―Captain,‖ he

repeated as he jerked open the door and held tightly to the frame, struggling as he did to force
                                                                                                  3



his way inside.

         Captain Bingham sat at the large table, facing him with head bowed. His left hand

rested on the log while his right hand held firmly onto the ship‘s Bible. Collins stared at the

mess on the floor between the captain‘s feet where he had thrown up, and even in his own

fear he realised that this war-hardened old seaman was a mere mortal like the rest of them

after all.

         Captain Bingham had been through the most dangerous and hazardous times of any

seaman during his thirty-five years at sea, fighting with distinction as a young midshipman

with Nelson at Trafalgar, and being badly wounded in the process. The wound still gave him

considerable discomfort, the winter months being especially hard on him and causing him

most concern. It was these months that would see his pains increase tenfold, and which would

seriously hamper him in the running of his ship. No one would ever know this though,

because the captain had always hidden his condition from the men, only allowing the ship‘s

surgeon to share his secret. Now was such a time as he sat and cursed his pain, and he prayed

for the strength that he knew he was going to need. The captain had also weathered the

toughest storms that even the Horn could have thrown at him, but he had endured and had

lived to tell the tale. He had even taken to the boats on occasion, once when one of his ships

had foundered twenty miles off Van Diemen‘s Land. But this, this was something different.

This storm had crept up on them, ambushed them with no prior warning. There had been no

time for any orders to be implemented to secure the ship, and this storm he knew was going

to be the last one they would ever encounter. This storm was death.

         ―Captain,‖ Collins cried, as he gripped the table with both hands, while the ship

continued to roll and pitch ferociously. The captain slowly lifted his head and stared solemnly

at the master‘s mate without speaking. ―Captain Sir, I‘ve got a message for you sir,‖ Collins

shouted, raising his voice above the thunderous roaring from outside.
                                                                                              4



       ―Speak man,‖ the captain answered in his loud, gruff, Cornish voice.

       ―I‘ve just had a report from young midshipman Roberts. He says there‘s someone

moving about up in the shrouds sir.‖

       ―Who is it?‖

       ―The thing is sir, he doesn‘t know.‖

       ―What do you mean, he doesn‘t know?‖ Captain Bingham bellowed.

       ―Well sir, the men are all accounted for below decks, and…‖

       ―Impossible man,‖ the captain interrupted, sounding angry and confused.

       ―No one could have stowed away on this vessel. Why, we‘ve been at sea for three

months man, without even nearing land,‖ he shouted loudly as the roaring outside became

stronger, almost deafening them.

       ―Well, you‘d best come see for yourself then sir,‖ Collins said and pointed toward the

cabin door.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



       Down below old Cyrus was busy pumping frantically as the water levels increased all

around him.

       ―Its bloody useless boys; the pump‘s not holding. Go tell the captain we‘ve lost the

fight. He‘ll have to give the order to abandon ship,‖ he yelled to one of the junior rank.

       ―You‘re scaring the lad, Cyrus!‖ Someone shouted.

       ―I‘d rather take my chances here than go out in an open boat in this storm,‖ Martin,

the cook barked to no one in particular.

       ―Well, there are no boats to go in,‖ someone added. ―They‘ve been blown off the deck

and over the side, down to the dark ocean floor.‖
                                                                                                   5



       Back at the cabin the captain had sprung up from his seat, wincing in his pain, but he

disguised the fact and very quickly stormed past Collins, almost knocking him over as he

hastened out into the small corridor and up the steps that led to the quarter deck. Collins

looked back into the cabin and noticed that the ship‘s log still lay on the table, but the Bible

had gone, clutched firmly in the captain‘s grip as he struggled to hold onto the rail.

       ―Wait, captain sir,‖ the mate implored as he slowly pulled himself up the rail behind

him. Suddenly the ship spun around on its axis and rolled violently to starboard, sending the

two men sprawling together in a heap, down on to the hard wooden deck below. As another

lightning bolt turned night into day, the men stared hard at each other.

       Collins could see that the captain had been hurt in the fall; his cheek gashed quite

badly, the blood running down in little rivulets onto his shoulder. The captain though simply

shrugged it off and carried on, pulling himself purposefully back up the steps, the Bible still

held tightly in his powerful grip.

       On reaching the quarter deck doors Captain Bingham pushed with all his might, but

the gale-force wind and rain gave no quarter and the doors held fast. Suddenly the arm of the

master‘s mate shot over the captain‘s bloodied shoulder and the two men now pushed

together in unison with all the strength they could muster.

       The doors began moving slowly outward, and in an instant they burst open; the wind

and rain blasted at the men‘s faces and bodies as they held firmly to the rail. Collins pointed

up into the darkness and the captain shielded his eyes from the biting rain as he stared hard up

to the rags that had once been used to propel the ship across the vast seas and oceans.

       The lightning bolt that lit up the sky, just for a second or two, gave enough time for

him to see the hooded figure climb the rigging. ―How can he move about in this wind? Why,

it‘s impossible,‖ Captain Bingham stated as the rain poured down his face, diluting the blood

from his still bleeding wound. Collins made no reply but simply shook his head. ―Well, we‘re
                                                                                                6



going to have to get him down,‖ the captain added. ―Send Benson and Martin aloft, they‘re

our best,‖ he ordered.

       ―Listen sir, no one could climb up there in this storm. Like you just said sir, it‘s

impossible,‖ Collins answered.

       ―What are you saying man, blast your hide?‖ Captain Bingham thundered, even more

confused now as he stared at the figure aloft. Collins cupped his hands and shouted into the

Captain‘s ear, trying to make himself heard above the constant roar of thunder.

       ―Whatever that thing is up there sir, it‘s not human,‖ he shouted, as he stared at the

captain, the fear etched on his face, and the captain didn‘t notice that he was gripping the

Bible so tightly that his knuckles had turned white.

       Suddenly they watched as the figure made its way quickly over the mast head and

along the rigging. Another flash and the figure moved further along, over the yardarms. Its

unnatural jerking movements left the two men below staring in terror, and the captain wiped

the rain from his eyes before he spoke. ―Dear Father in Heaven, what is this thing that has

been sent to us?‖

       He knew, as Collins had just stated, that no one could possibly move about like this in

these conditions, yet here before his very eyes someone was, and at a speed that was

impossible for any mortal man.

       Another bolt of lightning lit up the ship, followed by six more in succession, and then

to the men‘s horror they watched as the figure floated back across to the mast head, levitating

in mid air as it rotated slowly around, the face hidden deep inside its hood.

       And now there was something else the captain was aware of. It was watching them.

       This was a demon, the captain knew. He had heard stories about these evil creatures

from other sea captains. He remembered the story of Captain Lang and his stout crew. This

highly thought of captain had reported a demon coming on board his vessel.
                                                                                                 7



       Eighteen-fifteen it was, when Lang‘s ship, The Everest, a 150 foot merchant man, was

sailing from Jamaica to England, when some time in the night a fierce storm blew up and a

grotesque, wailing creature somehow came on board.

       According to Captain Lang it seemed only interested in one man, an able seaman by

the name of Jeremiah Cotter. The demon didn‘t harm him in any way though, but left the ship

rather quickly. Ten nights later it returned, but not one of the people threatened it. In fact

most of the crew stood cowering in the nearest corner they could find. However, when the

demon tried to take Cotter, five brave seamen attacked it. Three were killed instantly and it

took Cotter with little effort. Captain Lang, an honourable man, refused to return to naval

duties after this and nothing more was heard of him again.

       Now Captain Bingham faced one of these unspeakable creatures, and he knew he

would be powerless against it.

       The ship shuddered as it moved across the crest of another mountainous wave, but

Captain Bingham‘s eyes held firmly on the figure, as now it was slowly descending down

toward them.

       ―God Almighty,‖ the master‘s mate yelled, as he forcefully pulled the captain back

inside. He jerked frantically at the quarter deck doors, slamming them shut behind him.

Slowly the two men backed down the steps, down into the bowels of the ship. Suddenly

Collins grasped the captain tightly by the arm. ―What is this fucking thing?‖ Collins

screamed. All respect for his captain was now gone, and unable to hide the fear and panic in

his voice, he continued to mouth obscenities.

       Captain Bingham at first did not answer, but looked at Collins in a most threatening

manner. He had never been spoken to like this before, not from anyone below his station, and

in normal circumstances this sort of disgraceful act would be punished very severely.

However, as they were all about to go under at any moment now, it seemed fruitless to pursue
                                                                                                8



the matter any further, and he had already decided on his next course of action. ―Calm

yourself down, you damned scoundrel, and behave like a bloody man,‖ he bellowed, as he

began to recite the Lord‘s Prayer.

       This seemed to have an immediate effect on Collins and he stared at his brave and

wise captain, now realising just how cowardly he had sounded.

       ―S-sorry, s-sir,‖ he stuttered nervously.

       Blood still slowly rolled freely down Captain Bingham‘s cheek as he spoke, and

Collins, even though he had never quite mastered the words, joined him enthusiastically in

prayer, holding onto the front of the Bible as if it were some sort of magic talisman that

would save them from this hell.

       In the darkness Collins thought he saw a shape, just as something brushed sharply

against his side and he jumped with fright, almost forcing the captain down the steps as

another lightning bolt lit up the staircase once again.

       The light filled every crevice of the ship as the cold wind and rain blew fiercely

around them, blowing down from the quarter deck, and at once Captain Bingham knew the

reason why. ―The doors,‖ he yelled, and as they both turned around in unison they could see

at once that the quarterdeck doors were gone. Then to their dismay and horror they noticed

that the doors had not been blown open, but had been torn and smashed from their very

latches by a different force. The hinges now strutted out at odd angles as they glistened in the

darkness against the streaks of moonlight that had forged their way down to them between

the clouds.

       Collins, by now reduced to a pathetic figure of the man he used to be, muttered loudly

as they retreated farther down the steps. He would go deep into the ship, anywhere away from

this nightmare, and he pushed himself further on, crying and panting as he went. Another

large wave sent the ship on yet another vicious roll, sending the two men tumbling head first
                                                                                                9



down the remaining steps.

       Quickly scrambling to their feet, they forced their way into the large cabin, and

Collins slammed the door shut behind them.

       Below decks the crew were unaware of their captain and master‘s mate‘s

predicament, but they held hands tightly in prayer and thought about their families back

home, as they now believed the end was drawing ever nearer.

       Emerson the American didn‘t want to die like this. He had loved the seafaring life,

had left America as a small boy and had served in His Majesty‘s navy for over forty years.

He was also one of the oldest men on board, and he had served under this captain for the last

twelve of them. This captain is the bravest of them all, he thought. Why, this captain was a

man whom he would gladly have followed to the ends of the earth and beyond. ―Why is the

captain not with us?‖ Emerson shouted.

       ―Aye, get the captain,‖ someone yelled.

       ―God knows we need him,‖ Emerson mumbled. ―I‘m going to bloody find him,‖ he

shouted to no one in particular, and with that he made off toward the stern, stumbling along

the lower deck and almost falling on his face when he tripped over Toby, the ship‘s dog.

Toby had partly wedged itself between a large ammunition chest and a small water keg, its

hind legs protruding out over the deck.

       ―Damned hound,‖ he shouted as the dog snarled loudly and snapped ferociously at

him, its white teeth bared and showing up in the darkness. Until now Emerson had always

liked this good-natured animal, and he had never known it to be vicious like this before. Now

he felt frightened. He wondered why the dog was behaving in such a way, but he moved on

slowly along the deck as the large ship continued to roll and lurch in all directions. ―You‘re a

damned devil,‖ he shouted at the dog, which was now behind and following him, snarling and

growling fiercely. And all the while saliva dripped from its mouth.
                                                                                                10




                                       *    *   *    *   *



       Inside the large cabin Collins stood firmly at the door, determined that nothing would

enter through, as Captain Bingham flung himself into a chair, shaking and panting for breath

as he tried to compose himself over this horror that he had just witnessed. The captain pulled

open a drawer as he groped blindly in the darkness, and removed the fine bottle of wine he

had purchased at Tenerife all those many months ago as a present for his good friend Captain

Price. He uncorked it and quickly swallowed some down.

       He would never normally let drink pass his lips, at least not since he was a young

man, and not because he had any moral issue about it. It was simply that as a young officer he

had tried it, the taste then being revolting to him. Now though, he believed that if he was ever

going to drink, then this occasion would now be as fitting a time as any.

       Crash, the thunder outside roared and he felt he was on the receiving end of some

hell-ship with a 1000 gunner‘s broadside.

       Suddenly the cabin filled with light and the slow movement of the shape before them

caught the captain‘s eye. He let out a loud gasp as the bottle slipped from his sweating palm,

and he was unaware of it smashing down onto the hard deck.

       As he stared in horror upon the hooded figure that was hovering less than ten feet in

front of him, arms outstretched, it moved menacingly toward him.

       Another lightning bolt filled the cabin with its brightness, sending little shadows

dancing into the furthest corners, and lighting up the master‘s mate who was now armed with

a cutlass and charging at the beast, striking it hard on the side of its head. But it spun around

with astonishing speed, and just before he had a chance to strike again, the creature gripped

his neck with its large, grey spindly hand, as the captain watched in horror. A deep growl
                                                                                                 11



emulated from the creature and it seemed to stare at Collins for a moment, before it squeezed

with a force so powerful that it tore his throat out as easily as squashing a rose petal. When it

released him, his lifeless body crashed down to the floor of the cabin.

        It continued moving slowly toward the captain again, its hooded head quickly turning

from side to side as it neared him, and the captain groped blindly for the Bible that was no

longer in his hand, then realised to his dismay that he had dropped it outside the door of the

cabin, somewhere out in the dark hallway, beyond his reach.

        ―What is your business here sir?‖ he bravely spat at the creature as it caressed his

cheek with its long fingers, and pushed its face closer to his. The creature continued slowly

moving its head from side to side and the captain felt as though it was somehow studying

him. He also felt numb with horror and fear when he stared back into the beast‘s twisted,

grotesque face. The taste of its foul breath on his lips nauseated him as he fought to stand up,

but he found himself unable to move.

        ―Damn your blood, you hound from hell,‖ he bravely bellowed at the creature, before

it shrieked at him so loudly that the storm could no longer be heard, and he felt that his

eardrums were about to burst open. Just then the cabin door swung open and Emerson came

stumbling in, tripping over the lifeless body of Collins, but he managed to hold on to the edge

of the table to stop his fall.

        ―What in God‘s name is happening here?‖ he muttered, as he witnessed the scenario

unfolding before him, and he quickly lifted the cutlass from the floor as the creature moved

slowly away from the captain, toward the door. ―No, leave it man,‖ Captain Bingham shouted

loudly, as Emerson lifted the cutlass to strike the beast. But the captain‘s command came too

late as the faithful old sailor swung the blade hard, hitting the creature firmly in its back with

a blow that would have killed most men instantly, but didn‘t even make this beast flinch.

        The captain watched again in terror as the creature turned around and gripped
                                                                                                 12



Emerson‘s head in one large powerful hand, as it held his shoulder with the other. Another

flash and the cabin turned to daylight once more. The captain wretched as he witnessed

Emerson‘s head being quickly torn from his body. The creature threw Emerson‘s head

unceremoniously over its shoulder and it bounced across the cabin floor as the thunder

outside boomed on loudly.

        Something else was in the room now, and in the darkness the captain could just make

out the shape as it lunged onto the creature. The cabin lit up again and he could see it. It was

Toby, hanging on to the creature‘s arm, biting and snarling, twisting its body violently as it

ripped and tore at the beast. The creature then seized the dog with its other powerful, gnarled

hand, pulling the snarling animal away to arm‘s length. The creature sneered before throwing

the dog down onto the hard deck, its pointed black teeth showing as the howling yelping dog

struggled out through the cabin door, into the hallway, and disappeared down the dark

corridor.

        The beast continued to move slowly on through the doorway, and the captain, on his

feet now, ran to a side cabinet and withdrew the loaded pistol he had always kept there in

case of mutinous behaviour with the crew. He quickly chased out after the beast and took

careful aim as he hung on to the rail to steady himself. He didn‘t fear it now though, not after

it had violated him, violated these dead seamen, leaving its evil testament in blood all over

his cabin floor, and if he were to die attempting to kill it, then so be it.

        The creature had just reached the point where the quarterdeck doors used to be,

moving backward out through the doorway and into the wind and rain as it mouthed words at

him, though none could be heard. Suddenly Captain Bingham fired at it, hitting the creature

directly in the chest. It proceeded on though, seemingly unhurt, to move on out, up over the

side of the ship, and high into the storm filled sky.
                                                                                                 13



                                        *    *   *    *   *



          All at once the lightning and the crashing thunder stopped, and below his feet the

captain could feel the ship steadying as the sea became quite calm, the storm ending as

quickly as it had begun.

          ―It‘s a bloody miracle captain;‖ the sailors and marines shouted as they ran up onto

the deck. ―The Lord has answered our prayers;‖ one of the men said softly to the captain as

he fell to his knees in thanks.

          The captain thought back to the story of Captain Lang, and how the demon had sought

out only one man, seaman Cotter. It had returned for this fellow some days later though and

had taken him away. Now he was quite sure that this demon had sought him out, and only

him. And now he was convinced this creature would be returning for him also.

          ―No;‖ the captain answered loudly to the men, who stood almost cheering in their

relief.

          He looked up into the moonlight and pointed, hand trembling, to the now barely

visible figure disappearing high into the clouds.

          ―The Lord has had no hand in this day‘s work lads. No! This is something else,

something very evil, and I don‘t believe we‘ve seen or heard the last of it, God help us all,‖

he said.

          As he hurried back down the steps, the men looked about to each other with fear in

their eyes. Their brief stay of death short lived.

          Because if the captain thought this about their situation, then they were sure it would

happen to them. This captain was seldom wrong about things, they felt. This fearless captain

had led them through many engagements with the enemy and had always been right.

          Captain Bingham retrieved the Bible from the passageway floor, gripped it tightly
                                                                            14



under his arm and slammed the cabin door as he wiped a tear from his eye.
                                                                                               15




                                          CHAPTER 2

                                          IRELAND1967



       As the Boeing 707 approached Ireland, Otis clenched his huge fists around the end of

the arm rests until his knuckles turned white. The pilot had just announced that they would be

landing at Shannon Airport in about fifteen minute‘s time, approaching from the west, and he

wondered why they volunteered this useless piece of information. Because as far as Otis was

concerned, he would rather they said nothing until the goddamn plane was on the ground.

       He hated flying, and not just because of the dangers involved. But now well into his

forties, and after many years of Sarah‘s cooking, he had increased in girth so much that

before take-off, in his embarrassment, the seat belt, even on full adjustment had taken him

three attempts to lock in. Sarah jokingly remarked that she would ask the hostess for an

extension strap. But Otis simply responded by flashing his teeth in a broad grin as he gave her

one of his looks. A look and smile he had perfected over the years which made him resemble

a black Burt Lancaster. ―Sure thing honey,‖ he said, mimicking and sounding just like Burt

Lancaster himself, as he moved his head in the Burt way, which caused her to laugh loudly.

       His medical discharge from the force had been tough, but Sarah was there for him,

Wife, lover, cook, and above all best friend. He loved her flowing red hair and her special

smile. A smile that could send his pulse racing, and her Irish accent that he never tired of

hearing. At least on that score life had been kind to him.



                                      *     *   *   *    *
                                                                                                 16




       Sarah had recently inherited a house in Ireland after her favourite uncle, Patrick, had

suddenly passed away, and the couple had decided to leave racist sixties America, move to

Ireland and live at the house. Patrick, her father‘s brother, had never married, and therefore

had no children of his own, but he had loved Sarah like a father. And because Sarah was an

only child, Patrick had spoiled her since she was a baby. Then, when her mother had taken

her to America, he was heartbroken, but could do little about it as her mother and he were

barely on speaking terms. Sarah never did find out the reason why though. In any event, he

had never forgotten Sarah, and had remembered her in his will. The house he had bequeathed

to her was only about a mile from where she had spent her youth, deep in the south of

Ireland, in a little village named Cappawhite. As Sarah stared out of the window of the

aircraft, she thought about Otis, and her mind wandered back to the time when it had all

began for them.



                                       *   *    *     *   *



       She had just reached her teens when her father had been killed in a freak accident on

the farm where he worked, and her mother had then taken her to America. There they would

stay with Sarah‘s Aunt Polly in Boston, and Sarah, who was only thirteen years of age when

the accident happened, was heartbroken. Sarah cried almost every night for weeks, finding it

hard at first to adapt to the American way of life.

       Then after a couple of years, and just as Sarah was starting to settle down, her mother

announced that she was going to be married again, to Don Parker. Parker was a guy Sarah

disliked immensely. Parker, she felt, was a sleaze of a man, who would leer at her, try to

touch her, and say rude things to her when her mother wasn‘t about. Not that Sarah thought
                                                                                              17



her mother would have cared too much about it anyway. Like the time he smashed his glass

deliberately against the wall one night while in one of his many mood swings, blaming it on

Sarah, and her mother had sided with him, not caring to listen to anything she would say.

       Her mother had then informed her that they would be moving to the suburbs of Los

Angeles, his city, and Sarah felt betrayed. She had only started to make new friends here, and

was actually getting to like the place. Protest as she might though, her mother would not

listen and her objections fell on deaf ears. However, Sarah later enrolled in drama class.

Anything to get out of a house where her mother still behaved like a love struck teenager,

showing absolutely no respect to the memory of her dead and loving father.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       It had almost been six years since Sarah left Ireland, and the years had passed by

quickly for her. Now her thoughts were completely immersed in her guest list, which she had

been meticulously planning for her eighteenth birthday which would be in around four

week‘s time. She was looking forward to the event, sighing joyously at the prospect of it, but

fate however was to intervene.

       The three youths had been casing out JJ‘s diner for the past fortnight, deciding it

would be an easy hit, with only an old man, and one or maybe two waitresses. Now there

would be no more watching the place, tonight they would put their plan into action. They

were three brothers, the oldest being only nineteen, but they were streetwise, each having

served juvenile detention, and they were ready.

       The shift had began like any other at the restaurant with the usual complaints,

customers coming and going, some tipping well, some not so well, and Sarah would be glad

when her shift was over, as she had some more finishing touches to add to her guest list of
                                                                                                 18



friends for the party. Johnston Jerome was very decent with her on that score, and she had

been allowed to be very flexible with her hours.

        Sarah would normally finish at nine-thirty, but if things weren‘t so busy, like tonight,

Mr Jerome would let her go home early. A tall gangling man with a hooked nose, he had

never quite gotten over the tragic death of his daughter at two years of age. He was so proud

back then to have become a father as he approached his fiftieth birthday, although sadly, fate

had also dealt him a deadly hand. This was when his little daughter drowned in the pond at

the back of the house, which had left him with a burden of guilt that he would always carry

with him for the rest of his life.

        Little Aimee would have been about Sarah‘s age, had she lived, and sometimes when

Sarah wasn‘t looking he would stare at her, thinking of how his little Aimee would have

looked now, had she lived.

        His wife Martha couldn‘t cope with the loss though, and had to be institutionalised six

months after Aimee‘s death. Johnston had regularly visited her, even though she would never

speak one word to him. That is until his last visit, when she screamed murderer at him, over

and over again, and almost gouged his eyes out.

        He stopped visiting after that, and Martha died four months later. Since then he had

put his work and time into his restaurant, but there wasn‘t a day passed that he didn‘t think of

the two of them.

        ―You go on ahead Sarah, place is empty anyhow,‖ he moaned, ―I‘ll finish here and

lock up.‖

        ―Why thank you, Mr Jerome,‖ she answered.

        ―It‘s Johnston,‖ he said smiling, ―Johnston,‖ he repeated, and Sarah couldn‘t stifle a

giggle as she thought about his name, which seemed to her to be back to front. It was nine

o‘clock and Sarah was just starting to leave when the three hooded men entered. Her body
                                                                                               19



jerked rigid as she looked at the guns in the men‘s hands. ―W-what do you want?‖ she

stuttered as the tall one raised his automatic.

       ―Get the fucking money,‖ he barked. ―Move it bitch.‖ Sarah found herself unable to

move and felt glued to the spot, as a fear she had never known before engulfed her body.



                                       *    *     *   *   *



       Three miles away a young Otis Tweedy and his partner, veteran cop Lewis Sanko

were nearing the end of their three-to-eleven shift. A light rain shower covered the patrol

car‘s windscreen, and a cold breeze outside made them glad they had been assigned to mobile

duty instead of the beat. The Second World War had ended over four years previously, and

Otis, too young to join the fighting men then, had now made it into the Los Angeles Police

department as part of a new recruitment drive. A new government policy that now allowed

coloured men to be integrated into the police force, and he was proud to be a first.

       This was his second week on the job since he had finished his basic training, and he

was enjoying every minute of it. Lewis, an old veteran, liked the kid, regardless of his colour,

and had not hesitated when the chief partnered the young rookie off with him. He

remembered the feelings he had; way back forty years, when he had first joined the force. A

young, naive Texas kid, who would soon learn things the hard way. Lewis had known it

would only be a matter of time before blacks would be allowed into the force, and he

personally welcomed the move, even though most of his colleagues objected strongly,

including the chief. The President had decided though, and that was good enough for him, he

felt. Lewis wasn‘t afraid to air his views on the matter either, and to hell with what the others

thought.

       Lewis though was mostly well liked among most of his colleagues, a tall, balding
                                                                                              20



heavy set man, he had been married to Beverly for the last thirty years, and he had been

looking forward to his retirement in eight months, when he and Bev, (as he had always called

her,) would be going on the fishing holiday of a lifetime, to Canada. It had been a long time

since they had been on vacation outside the States, what with the war and all, and Lewis was

counting the days.

       ―Hit the gas son,‖ Lewis ordered, ―and take us in.‖

       ―Speed limit,‖ Otis jokingly answered, as Lewis stared back at him.

       ―What the hell are you talking about? You‘re a cop now. Speed limit my ass, you

goddamn rookie,‖ Lewis replied with a laugh in his voice, his Texas drawl still prominent.

       Lewis, still smiling shook his head as he stared at Otis.

       ―It seems kind of peaceful and quiet tonight,‖ Otis remarked.

       ―Peaceful and quiet,‖ bellowed Lewis. ―Peaceful and quiet,‖ he repeated. ―Why, don‘t

push it son, tonight‘s a one off. You know this time next month you may just have notched up

a half dozen crazies on your belt, then maybe you can call yourself a cop, and then you can

tell me it‘s goddamn peaceful,‖ Lewis mumbled.

       ―You ever had to shoot anyone Lewis?‖

       ―Sure have son,‖ Lewis boasted. ―Shot so many goddamn crazy people they want to

name a cemetery in my honour.‖

       ―Wow!‖

       Otis sat quiet for a moment before he questioned Lewis further. ―It must make you

feel bad later though, having to shoot someone, I mean, knowing that you‘re responsible for

their death. How do you manage to cope with something like that?‖

       Lewis stared at Otis for a moment and laughed.

       ―Listen son,‖ Lewis said, ―don‘t be so goddamn serious, I‘m only kidding you, I ain‘t

ever shot anyone, and I ain‘t ever been shot. I was stabbed once though; by a lady of the night
                                                                                                   21



when I tried to arrest her. Why the bitch almost severed my little finger,‖ he moaned as he

held his open hand up to the rear view mirror and turned it from side to side, slowly

inspecting it. ―But if some asshole is threatening to shoot me or anyone else,‖ he went on,

―then I‘ll blow his sorry fucking ass back to where it came from, and no mistake, wouldn‘t

even give it a goddamn second thought. Then I‘ll go to bed and sleep like a damn baby.‖

Lewis made his hand into the shape of a gun and waved it about. ―C‘mon you crazy

bastards,‖ he yelled.

       Otis shook his head from side to side, unable to figure this guy out. ―Five minutes to

the precinct,‖ Otis said. ―Oh and by the way, you‘re a fruitcake,‖ he offered as an

afterthought, and laughed.

       Lewis didn‘t answer immediately, but sat with a grin on his face that reminded Otis of

Oliver Hardy, as he played with his tie in the same Oliver Hardy way. A full minute later

Lewis broke the silence, ―Fishing,‖ he said, as he put his hands behind his neck and leaned

back in the seat scratching his head. ―Huh?‖ Otis mumbled.

       ―Fishing,‖ repeated Lewis. ―That‘s what I plan to do when I retire next year. Ever do

any fishing son?‖ Lewis asked.

       Otis was about to answer but Lewis pressed on, ignoring him. ―Why, I plan to go

down to the lake every single day, big damn catfish in there the size of a goddamn shark, and

I‘m going to whip his big sorry ass, yesireebob, you see if I don‘t,‖ he said loudly, as he

pointed at Otis.

       Suddenly a man ran into the middle of the road, arms waving, and Otis had to brake

hard to avoid hitting him as the car side swept to a stop. ―What the hell?‖ Lewis yelled.

―Cover me boy,‖ he ordered, and then he was out of the car. The light rain had made the road

shine like a mirror, reflecting the bright lights of the numerous bars and restaurants that lined

the avenue, giving it an almost picture postcard effect, the brightly lit sign of JJ‘s eclipsing
                                                                                              22



them all. Almost at once the man was level with Lewis. ―Hold it,‖ Lewis ordered, aiming his

weapon at him as the breathless man broke in.

       ―There‘s something up at JJ‘s,‖ the frightened man wheezed, as he struggled hard for

breath, ―three fellows ran inside, carrying guns and,‖ he coughed ―they‘re wearing hoods

with, you know, holes in the, um and th…‖

       ―Call for backup right away,‖ Lewis interrupted.

       Otis shouted down the mike, ―possible two-eleven in progress, JJ‘s diner, Garfield

Avenue.‖

       Control answered immediately and the sound of, ―all units, all units,‖ echoed from the

radio as Otis sprang from the car, pulled his weapon from his holster, and started to run

toward JJ‘s.

       ―Come back here Tweedy, you stupid asshole,‖ Lewis barked, and Otis stopped in his

tracks. ―What are you trying to do here? Get yourself goddamn killed? Well, not on my

retirement plan you‘re not. If you‘re going to die at least try and wait until you‘re an old man.

Now get back in the damn car,‖ Lewis ordered.

       Otis walked slowly back to the car, feeling like a schoolboy who had just been

scolded by the head teacher. Tweedy, Lewis had called him, not Otis, and he felt offended by

his older partner‘s unfriendly reaction toward him. ―We‘ll wait for the cavalry,‖ Lewis

ordered.



                                      *    *    *    *   *



       Inside JJ‘s the tall one spoke again, ―I said get me the fucking money bitch. Now

move your ass or you‘re gonna get it,‖ he snarled.

       Sarah could tell they were Hispanic, even with their makeshift hoods covering their
                                                                                                 23



faces. ―Please don‘t hurt us,‖ she cried.

       The smallest of the trio lashed out and hit her across the face with his automatic,

cutting her cheek and lips, and sending a small spray of blood across the counter. ―Just do it,

bitch,‖ he scowled. Johnston looked at Sarah, who was now reeling from the blow, and he felt

a sudden rush of anger rise inside him.

       He could remember his wife‘s last words to him on his final visit to her, ―murderer,‖

she had called him, ―murderer.‖ And the damn thing about it was that it was true. It was as

true as if he had drowned their little daughter himself. Wasn‘t he the one who had wanted the

pond out the back garden, and wasn‘t he the one who was left to baby-sit their child while his

wife worked part time in the laundry? Wasn‘t he also the one who was so engrossed in the

ball game that he didn‘t notice little Aimee sneak out back and fall into the pond, drowning in

ten inches of water?

       His gaze shifted to the man who now had Sarah firmly gripped by her hair, all the

while screaming obscenities into her ear, and striking her again and again as he dragged her

across the floor. Johnston quickly stretched over, unseen, across the counter beside the

vegetable rack, and picked up a large knife he had placed there earlier.

       Johnston pushed his body away toward the centre of the room, grabbing the man

holding Sarah. Without warning, he quickly tore the mask away from the robber‘s face, only

to discover that this was no man. Why, this was only a boy, a boy of about eighteen years of

age, he felt, and Johnston paused for a moment.

       The other robber who until now had done and said nothing, aimed his sawn off

shotgun at Johnston and fired both barrels, striking Johnston in the back and side, and hitting

Sarah full in the pelvis, sending the blood spraying in every direction. Johnston was still on

his feet though, but he already knew he was beyond hope. He looked down in terror and

disbelief at Sarah, who was writhing on the floor, and his anger reached new heights.
                                                                                                24



       Johnston had been top pitcher at his school, and was master at arm wrestling against

all the other boys, once beating four boys in succession. That however, was a long time ago,

and it had been many years since he had indulged in that sort of activity. But he was still

strong for a man of his age, and although losing blood rapidly, he pushed his dying body for

its last reserves of strength. Now he didn‘t think of them as boys, they had come here to rob

and kill, and that‘s what they were, cold-blooded heartless killers who deserved no mercy.

       Johnston held the robber tightly with his free hand, and swung the knife around in an

arc. The struggling youth sensed what was coming next and his eyes widened with fear,

widened so much they looked as though they were about to pop out of his head.

       ―No!‖ The tall one yelled as the knife entered his brother‘s neck, and ripped clean

through to the other side, sending blood spiralling out in all directions.

       The youth staggered backward, his lips tried to speak, begging for help, but the blood

filled his mouth now, and the only sound he could make was the gurgling in his throat, as the

warm blood cascaded down over his chest, streaking his white jacket red. His hand

desperately but fruitlessly tried to dislodge the knife as his shocked body started to convulse.

       The tall one fired his automatic now, sending at least another four rounds into

Johnston‘s back, but still he did not fall, and the robber drew back, frightened by the man‘s

strength. Then Johnston looked up, and there they stood. The two figures at the end of the

counter were smiling and beckoning him to come to them, motioning him through the haze of

the room, and arms outstretched, he stumbled toward them, smiling. It was his wife and

daughter, together again, he could see them clearly, waving at him, urging him, and he forced

himself closer to them. They had returned for him, forgiven him, arms raised to him, and now

at last they would be together again, forever.

       He tried to force himself to speak to them, but the blood pumping up through his nose

and mouth, gagged him, and he gave up and simply smiled at them. He was still smiling
                                                                                               25



when he closed his eyes for the last time, and he raised his hand as he crashed heavily down

onto the floor.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



        On hearing the first shots Otis leapt from the police car and ran toward the entrance of

JJ‘s.

        ―Come back,‖ Lewis screamed, but this time Otis wasn‘t for listening. ―Crazy fucking

kid,‖ Lewis grumbled, but he followed Otis anyway. Otis ran into the hallway and slammed

up against the wall for cover. Hearing the girl scream, he knew he would have to go in, but

just then Lewis‘s voice rang out again, ―Jesus H. Christ, Tweedy,‖ he yelled. ―Who told you

to leave the damn car?‖ Otis ignored Lewis‘s latest outburst and was surprised at how he

could still think so rationally, as he found himself wondering what his favourite actor John

Wayne would do if he were here in this situation.

        He had gone to the movies just the previous week to see his new movie, She wore a

yellow ribbon, and he had enjoyed it so much that it was still fresh in his mind. Why big John

would just dive in, guns blazing, he thought, and then there would be three less robbers to

worry about. But this was real life, not some stage play or film set where they only shoot

blanks, and this wasn‘t acting. Maybe he should have listened to Lewis, he felt. But now it

was too late anyway, he was here. Suddenly another scream filled his ears and he knew he

had to make his move. He was afraid, but his adrenaline kicked in and he went for it, kicking

open the door and bravely diving into the main room.

        The robber with the sawn-off had now reloaded, and he swung the barrels menacingly

around toward Otis. Otis levelled his gun, aimed it at the man, then hesitated. He had never

shot anyone before, not so much as a possum, and his finger felt numb as it froze on the
                                                                                                26



trigger. An explosion beside his head, followed quickly by five more, almost blew his

eardrum out. It was Lewis, gun blazing, blasting away at the robbers. Move over John Wayne,

Otis thought.

       Here was a real hero, Lewis Sanko, his partner, wasting the bad guys.

       Suddenly one of the robbers started firing back and Otis returned the compliment.

Squeezing the trigger time and time again, feeling the gun kicking in his hand, until, when

empty, the kicking stopped. Everything was silent now and all that remained was a room full

of smoke, upturned tables, and the stench of cordite that hung in the air. As the smoke cleared

Otis could see the bodies on the floor, five in all. Someone on the floor was moving, a girl.

―Help me,‖ she pleaded to the handsome young black cop approaching her.

       Otis removed a gent‘s coat that was hanging from a rail and placed it under Sarah‘s

head. ―Hang in there missy, ambulance is on the way,‖ he said softly, while in the distance he

could hear the sirens. ―Cavalry‘s coming,‖ he shouted behind him in Lewis‘s direction, but

Lewis didn‘t hear him. Lewis would never hear him again, because Lewis was dead. Even

before Otis got to him he knew his partner was beyond help. Lewis had been shot in the head,

and half of it was gone. Then the ambulance crews arrived, and a sobbing Otis, now on his

knees, ushered them toward the girl with one hand as he rocked Lewis‘s head with the other.

       Against all of his experience and self preservation, Lewis had stormed in, stormed

into a bloodbath to save his young charge, caution to the wind and had paid the ultimate

penalty. Otis felt overwhelmed with guilt and grief as he gently lowered Lewis to the floor.

Why, this crazy white guy had saved him.

       Then he stood up, hands dripping Lewis‘s blood, and slowly made his way through

the crowds of police, medics and detectives who were rapidly filling the place. He found the

girl being rushed out on a stretcher and he gripped her hand. ―You‘re gonna be alright,‖ he

sobbed, and as she squeezed his bloodied hand he was aware and amazed at her strength.
                                                                                                 27



          ―Will you come visit me,‖ Sarah asked.

          ―Yeah, if you wish, I‘ll come visit with you,‖ he promised, his head still spinning as

they closed the ambulance doors.

          Sarah later spent five hours on the operating table before the surgeons announced that

the operation had been successful; she would pull through.

          Otis kept his word, visiting Sarah regularly at the hospital after this, and a bond

formed between them, so much so that when she was released from hospital they started

dating. And even though Sarah‘s mother was totally against the relationship, telling Sarah

that she would ruin her life by getting involved with a coloured man, Sarah totally dismissed

her advice. After all, it wasn‘t long after Sarah‘s injury when Don Parker finally dropped her

mother for a younger woman. The distraught woman hit the bottle hard after this and no one

could give her advice or even reason with her, and so Sarah had let things take their own

course.

          It wasn‘t long before the couple fell in love, and it wasn‘t too long either before Otis

proposed, and Sarah had no hesitation in accepting.

          As the years rolled along it was clear to everyone just how much the couple were

devoted to each other, as they spent all their free time together. Otis loved his job though. He

had gained much experience in his almost twenty years now of policing and felt he was

accomplishing something good in the force, especially when he could help some of the kids

to learn to have some respect for themselves and everyone else.



                                         *    *   *    *   *



          The last call Otis was ever to make on the force had been a domestic. A drunken guy

had been threatening his wife with a loaded flare gun, and Otis and his partner, Eric Little
                                                                                                28



Feather, a full blood Lakota Sioux Indian, had been assigned to the call. Eric had managed to

persuade the guy to put the weapon down on the floor and was just about to cuff the verbally

abusive man who continued to shout racial remarks. These insults were not addressed toward

Eric, but at the handsome black cop who was talking to his irrational drunken wife. Suddenly

and without warning he took a swipe at Eric, knocking him off balance before kicking him

violently. With lightning speed the man pulled out a knife and stabbed Eric in the back as

Eric tried hard to keep his balance. The deranged man was about to stab Eric again when Otis

responded with even greater speed, shooting him twice, and sending him sprawling across the

floor. Although badly hurt, Eric noticed the woman quickly pick up the flare gun, and Otis

didn‘t hear Eric shout a warning as the woman aimed it at Otis and pulled the trigger. Eric

watched helpless as one side of Otis‘s head and shoulder exploded in a white ball of flame,

and Otis fell unconscious to the floor. Eric, although losing blood and badly wounded,

instinctively ran to help his badly injured partner, beating out the flames with his cap, and

burning his hands badly in the process.

        When back up arrived, Eric, who had collapsed bleeding onto a chair, revolver in

hand, was cursing and threatening to shoot the woman, who was sitting silently weeping on

the floor. Otis was still unconscious when they took him away, and at the hospital they had

revealed that he had suffered second degree burns to one side of his face. The doctors had

worked on him for hours, but apart from the burns, Otis also lost an eye and spent a long time

in hospital.

        To be commissioned out of the force, especially in the American sixties, with the

racism and unemployment so high was a dire prospect for a black man. This was exactly

what was to happen to him though. Otis managed to struggle by on his payout, but the next

few years became a problem for him as he tried to deal with his deformity, as well as the loss

of the job he loved. However, with Sarah‘s care and devotion he gradually began to accept
                                                                                              29



the situation, although Sarah assured him that it didn‘t make one bit of difference to her how

badly he was scarred, because she still loved him as much as she ever had.

         The captain‘s voice interrupted their thoughts again, welcoming them to Ireland, and

Otis squeezed Sarah‘s hand and smiled. He would try to be happy with her here. He was just

sorry he couldn‘t give her the children she had desired, but this could never be, as the injury

she had received all those years ago had cruelly ended any hope of this. Still, she was home

again.
                                                                                               30




                                          CHAPTER 3



       As they stepped through the doorway of the aircraft, a fierce cold October wind blew

at their faces and Otis pulled up his coat collar and shrugged. ―Damn,‖ he remarked to Sarah,

as she huddled tightly into him. ―So this is Ireland,‖ he groaned. ―Damn place feels more like

Siberia.‖ They collected their cases and then proceeded to collect the Ford Consul which they

had pre-rented with great difficulty before they left the States; they would buy one later.

       Sarah had already explained to Otis that Ireland was way behind America in

technology, and everything else for that matter, the pace of life being a lot slower, but that in

time he would get used to it. ―Roads are damn small,‖ exclaimed Otis, feeling happy that he

had let Sarah drive, and especially with his limited vision. Sarah ignored him and continued

driving the car through the narrow winding countryside. ―My first impression is that the Irish

people seem very friendly though. Those airport guys were real hospitable,‖ he said as if in

compromise.

       ―Yes, Irish people are like that,‖ Sarah agreed.

       ―When do you think the Irish will realise that they drive on the wrong side of the

road?‖ Otis asked jokingly, but Sarah simply gave him a stern side glance. Better keep quiet,

he thought.

       ―Not far now to our new home,‖ Sarah announced, as they passed through the little

village of Doon and sped on down the road toward Cappawhite. Even though it was starting

to rain and there was a strong wind blowing outside the car, Otis was amazed at the beautiful

surroundings of emerald green fields and hills that swept into the distance, forming little
                                                                                               31



valleys of their own as they moulded into one another.

       The land of myths and legends, he thought. ―I think we‘ll be fine here honey,‖ he said,

―just fine.‖ He put his arm around her shoulder and smiled.

       ―Did you know that from Cappawhite we‘re only about eight miles from Tipperary?‖

Sarah informed him.

       ―Yes honey, I believe you have mentioned that to me before,‖ Otis laughed.

       ―I have?‖ Sarah answered, unable to remember saying anything to Otis about it.

       ―Just about a hundred times,‖ Otis replied, and Sarah looked disbelievingly at him,

her eyes squinting.

       ―Do you know what the name Cappawhite, or An Cheapach as it‘s known in the Irish

language means?‖ Sarah asked him.

       ―No, I don‘t think you mentioned that one.‖ he said as Sarah sped on.

       ―It means, the plot of land,‖ she answered smiling, and somehow she felt as though

she had gotten one up on him.

       ―Well I‘ll be, you just learn something new every damn day,‖ Otis answered

sarcastically, as he mimicked to her in a southern drawl accent and Sarah slapped him hard

on the hand and laughed.

       As they drove into the village, Sarah was amazed at how little it had changed from the

last time she had been here and she stopped the car at the side of the road and got out. A little

man riding on a very large cart, being pulled by a very small tired horse, trotted passed them,

and the little man stared inquisitively at them. ―Hi,‖ Sarah shouted at the man, throwing him

a friendly wave, but the man ignored her, cracking his whip at the small horse which

struggled to break into a gallop. Well, maybe they‟re not all friendly, she thought.



                                       *   *    *   *    *
                                                                                               32




       The old grocery shop and Armshaw‘s pub, five doors down, were still there, although

they looked different from what she could remember. New windows perhaps, or maybe

painted differently, she thought. Then there was the old school, her school, which hadn‘t

changed one bit since she last stepped through the wrought iron gates all those years ago, and

she wondered if Mrs McGill, her teacher, was still alive, although she would be an old

woman now if she were. Beautiful Elspeth McGill, she thought, with her flowing black hair,

and who had looked more like a movie star than a school teacher. This lady would teach the

girls to dance, that is until her drunken husband turned up at class one day and called her

filthy names, before beating her in front of the entire school, with some of the girls screaming

and crying. It had taken three policemen and a lot of violence to subdue and arrest him, and

Mrs McGill had never returned after that. Sarah later heard rumours that Mrs McGill had

been having an affair with the headmaster, Mr Blain, but she dismissed these rumours

immediately from her mind as being nonsense, considering Mrs McGill‘s beauty and the age

difference between her and old Mr Blain.

       Sarah entered through the half open school gate and walked about fifteen feet along

the inside wall, knelt down, and pulled out a little loose brick from the wall and smiled. The

initials, S M and M T were still written inside the recess in black crayon, and had hardly

faded after all these years. Her own name, Sarah Maguire and her friend Maureen Thorne,

and she remembered the two of them writing this just before she had left for America. It

would be their secret, a friendship thing, and Sarah laughed aloud as she thought of Maureen.

Funny little Maureen, who could make her laugh more than anyone else. She was still

laughing as she walked back through the gates.

       Otis cocked his head smiling as he wondered what his wife was so happy about, and

he thought about how homesick she must have been all those years they were married, but
                                                                                                 33



said nothing. Next door to the school, at the corner, was the old Garda police station, just as

she remembered it. The police never had very much to do there when she was young, she felt,

except for the Mrs McGill episode, and she wondered if this had changed any over the years.

        Sarah didn‘t hear Otis leave the car and sneak up behind her, and when he put his

arms around her waist she jumped. ―So this is your past,‖ he said softly, as he gently kissed

her neck, and Sarah in response held his arms tightly.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



        The house was about a half mile outside the village, and when they arrived they were

greeted by old Thomas McCabe and his wife Kathleen.

        Thomas removed his cap and bowed, while Kathleen curtsied. ―Welcome sir,

madam,‖ they said in unison.

        ―Please hurry in out of the cold,‖ Kathleen added.

        The house looked smaller than Sarah had remembered it. Perhaps this is the price of

growing up, she thought, and she was annoyed that she had over exaggerated the size of the

house to Otis long before they had left America, which now made her feel slightly

embarrassed. Otis seemed happy with it though and said nothing, so she wouldn‘t bring up

the subject again unless he did.

        At the front of the house there was a small garden, which would need some tidying,

and at the rear there was an even larger one that was as big as a field, with at least a dozen

trees of different varieties.

        A narrow road with just room enough for one car ran up the side of the house and

disappeared into the distant woods, and Otis, wondering where the road ended was just about

to ask when Thomas ushered the pair into the living room area of the house. The warmth
                                                                                                34



from the large turf fire that was glowing in the heavy stone fireplace greeted them. Sarah also

noticed that a small fire was also burning in the kitchen, which was a pleasant surprise on a

cold day like this, and she smiled at Tom, who pointed into the dining room, which was filled

with boxes of all sizes.

       ―Your belongings madam, arrived from America a few days ago,‖ he stated.

       ―Great,‖ Sarah replied with a grin.

       ―My wife will just make you both some tea,‖ Thomas proudly announced, as

Kathleen made for the stove.

       ―It was very kind of you to have the place ready for us,‖ Sarah remarked.

       ―Yeah, really appreciate it,‖ Otis said.

       ―Oh don‘t thank us sir,‖ Thomas replied, ―that‘s why the agency pays us. Anyway,

forecast says a storm‘s a coming, not that we pay much heed to those people, but just in case

the buggers are right this time, then we didn‘t want you catching your death from the cold.‖

       Sarah stared out of the window for a moment and pondered at the narrow road

running up the side of the house before speaking. ―The old guest house up there in the

woods,‖ she said as she pointed toward the trees, ―do you know if it‘s still in use nowadays?‖

Kathleen had her back to Sarah, and so Sarah could not see the surprised look of horror on

Kathleen‘s face at the inquisitive question. Kathleen dropped a cup on the tiled floor,

smashing it to pieces, making old Thomas jump.

       ―Stupid bloody woman,‖ Thomas quipped, but Otis stepped over and helped Kathleen

clean up the mess. ―Thank you sir,‖ she said, embarrassed as Otis smiled at her.

       ―Well sir, madam, if we are no longer required then we will bid you both good night,‖

Thomas said.

       Otis removed a ten Irish punt note from his wallet and handed it to Thomas.

       ―Thanks for everything,‖ Otis said with a smile, and before Thomas had a chance to
                                                                                               35



pull up his jaw that had almost dropped down to his chest, Kathleen snatched the note from

him and forced it into her purse, clasping it shut and pushing the purse deep inside her apron

pocket. ―Thank you sir, but it‘s safer here, sure wouldn‘t he only drink it,‖ she declared.

       As they were about to leave, Sarah repeated her question about the guest house to

Kathleen, and was amazed at her stern response. ―Look ma‘am,‖ Kathleen answered, her

cheeks turning bright red. ―The house that you are talking about has not been a guest house

for many years now. Old Mary Doyle lives up there though, has done for a long time, but if

you take my advice you will stay away from that house. There have been frightening rumours

about strange goings on up there, things you shouldn‘t meddle in. Take fair warning mind,

and stay away from that place.‖

       As they left the house they began to argue and Otis wondered if they were arguing

over the tip, or the question of the old house up the road, which seemed to annoy them. As

Otis wandered around inspecting their new home he noticed an old horseshoe surrounded

with shamrocks nailed to the back door. Some words were written underneath, but they were

in Irish. ―What‘s this all about honey?‖ He asked.

       ―Oh it‘s for good luck, an Irish thing. It‘s also supposed to keep evil spirits away,‖ she

answered, smiling.

       ―Evil spirits huh? Well I‘ll be,‖ Otis whispered as he rubbed the horseshoe and

muttered something that Sarah couldn‘t make out.

       ―We‘ll need some more supplies,‖ Sarah informed him as she checked out the

cupboards. ―Nothing that can‘t wait until tomorrow though,‖ she muttered to herself. Later

that night, as the couple lay in bed Otis pulled his funny Burt Lancaster face and threw the

voice that was just like the real thing as he tickled her neck.

       ―Wanna make out some, Mrs Tweedy? Huh?‖ Otis‘s grin almost lit up the room and

Sarah laughed.
                                                                                                  36



       ―Um, not tonight Burt, but I‘ll get back to you on that one. I‘ll contact your agent,‖

she laughed.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



       Next day Otis drove the couple down into the village and they stopped at the corner

shop. Sarah entered the little shop that she hadn‘t stepped foot inside for almost thirty years

and was immediately stunned. She felt as if she had just passed back through the years and

came out of some sort of time machine. The inside of the shop hadn‘t changed a bit from

what she could remember, with the shelves bulging out to capacity, just as they were back

then. The unopened boxes of different products stacked against the walls and covering most

of the floor space was the same as before, and Sarah had to dodge around a few of them.

       Then, as she stared at the old woman behind the counter, a thousand memories came

flooding back to her. Even though the woman had aged a lot since then, Sarah instantly

recognised her. It was Constantine Murphy, the friendliest woman in the village, she

reckoned. This woman, Sarah remembered, was always so kind to everyone when Sarah was

a child. Constantine had just taken over the shop then. She would often give extra measures

out to people, and sometimes for free to the needy, and even then Sarah wondered how she

had managed to stay in business. Here she was though, still going strong after all this time.

Constantine would have been about forty years old way back then, Sarah thought, but she

supposed Constantine really hadn‘t changed that much since.

       ―Hi,‖ Sarah said, as she checked the little list of goods she would need to purchase.

       ―Hello to yourself,‖ the old woman answered as she eyed Sarah with interest. It had

been a while since a stranger had entered her shop, especially with winter coming in fast, and

normally with no tourists at this time of year. It seemed odd to her. Just as Sarah looked up,
                                                                                             37



their eyes met, and Sarah spoke first.

        ―Constantine, am I right?‖ Sarah probed.

        ―I don‘t think I‘m familiar with you, do I know you darlin?‖ the old woman asked

with a puzzled expression on her face.

        ―Well, maybe, I mean, I hope, I think so,‖ Sarah mumbled. ―I was born here in the

village, but my mother and I left to live in America when I was a child, after my dad was

killed in the farming accident. I still remember you though, um, Sarah‘s my name, Sarah

Tweedy.‖

        ―Sarah Tweedy, Sarah Tweedy,‖ the old woman whispered as she tried to recall the

name.

        As the old woman studied her face for recognition, Sarah spoke again. ―Sorry, it was

Sarah Maguire back then, before I was married.‖

        ―Sweet mother of Jesus,‖ the old woman replied as she ran around the counter and

embraced Sarah. ―Now how could I have ever forgotten a pretty face like yours my dear?‖

        Sarah blushed.

        ―What brings you back to Ireland my dear?‖

        ―I, we‘re living here now,‖ Sarah corrected, ―Otis, my husband and I, at Uncle Pat‘s

house,‖ she added.

        ―Well, he was a fine man, your Uncle Patrick, as was your father,‖ the old woman

said smiling, ―I still remember them as though it were yesterday,‖ she added.

        Constantine remembered the family only too well. The scandal that rocked the town

back then still reverberated around the countryside. She was sure the lady standing in front of

her was unaware of the situation though. Because had this fine featured woman have known

about the situation, Constantine was certain she would not have come within a thousand

miles of Cappawhite.
                                                                                               38



         And as far as the story of Sarah‘s father being killed in an accident went, well,

everyone back then knew that the hard working man had blown his own head off with his

shotgun. He just couldn‘t live with the fact that Sarah had been the product of an illicit affair

with his wife and his brother Patrick.

         He hadn‘t spoken to Patrick for some years after he had found out, but they all agreed

later that Sarah was never to know. Sarah was unaware that he was more than an uncle to her

and could never understand why he was so overly kind to her when she visited him.

         Patrick had never spoken to Sarah‘s mother again though, even though the woman

wrote constantly to him, expressing her love.

         When she knew it was hopeless, Sarah‘s mother took the only course she knew and

wanted, revenge. She fled with their daughter to America, leaving Patrick broken hearted for

the daughter he would never see again. This scorned woman would make this man pay for

snubbing her.

         Constantine would not reveal what she knew though. Some things were better kept

buried away.



                                         *   *   *   *    *



         Twenty minutes later Otis was getting impatient. He left the car and entered the shop

very slowly. The two women were reminiscing so much that they didn‘t notice him come in.

―Hi,‖ Otis said as the old woman went quiet and walked quickly behind the counter. ―My

husband Otis,‖ Sarah stated proudly.

         ―Oh!‖ Constantine mumbled, in a cold and unfriendly manner. Sarah could instantly

sense Constantine‘s disapproval of her being married to a black man and this made her feel

angry.
                                                                                               39



       Otis could feel the old woman‘s resentment as well, but he held out his hand and gave

her a friendly smile anyway. As she reluctantly and loosely shook his hand, she forced a half

smiled back.

       Sarah felt embarrassed, but Otis simply shrugged it off.

       Why can‟t people see Otis for the man he is? Sarah angrily thought.

       As they left the little shop, Otis was just about to drive away when old Constantine

appeared at the passenger window of the car and tapped loudly on it. Sarah quickly rolled the

window down and the old woman leaned inside the car. ―There is a house up in the woods,

beside you,‖ she said.

       ―Yes, we know about it,‖ Otis replied, ―the Doyle house.‖

       ―Yes, Mrs Doyle‘s house,‖ the old woman corrected.

       ―What about it?‖ Sarah questioned, pretending she knew nothing about the place.

Constantine didn‘t even notice Sarah‘s dry reaction toward her.

       ―Stay away from there,‖ Constantine said, and was about to say more when an old

man turned the corner and hobbled into her shop. Constantine had changed over the years.

There would be no free-loaders in her shop these days. Those days of free handouts had long

gone. And even old men like this one could steal from her, she believed. Now Constantine

trusted no one.

       The old woman turned quickly away to follow the old man into the shop, but paused

to look back over her shoulder. ―There‘s nothing for you up there. Stay away‖ she said

loudly. ―Nothing for you,‖ she repeated and walked abruptly on.

       As they drove away Otis noticed that Sarah had gone very quiet. ―Superstition honey,

that‘s all it is,‖ he said, and as Sarah quickly glanced around at him, he somehow got the

feeling that the situation unnerved her. But it was Constantine‘s reaction towards Otis that

had made Sarah behave like this, and she found it hard to control her emotions. She loved
                                                                                             40



Otis, and no one was going to damn well change that. It was the man she loved, not the

colour.

          As they pulled up at the house Otis remarked that the weather was getting worse, but

they had so much work to do inside the place that they didn‘t care anyway. It would take

weeks to get the house fixed up properly. Everything would sort itself out in the end though,

Otis felt.
                                                                                             41




                                         CHAPTER 4



       Later that night down in the village, Armshaw‘s pub was in full swing; the locals

uncaring about the worsening weather outside were drinking and pouring their hearts out to

each other. Old Mick O‘Neil was guzzling down a whiskey at the bar, as Matt the barman

and owner eyed him intently. Everyone in the place knew old Mick, who as far back as

anyone could remember had always been there. Even so, no one could have guessed at his

age, which he would never talk about anyway, and although anyone could have been excused

for thinking him over eighty years old, in reality he was no more than sixty-five.

       Mick had been the only son in the family, although his seven sisters made growing up

very eventful, and even though the regulars knew him to be a drunk, this was not always the

case. Many years before this, and after his father‘s early death, which Mick believed was the

result of a broken heart, when his mother had succumbed to the cancer, Mick had inherited

the farm.

       At age twenty-two, and with four sisters unmarried and still living at the farm, home

life was pretty hard, and the working hours long. Still, Mick made the best of it, and when he

met Mary Donnelly, the prettiest girl for a thousand miles in any direction, he reckoned, well,

somehow it made all the hard work worthwhile. It was the happiest day of his life when he

proposed to Mary and she accepted whole heartedly. Mary found life at the farm dull and

boring though, and longed for her husband to sell up and move to America. This was a land

she had heard and read so much about, a land where everyone was going, and a land where

their dreams could come true.
                                                                                               42



       Mary had pleaded with Mick to consider this on many occasions, but Mick however

had other ideas. With four sisters, a wife and a farm to look after, he couldn‘t even

contemplate such a notion. In any event, the farm had been handed down from generation to

generation, and he was not going to be the one to end the cycle now.

       No! When he had children, as he planned to, then they could carry on where he left

off. The couple seemed happy enough though, and whenever they would visit town, which

was often, heads would turn, some in envy at the handsome pair.

       The next few years went past pretty much the same, with Mary constantly going on

about America, and Mick putting her off with his unrelenting attitude, and then it happened.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       It was a bright sunny day and Mick was working hard in the fields when the sickness

started. Mick ignored the cramps in his stomach at first, but as they worsened over the next

few days he had to take to his bed, letting the women tend to the farming duties. Then the

pain would ease up and disappear, and Mick would go back to running the place again, only

to have the cramps and pain return tenfold.

       This went on over the next few months; Mick would fall sick, only to get well again.

The doctor, old doc Adams, said he was run down, probably due to all the worry of trying to

run the farm, and Mick‘s married sister Meg, decided that he was to come and stay with her

for a few weeks, away from the place and the stress that it was causing him. Mick reluctantly

agreed to this, but felt it would do him no good.

       Two weeks later though, Mick was fighting fit, and he decided to return home again,

against Meg‘s wishes.

       Two months later he would have to return again to Megs, and two weeks after this he
                                                                                               43



once more recovered.

       What the bloody hell is wrong with me? Mick thought.

       It was less than a week later since returning from Meg‘s place, that Mick was again

out working in the fields. He felt the pain return, much worse this time though, burning and

burrowing its way through his stomach, and he staggered back to the farmhouse and slumped

down at the table. Now, and for the first time in his life, he sat down and seriously pondered

about selling the farm. Yes, he would sell up and take them all, the whole kit and caboodle

and start afresh in America.

       He would go and inform Mary and the girls of his decision as soon as this damn

sickness and pain left him, he decided. Mick was still sitting in pain at the table twenty

minutes later, when his young sister Bridget appeared at his side, and she looked ashen white.

―What‘s wrong child?‖ Mick asked. Bridget did not answer him straight away, but stared

silently at him for a moment, making him feel uncomfortable. ―What the hell is it, Bridget?‖

he asked again as he winced in pain.

       ―I‘ve been looking all over the fields for you, Mick,‖ she exclaimed loudly. ―It‘s

Mary.‖ Her voice was hoarse and sad, and something bad was taking place here, he felt. Mick

sprang up from the chair and ignored his pain, his concern now only for his wife. ―What‘s

wrong with Mary? Answer me girl,‖ he shouted, panic in his voice. He was about to run out

when Bridget grabbed his sleeve and tugged him back. ―I‘ve seen her,‖ she stuttered.

       ―You‘ve seen her?‖ Mick replied, puzzled.

       ―I‘ve seen Mary put something, she put something in your tea earlier today, and I

watched unseen from the stairs as she placed a small package at the back of that cupboard,‖

she exclaimed, pointing across the room.

       ―Show me child,‖ Mick ordered her, now feeling confused and angry.

       Bridget reached up to an old cupboard that was seldom used, opened the door and
                                                                                               44



peered inside. ―There, it‘s there,‖ she said. Mick looked into the cupboard and stared for a

moment, hoping above hope that Bridget was wrong, and that he himself was mistaken in

what he was now thinking.

       He removed an old teapot and then a small green sack bag containing snuff. All that

was left was an old broken cup. As he searched through the small snuff bag he looked

puzzled. ―Now why in God‘s name would Mary put snuff in my tea?‖ Mick said, smiling

through his pain at the girl. But Bridget, solemn faced, simply nudged him and pointed to the

broken cup. Mick slowly and with hesitation, lifted the cup from the shelf and peered inside,

his smile now disappearing fast.

       A small folded envelope lay in its bottom and Mick lifted it out, opened it, and stared

in horror at the white powder it contained. He had killed the farm rats with the stuff on many

occasions and he knew immediately what the envelope contained. ―What is it?‖ Bridget

asked, shaking.

       Mick stared hard at the contents for some time before he answered.

       ―Arsenic,‖ Mick whispered, as he quickly slammed the bag onto the table and ran

outside, where he forced himself to be sick.

       When he returned back to the room, he sat down and lowered his head into his hands

and silently wept. He didn‘t want to believe this, but here it was, and at once he knew the

reason why. America, Mary had always wanted to go there, but he had been adamant that

they couldn‘t go.

       With him dead though, Mary would own the farm, and then she would be free to sell

up and follow her dream. He felt his legs buckle. This woman whom he had loved more than

life itself was trying to kill him, and her betrayal stunned him. How could I have been such a

bloody fool? Mick thought. He would never know how it had gotten this far, he reasoned.

Hadn‘t he given Mary everything she needed? His love for her had been unconditional,
                                                                                               45



always, he believed, and now this. For tonight though he would say nothing, and he

instructed Bridget to do the same.

       Next morning Mick prepared the pony and trap, but in great pain and with some

difficulty. It would be at least a three hour journey to her father Daniel‘s house, but Mick

knew what he had to do. ―Mary,‖ he called out.

       ―Yes Michael,‖ she answered.

       ―Fetch your shawl; we must go to see your father today,‖ he said.

       ―Now what would you be wanting to see my father about?‖ Mary questioned,

puzzled.

       ―Surprise, you‘ll find out when we get there,‖ Mick replied, trying to disguise his pain

and hurt.

       They climbed onto the cart that fine summer morning and headed off on their long

journey, with Mary constantly asking what the surprise was. ―You‘ll see,‖ was all he would

say to her, hiding his contempt and now loathing of her. Beg as she might Mick would say

nothing. Then in a flash, she knew. How stupid I am, she thought. Michael is going to sell

the farm and take me to America; why else would he want to see my father but to ask his

permission to take his daughter away to a far off land.

       Mary couldn‘t hide her excitement, and gripping Mick‘s arm, she rested her head on

his shoulder and smiled. ―I love you Michael,‖ she said affectionately as Mick looked away

and grimaced. She was still thinking of America when they arrived at her father‘s house.

Climbing down from the cart before Mick, she ran into her father‘s home and embraced the

startled man.

       At the cart Mick paused for a moment. It would be hard to tell Daniel what his

daughter had done, and Mick didn‘t know how he would react, but tell him he must. ―Hello

Mick, it‘s good to see you again,‖ Daniel said with a smile, as Mick slowly entered the room.
                                                                                               46



―I hope you are feeling better?‖ Before Mick could answer Mary butted in. ―Michael has a

surprise father, tell him Michael,‖ she urged, her face lighting up with excitement.

        Daniel was a short stocky man, but had a big reputation around these parts as a

fighting man who had once bare knuckle fought all around the country, and could still give a

good account of himself, Mick knew. However, no matter what, he would have to know. ―I

have something to tell you Daniel,‖ Mick exclaimed, as Mary looked excitedly from one man

to the other.

        ―I‘m going to be a grandfather,‖ bellowed Daniel, smiling, as he waved his finger

from side to side at the couple and tried to beat Mick to the punch. ―No,‖ Mary interrupted,

―we are going to Amer…‖

        Mick raised his hand and stopped her in mid sentence. ―Do you know how sick I have

been, Daniel?‖ Mick asked.

        ―Yes,‖ the confused man answered. ―Mary informed me in her letters.‖

        Mary was still smiling when Mick threw the package of arsenic onto the table.

        ―She‘s been poisoning me Dan,‖ he said loudly, as he pointed an accusing finger at

Mary.

        ―No!‖ Mary cried. ―What do you mean?‖

        ―I mean,‖ Mick said loudly as he stared at Daniel. ―One of my sisters witnessed her

put arsenic in my tea‖

        ―Your tea?‖ Daniel said, dumfounded and puzzled.

        ―It‘s true Dan,‖ Mick stated, ignoring Mary.

        ―No, no, it‘s a lie; it‘s a lie. Who is it that accuses me?‖ Mary yelled.

        ―But why Mick? Why would she do this thing?‖ Daniel questioned, still puzzled,

        ―Why? I‘ll tell you why,‖ Mick answered almost calmly now. ―America! She wanted

to go live there and I refused, so I believe with me gone she could sell the farm and go alone.
                                                                                               47



        Every time, and when I was out of her reach, I recovered from this sickness, only to

take ill again when I returned home and was back on my feet. I never thought she would do

this to me Dan. Anyway, I won‘t get the police involved if you take her back off my hands,‖

Mick stated.

        ―She was always a bloody dreamer,‖ Daniel spat. ―Even in her letters to me, she

would go on and on about bloody America. Thank the heaven‘s her mother is no longer with

us to hear this.‖

        Mary was hysterical now and Mick held out his hand to Daniel. ―Goodbye Dan,‖ he

said. Daniel did not shake his hand, but responded by taking off his belt and holding it firmly

in one hand as he shoved the still hysterical Mary into a side room with the other. ―You have

brought shame on this family,‖ he shouted as he raised his arm to strike Mary with the belt.

Mick grabbed hold of Daniels arm. ―No Dan, there is no need for this, and I don‘t wish it,‖ he

said.

        Daniel looked sadly at Mick, put his head in his hands and fell to his knees in silence,

as Mick walked out quickly and climbed up onto the cart. He whipped the pony and moved

off as fast as he could.

        Behind him, Mary, who had followed him out into the roadway, was shouting his

name over and over again, as she stumbled after the cart, but with tears streaming down his

face, he whipped hard at the pony and sped on.

        He could hear her voice trailing off in the distance, pleading for him to come back.

        Mick was still sobbing when he arrived home.

        His sisters ran out to comfort him and they practically had to carry him back to the

farm house. The illness never returned though, and at least he had the consolation of knowing

he was right about Mary.
                                                                                                   48



                                       *    *    *   *    *



       Mick was a shell of a man after this, neglecting his family and the farm, and when he

received news that Mary had hanged herself some months later, it affected him very badly

and he took to his bed for some days. Even though Mary had tried to kill him, he didn‘t care

anymore, because as time passed by he had missed her. He had missed her smile and her

childish ways, and he still loved her so very much. He cupped his head into his hands and

wept. ―Why Lord? Why do you torture me so?‖

       Old Mick was convinced there was a curse on the farm, and this he was certain of one

year later, when his older sister Annie died suddenly. Annie had been the backbone of the

farm and could never be replaced. This event made him think seriously for the second time

about selling the farm.

       Then Meg came to stay for a while to help out, but almost immediately the woman

became seriously ill, and took to bed vomiting.

       Mick, suspicious of the circumstances approached Doc Devlin, the new village

doctor, and informed him that he thought Meg had been poisoned. The doctor agreed and the

police were called in. To Mick‘s horror, Meg passed away in the night, and a post mortem

was ordered immediately.

       A large quantity of arsenic was found in her body, and this was soon followed by an

order to exhume Annie. They found that Annie too had been poisoned with arsenic and it

didn‘t take long before the police had a confession.

       Bridget, Mick‘s young sister, whom the doctors now believed to be stark raving mad,

had admitted the killings of her sisters, and also of poisoning Mick the year previously. She

had been extremely jealous of her sister-in-law Mary, with the attention her only brother had

lavished on her, and her jealousy had then transferred itself onto her other sisters after this.
                                                                                             49



Mick was devastated.

        He had wrongly blamed poor Mary, the only true love he had ever had, and who had

done nothing but simply want them to have a happier life together in America. He was her

judge and jury; he felt, and he had never given a second thought that this poor sad monster of

a sister, who was now packed off to The Richmond lunatic asylum for the criminally insane

in Dublin, could have been lying. It didn‘t make it any easier for Mick when he thought of

how kind Mary had been toward Bridget. In fact now that he thought about it, Mary had been

decent and kind toward all his sisters.

        Mary had told him she was innocent, but his headstrong nature had never given her a

chance, and now she was lost forever. Mick never went to see Mary‘s father again, ashamed

and frightened of what the man might do to him. Mary had come to him at night in his sleep

sometimes, cursing him, and laughing at him, and he thought that like Bridget, he himself

was also going mad. Mick took to the bottle after this and two years later the dilapidated farm

had to be sold off to clear the debts he had mounted, his depleted family now scattered to the

wind.



                                          *   *   *   *   *



        ―Whiskey,‖ old Mick shouted to Matt the barman who was still watching him.

        ―Sorry Mick,‖ Matt replied, ―but you‘ll be getting no more drink here tonight, you‘ve

had enough. Go on home now like the good man that you are.‖

        Mick grumbled for a moment before staggering from the warm cosy little bar, and out

into the wet windy night. Home, he thought, bloody home.

        Mick‘s home was a single room in Mrs Doyle‘s house. She had let him stay in a small

room at the front of the house with no charge, provided he would do errands when needed,
                                                                                               50



and also odd jobs around the place. It wasn‘t much, but at least it kept him dry on cold wet

nights.

          There were two stipulations however, to which he had to agree, and they were that

under no circumstances whatsoever, was he allowed around to the rear of the house to the

rooms that Mrs Doyle occupied, unless with her explicit permission, and also, he was to make

no noise. ―Bloody old bag,‖ he grumbled to himself as he pulled his cap down tightly over his

eyes.

          The rain was coming down much heavier now, and the strong wind that accompanied

it pulled at him. Somewhere in the distance and through his drunken haze, Mick could see the

sky light up, followed by a distant roll of thunder, and he stumbled on as he watched the

lightning quickly creep nearer, and he listened with fear as the thunderclaps grew louder. He

had always, since a small boy been terrified of thunderstorms, and as the rain pressed harder,

he hurried as fast as he could go, almost breaking into a trot as he looked up into the dark

cloud filled sky.
                                                                                              51




                                         CHAPTER 5



        Otis stared out from the upstairs window at the fast approaching storm. He had seen

plenty of storms back home, but not like this one. The storms he had witnessed had been over

the city; large and sprawling, impersonal storms, that had shared themselves among the

millions of city dwellers. This storm seemed to be there just for the two of them, coming

nearer to the house with every thunderous roll, and Otis felt glad that he was indoors on a

night like this.

        The open window in the bedroom banged three times as the strong wind and rain

caught it. A large bird, a crow perhaps, he thought, suddenly flew against the window with

such force that Otis was surprised when it didn‘t smash. But the bird flew off seemingly

unhurt, and Otis slammed it shut, forcing the lock down and almost breaking the latch. As he

was about to walk away a lightning bolt lit up the night sky, and then Otis saw him. Only

briefly, just for a half second, but yes, a man moving quickly along the road outside, heading

toward Mrs Doyle‘s house, he believed. He was certain the figure was a man and he stared

out intently as the booming thunder, now overhead, almost deafened him.

        When the next bolt of lightning came, the road was deserted, and Otis knew that the

guy had disappeared, somewhere where the road met the forest.

        As he came downstairs Sarah offered him a drink of Jack Daniel‘s with a slice of

lemon and some water, his favourite. ―No thanks honey,‖ he said loudly, as he started to

rummage into one of the many boxes that had arrived earlier and had yet to be unpacked.

        Sarah had never known Otis to refuse a Jack Daniel‘s before, and she thought that
                                                                                                 52



somehow he looked frightened. She moved in to comfort him. ―Storm‘ll pass soon,‖ she

whispered to Otis, who simply ignored her and pulled the contents from the box all over the

floor. ―What are you looking for Otis?‖ Sarah asked loudly, agitated at the mess he was

making.

        ―Flashlight,‖ he answered, ―I‘m sure I put it in this box.‖

        ―No,‖ Sarah replied, ―it‘s in the small box on the top, the one that‘s damaged, but why

do you want a flashlight?‖

        ―I saw someone, a man; he went up the road toward the old woman‘s house.‖

        The crashing thunderclap overhead almost drowned them out.

        ―Didn‘t that man, um Thomas, say the old woman lived up there by herself?‖ Sarah

questioned.

        ―Yes he did, but I saw someone.‖

        ―Well maybe she has a boyfriend,‖ Sarah mulled.

        ―Yeah, and maybe I‘m the eldest son of a Texas oil baron,‖ Otis answered

sarcastically.

        He opened the small cardboard box and hurriedly removed a large flashlight, flicked

on the switch and waved it around. It worked well, which surprised him. ―Batteries seem all

right,‖ he mumbled as he pushed the flashlight deep into his trouser pocket.

        ―Where do you think you‘re going?‖ Sarah grumbled, as Otis pulled on his heavy rain

proof jacket.

        ―I‘m going to check this out. Maybe it‘s a burglar,‖ he said.

        ―They don‘t really get that many burglars in these parts,‖ Sarah replied, matter-of-

factly. ―And besides,‖ she added. ―Isn‘t this a matter for the police if it is a burglar, huh?

Maybe you‘ve forgotten, Otis, but you should know you‘re not a cop anymore.‖

        Otis felt hurt by Sarah‘s remark, and he looked sadly at her. ―I know that,‖ he
                                                                                                 53



answered, ―but we don‘t have a phone here to call the police and there‘s just no time for this.

Anyway, I hate to bring you down to earth here Sarah, but even Ireland has its criminals,

that‘s the reason they have a police force,‖ he said.

       ―I forbid you to go and leave me here on my own,‖ Sarah spat as she stamped her foot

down hard on the floor.

       Otis felt like Sarah was behaving like a small spoilt child that couldn‘t get her own

way, but he paused for a second before making toward the door. ―Sorry, got to,‖ he said as he

tugged at the handle. Otis froze for a moment as the cold wind and rain blew into his face,

and Sarah stopped him as she tugged at his jacket.

       ―Be careful,‖ she pleaded, and in that moment he thought her as beautiful as he had

ever seen her before. Their lips met passionately, in a long embracing kiss.

       ―Just lock the door behind me honey and stay inside. I‘ll be careful, and I‘ll be back

soon,‖ he promised.

       ―Love you,‖ she shouted, unheard as he slammed the door behind him. ―Damn you,

Otis, you crazy headstrong fool,‖ she whispered to herself.

       Otis had always been this way, she felt, always putting others first. Always an act now

consider later sort of guy, but this was what had attracted her to him in the first place. But

even though she felt that he knew what he was doing, she couldn‘t help feeling concerned for

him.

       Old Mick was running in panic now, as the lightning crashed overhead, and he felt the

fear rise inside him. This fear of getting fried was so powerful that it had almost sobered him

up. A branch that seemed to come from nowhere jutted out and struck him on the arm.

―Christ,‖ he yelled and cut out onto the middle of the lane, only to trip over another branch

that must have broken off, and he felt himself crash headlong to the ground.

       He immediately knew his arm was broken. He had heard the crack of what seemed to
                                                                                                54



him to be a clean break, and he lay on the ground for a few seconds as he waited for the pain

to hit him. Suddenly his arm felt as though it was on fire, and he yelled in his pain. As he

struggled to get up, he watched in horror as the branch he had just tripped over began to

move slowly over to the edge of the lane. I must be hallucinating, he thought. He struggled,

but stood upright and staggered onward.

       As he approached the house he clutched tightly to his broken arm. The pain was

intense now and he knew he needed help, but Mrs Doyle had forbade him to go anywhere

near her side of the house. In his confused and injured state though, he decided to take that

chance. Surely she would have some pity and not turn an injured man away on a night like

this, he thought. She would most likely be sitting in terror herself from the storm anyway, and

would most probably welcome him inside with open arms, he felt.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       The house was in complete darkness as he made his way onward, rain dripping from

his chin onto his worn out coat as he moved around to the back, peering through the closed

windows as he went, but he could see nothing through the blinding rain beating off the panes.

Suddenly a lightning bolt lit up the house and he could just make out the unkempt kitchen

room with its piles of unwashed dishes strewn about everywhere.

       Further on, he thought, as the pain in his arm grew unbearable. Another bolt of

lightning and the shadow cutting across him made him turn around in fright. But it was only

the old framework of a child‘s swing, the rusted chains hanging limply from its beam, while

the little broken wooden seat hid itself in the long grass. This was sad testament to something

that perhaps had once given some playful children hours of pleasure, a long and happy time

ago.
                                                                                               55




                                      *   *     *   *   *



       Otis was moving quickly up the road now, through the driving rain, and he could just

make out the chimney pots of the old house against the dark sky, about two hundred yards

away. A flash of lightning, followed by the loudest crash of thunder he had ever heard,

convinced him that the storm was directly overhead, and he thought about big John Wayne

and what he would do if he could somehow be magically summoned here. ―Why I‘d just get

off my horse and go up there and kick me some ass,‖ he mimicked loudly, but rather badly as

he tried to mask his fear. Then he thought about what Lewis would do in this situation. In his

mind he could hear Lewis talking to him, just as clearly as he had heard him all those years

ago.

       ―Where do you think your going Tweedy? Going off on some half–assed, mother-

fucking goose chase, maybe get your sorry ass blown off. Don‘t go up there you damn

asshole, let‘s wait for the goddamn cavalry.‖

       Otis shook his head and the voice disappeared. No! There was no cavalry to wait for,

he thought. The old woman may be in danger up there, and I‟m the only chance she has.

―Move it,‖ he said aloud.

       Mick was at the second window now, almost passing out with pain as he let go of his

injured arm and rubbed the window clear of the rain and smut that had gathered there. His old

leathery face tightened as he peered in through the mess and into the darkened room. Another

flash and he could see an old table and chairs covered with many discarded newspapers, the

cobwebs weaving and crossing everywhere.

       On the wall behind them there was a very large crucifix, and as Mick looked upon

Jesus he mumbled a quick prayer and struggled on, panting. Reaching the last window, he
                                                                                             56



rubbed the glass with his grimy sleeve, and grimaced as the pain in his arm shot through his

body. He pressed his face right up to the glass, but could see nothing in the darkness.

       When the light came, it was a longer flash this time, and he could see Mrs Doyle

sitting up in her bed, almost facing him. She was awake, and it looked as though she was

talking to someone on the other side of the room. He roughly rubbed at his eyes as he tried to

focus around the room, but the rain and dirt on the windows blocked his view and the

constant boom of the thunder claps had him gasping with fear. Then it was dark again and

Mick positioned himself as far across the window as he could, wiping at the glass in a

clockwise motion. Even now in the darkness he could just make out the back of an old chair,

and then suddenly, a movement, slight but definite.

       A new fear gripped him now. Mrs Doyle had positively forbidden anyone to come

around to her side of the house, but now here she was, sitting up in bed in a darkened room,

during a thunderstorm, talking to someone.

       He had heard rumours in the village about the house, but he had never believed in any

of that nonsense. In all the time he had lodged there, he had never seen or heard anything

unusual, but then most of the time he was drunk anyway, he admitted to himself. Now he felt

the fear growing rapidly inside him as he tried to comprehend what was developing in front

of his eyes.

       The sky lit up again, filling the room with its powerful beam, and then he saw it.

―Holy mother of God,‖ he groaned, and backed off from the window, praying loudly as the

roar of thunder drowned him out. Praying it hadn‘t seen him.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       Otis had reached the front of the house now, and he shone the beam of his flashlight
                                                                                               57



through the grubby rain lashed windows, partially lighting up the empty, darkened rooms.

Maybe Sarah was right, he thought, perhaps it was just a family friend. On the other hand,

what if it turns out to be a burglar, or worse? He walked on, shining his flashlight into every

nook and cranny, wishing for a moment that he could have his full sight in both eyes returned

to him, and his mind wandered back to when he was sitting in the courtroom all those years

ago. His perpetrator had smirked at him when she received eight to ten for shooting him with

the flare gun. Out in goddamn less than five, he had thought angrily at the time. He supposed

that in a way though, this perhaps was a sort of ironic justice. He had killed the woman‘s

husband, and now, well, an eye for an eye, he thought, excusing himself the pun.

       Mick was running fast from the window now, pain forgotten. He had seen the beast,

hovering in mid air, beside the chair, and pointing at Mrs Doyle with its long grey gnarled

fingers. Then he had heard its wail, just before the thunderclap, a wail he would never forget.

He knew what it was immediately. The stories told over generations had given him an

impression of what it would be like, even if until now he had never believed it. If folklore

was right though, then this entity had been sent straight from hell, and he knew he had to get

away before it looked upon him.

       He was in a panic now, running faster than he had ever run before, and he prayed that

the lightning would stay away. As he passed the room with the table inside the sky lit up

again. For a split second and as he glanced once more through the window, he was sure he

saw Jesus on the cross lift his head in the shadows and smile menacingly at him.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       Otis had just turned the corner at the side of the house when Mick collided with him,

sending the two men sprawling across the rain lashed ground. The spiralling flashlight flew
                                                                                               58



into the bushes as Otis lost his grip on it. Mick was up first, his heart almost pounding out of

his chest as he stumbled away. It was the creature, it had caught him, he knew, as he ran on,

struggling and cursing to himself. Otis was quicker though, rushing after Mick and tackling

him midriff, sending the screaming man to the ground as they rolled into the ditch.

        The man was trying to speak now, but he was incoherent and obviously in great pain

and shock, and Otis realised immediately that he was just an old man who stank of drink. He

also instinctively knew that this man was no burglar.

        Otis helped the old man to his feet, but had to support him. ―Take it easy old man,‖

Otis pleaded, shouting to be heard above the roaring thunder and rain as he fought to get his

breath back. ―Where are you going? Come back damn you,‖ Otis yelled as the old man pulled

away from him, clutching his arm as he ran down the lane again. ―Wait,‖ Otis shouted as he

pursued the frightened and injured man. But this old man was waiting for no one, this old

man had been scared half to death by something, and Otis was going to find out what it was

as he frantically chased after him.

        Otis caught up with him about fifty yards from his own home, and placed a reassuring

hand on the old guy‘s shoulder. The old man was spent now and struggling for breath, as he

laid his head against this giant of a man, and hung on to his coat to prevent himself from

falling to the ground. ―It‘s all right now,‖ Otis panted, ―You‘re going to be all right.‖ The old

man gave one last desperate struggle and Otis spoke again. ―You‘re safe now old man, no one

is going to hurt you.‖

        Otis slowly helped the old man back to the house, while Sarah, who was watching

from the window, ran outside and helped the rain soaked men into the warm welcoming

room.
                                                                                                 59



                                       *   *   *    *   *



       ―Who are you?‖ Sarah enquired, as Otis attempted to remove the old man‘s coat.

Mick screamed in pain, and they both knew that he was badly injured.

       Otis then removed a bottle of bourbon from the cupboard and poured the man a stiff

drink. ―Here, try this,‖ he said, as he handed Mick the glass and watched as Mick swallowed

it down in one mouthful. Otis somehow sensed that the old man was already feeling better

and he poured him another, which again he gulped down.

       It was a while before they could get him to speak with any sense though, and for a

long time he sat moaning and staring into the blazing fire. ―Who are you? And what were you

doing up there?‖ Sarah gently asked.

       Mick slowly introduced himself and explained how he had been lodging at Mrs

Doyle‘s house for some time now, and then he whispered nervously, ―I have seen it,‖ he said,

as he winced in pain.

       ―You have seen it?‖ Sarah repeated, puzzled.

       ―The fairy woman‖ Mick groaned. ―As plain as the bloody nose on your face.‖

       ―What the hell are you talking about?‖ Otis asked, as he wondered what this old guy

was raving about.

       ―It‘s a Banshee,‖ interrupted Sarah, ―In the Irish language, it‘s called Bean Sidhe. It

means woman of the fairy, old Irish folklore describes it, usually comes when there‘s going

to be a death in the family. It‘s also said though that if it comes to look upon someone then

that person is dead anyway, because it will always return to claim their soul.

       Otis put his hand to his chin and stared intently at them. ―Listen to the pair of you,‖ he

laughed. ―What bullshit?‖

       ―I‘m telling you,‖ exclaimed Mick, ―I swear to you on the cross of our beloved
                                                                                                  60



saviour, I seen it.‖

        Suddenly a lightning bolt filled the room and Sarah noticed that it startled Otis. ―Now

you listen to me old man,‖ Otis said loudly as the thunder crashed outside. ―I know you‘re

injured and there‘s a storm out there,‖ he said pointing, ―but you‘re frightening my wife, so

keep quiet with your bullshit stories or I will kick your sorry ass out of here.‖

        ―He‘s not frightening me,‖ Sarah spat, feeling that perhaps it was Otis who was the

frightened one. ―I‘ve been listening to stories like this since I was a child,‖ she went on,

feeling resentful that Otis was now treating her like one.

        ―Bean Si, it is said, is beautiful with long flowing hair, but with red eyes, caused by

her constant crying for all those souls about to die,‖ Sarah exclaimed.

        ―Well the one I seen wasn‘t bloody beautiful, I can tell you that,‖ Mick shouted, as he

screwed up his wrinkled face.

        ―The one you seen, and there are different versions of Banshee, said Sarah, was

probably the one they named Bean Nighe, or The little washer by the Ford, an evil, vile,

deformed entity who relishes in violent death, and who was given the name because after

she‘s killed her victims she washes their bloodstained clothes in the stream.‖

        Otis rubbed his brow and shook his head despairingly at the pair, deciding to say no

more on the subject that he found to be superstitious garbage, especially coming from his

wife, whom he thought had more sense than to believe in anything like this.

        Outside the storm raged on, and no one could see the figure hover up over Mrs

Doyle‘s roof and disappear over to the other side.

        ―Tomorrow I‘ll take you back to the funny farm, and maybe we can get on with our

lives,‖ Otis said sternly to Mick.

        Mick kept quiet now. This big Yank meant business, and he didn‘t relish being

thrown out on a night like this one, not in his condition.
                                                                                               61



        Sarah felt differently though. This old man may be a drunk and a stranger to them, but

he seemed to have an honest disposition about him, and she felt that he was being truthful.

        Maybe he had been mistaken about what he had seen, she felt. However, something

had scared him very badly up there, and of that there was no mistake.

        ―There‘s a spare bedroom you can sleep in tonight, and tomorrow we will take you to

the hospital,‖ Sarah offered.

        ―Thank you kindly madam, but if you don‘t mind I‘ll stay here in this chair, I won‘t

sleep much tonight anyway,‖ he grimaced.

        Otis poured out another glass of bourbon, and drank it almost as fast as Mick had.

        Old Mick stared intently at him and reached out.

        ―Could you spare another drop? Um, for the pain,‖ Mick pleaded as he pointed to his

injured arm.

        Otis poured a small one, then changed his mind and filled the glass to the top and

handed it to Mick. ―For the pain,‖ Otis stated. ―Goodnight,‖ he shouted to Mick as he tucked

the bottle firmly under his arm and quickly disappeared up stairs, as Sarah shook hands with

the pathetic old figure in front of her.

        ―Thank you for everything madam,‖ he said.

        Old Mick sat in the chair, frightened and in pain during the long night, and thought

about Mrs Doyle, and the house he would never return to.
                                                                                               62




                                         CHAPTER 6



       Next morning the storm had eased off and Sarah made them some breakfast, which

old Mick refused. ―Gotta get you to the hospital, old fella,‖ said Otis, who by now was in a

much better mood.

       ―No,‖ answered Mick, as he rocked back and forth in the chair and tried to hide his

increasing pain. ―I won‘t go until someone has checked up on Mrs Doyle.‖

       ―All right,‖ said Sarah, ―I‘ve wanted to meet my new neighbour anyway, no better

time than now. Come on Otis,‖ she called loudly.

       Otis pulled on his coat, and following close behind Sarah, was halfway through the

doorway, when he turned to face Mick. ―Back soon,‖ he assured him.

       Mick pointed to the half empty bottle of bourbon Otis had just sat on the shelf, ―for

the pain,‖ he said.

       ―Not a chance Mick,‖ Otis replied, as he lifted the bottle and locked it in a small

cupboard. ―Want to keep you sober for the hospital, old fella,‖ he added.

       As the pair made their way up the road toward Mrs Doyle‘s house, Otis reflected on

how different the area appeared in daylight, and as they reached the edge of the woods a little

lane began where the road ended, and the trees formed an arch on each side, darkening the

lane and giving the place a very eerie feeling.

       ―Follow the yellow brick road,‖ Otis remarked, as he grabbed Sarah‘s hand and she

squeezed his tightly and pulled him toward her.

       A large hare ran across the lane in front of them, which made Sarah jump, but it
                                                                                                63



stopped and stared at them for a moment before running off. ―I see you‘ve got a suitor,‖ Otis

laughed, as Sarah lightly kicked him. As they strode further up the lane they noticed a large

black sign that had fallen over at an angle of forty five degrees. The writing which was barely

visible warned against trespassers, and an old rusted car sat opposite it, with weeds and

shrubbery growing up under the guards.

       ―Maybe we shouldn‘t go up there,‖ Sarah cautioned. ―I mean, the sign,‖ she

whispered. ―What sign? I didn‘t see any sign,‖ Otis replied, laughing as he pulled Sarah

onward.

       As they were approaching the house, Otis couldn‘t help but notice how spooky it

looked, even in the daylight, and for a moment he thought that maybe Sarah was right. Now

he was almost sorry they had come anywhere near the place. Sarah glared at the window

frames in the house, and noticed they had become so rotten in places that the edge of the

glass protruded through, and in some of the windows, little cracks had begun to appear.

       ―The dump looks derelict,‖ Otis exclaimed.

       ―Yeah, sure does hon,‖ Sarah agreed, as she squeezed his hand tightly. Then as they

neared the large rotting front door, a woman‘s voice boomed out from an open window.

       ―What do you want coming round here? Get off my property,‖ she shouted.

       ―Sorry to disturb you Mrs Doyle, but we are your new neighbours, Otis and Sarah

Tweedy. We live down at the bottom of the lane,‖ Sarah added.

       ―Don‘t have time or need for neighbours, now go away,‖ the woman responded. Otis

turned and walked away, but on second thoughts stopped and paused to look around at the

old bedraggled unfriendly woman, as Sarah spoke up again.

       ―We have the old man at our house, Mick O‘Neil, your lodger, he‘s been hurt.‖

―Don‘t have a lodger,‖ the angry woman responded. ―No one stays here, now go away.‖

       ―Unfriendly old coot,‖ Sarah remarked as they walked back toward home.
                                                                                                 64



        ―Told you the old man was a fruitcake; the old woman lives alone here,‖ Otis

whispered. ―Well we can take him to the hospital and have done with him,‖ Sarah answered.

―But I would still like to know what he was doing up here.‖



                                        *   *    *    *   *



        Back at the house old Mick had fallen into a deep sleep, and Sarah would not let Otis

wake him right away, so they had to wait for a few hours before Otis could help old Mick

into the car, which spluttered to a start and they all drove off.

        The nearest hospital was almost a forty minute drive away, and Otis wondered how

someone would survive in this small town if they were seriously hurt, bearing in mind the

time factor involved. Otis questioned old Mick relentlessly during the trip to the hospital,

trying to trip him up about the night before, but Mick answered every question flawlessly,

and as they waited in the hospital for Mick to be x- rayed, Sarah asked Otis what he thought

about the old man. ―Well, after talking to the old guy, I think he‘s telling the truth, in that he

lodges at Mrs Doyle‘s house, and that he thinks he saw something up there,‖ he answered.

―But ghosts, c‘mon honey. It just can‘t happen.‖

        ―It wasn‘t a ghost,‖ Sarah barked, ―but,‖ she said as she pointed her finger toward

him. ―I do believe the old woman‘s either hiding something, or maybe she‘s just going soft in

the head, that‘s what I think.‖

        The hospital later confirmed a break in Mick‘s arm and they plastered him up, told

him to rest, and released him.

        A little bead of sunlight shone down as Otis turned the car full circle and drove back

through the large gates and out onto the deserted road. ―Thank you for everything,‖ Mick

said.
                                                                                               65



       ―It was a goddamn experience, I‘ll tell you that,‖ Otis answered, laughing.

       ―I don‘t follow your merriment,‖ said Mick loudly, feeling annoyed as Otis continued

to laugh. ―Laugh all you like Yank,‖ said old Mick, who was getting angrier by the minute.

―But pray to God that you never stumble upon this vile thing, because if you do, then you

won‘t see the bloody funny side of it.‖

       Sarah could see that the old man was very agitated and so she started to make up

some small talk about the weather to change the subject, but Mick kept on. ―It was from hell I

tell you. From the bloody deepest depths of hell, and I seen it, God help me. I‘m telling you, I

seen it. It was bloody ferocious, that‘s what it was.‖ The last part of Mick‘s sentence faded to

almost a whisper, before he half closed his eyes and went quiet.

       Mick had soon fallen asleep on the back seat as Otis eyed him intently through the

rear view mirror.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



       Otis didn‘t know what to make of this guy. His past experience in the force made him

feel that Mick wasn‘t being outwardly untruthful, but on the other hand what was he

expecting them to believe. Why this was just too far-fetched by any stretch of the

imagination, and when Sarah had told him that the Irish people were superstitious, he simply

hadn‘t realised just how much this was true.

       As they drove into the village, Mick awoke with a start and asked to be dropped off at

the pub. Otis obliged, and Mick, who had by now calmed down, invited Sarah, but not Otis,

in for a drink. Otis was surprised when Sarah accepted, but said nothing.

       ―Give us a chance to meet some of the locals,‖ she said. Otis agreed, ignoring the fact

that Mick hadn‘t invited him, and soon they were all sitting around a table in the quaint little
                                                                                                   66



bar. After a few rounds of drinks, old Mick was telling anyone who would listen about the

events of the night before, and Ivan McAllen, a local at the bar for almost as long as Mick

had been there and who had disliked Mick immensely, stood up and called him a bloody liar.

This prompted old Mick to challenge him to step outside, even with his broken arm in plaster.

However, Matt the owner and barman intervened, and ordered the two men to behave or he

would throw them both out into the street.



                                       *    *   *    *    *



       James Flanagan, a fair haired giant of a man and a good friend of Mick‘s, had been

sitting in the corner listening to them. He stepped slowly over to their table.

       James, whose wife Rose had been called out to her sister‘s again, as the woman was

badly ill, had used the opportunity to visit the pub, rather than be left sitting alone at home.

He had not knocked or laughed at Mick‘s story, because he had a story of his own.

       ―Hello James,‖ said Mick, and it was clear to all that Mick was happy to see the big

fellow. ―Sit down won‘t you James?‖

       ―Thank you,‖ James answered with a smile. ―Don‘t mind if I do. I um-I couldn‘t help

over-hearing your conversation,‖ James related.

       As Otis pulled up a chair for James, Mick smiled affectionately at him and introduced

him to the company. Otis stared at James for a second and shook his hand loosely before

speaking. ―Leprechauns, Fairies, Banshees,‖ Otis said, mockingly. ―You people really believe

in all this superstitious mumbo jumbo nonsense?‖

       ―Nonsense is it?‖ James replied. ―Well, you know at one time I would have agreed

with you Yank. Now though, well, let‘s just say I‘ve had a change of heart.‖

       ―Have you seen it as well?‖ Mick interrupted.
                                                                                              67



       ―No Mick, but my grandfather who died earlier this year did.‖

       ―You mean the captain,‖ interrupted Mick for the second time.

       ―Yes,‖ said James, smiling, ―the captain.‖ Otis gave Sarah his Burt Lancaster look,

mouth wide and teeth glistening, head moving in the Burt way as he made fun of the men

behind their back. But Sarah simply smiled and ignored him.

       ―Would you like to hear about it?‖ James asked, thinking to himself that the big Yank

wasn‘t really interested in anything he had to say.

       ―Why not,‖ Otis answered sheepishly. The rest of the company nodded their heads in

approval, and so James began.



                                      *    *    *     *   *



       “Captain Patrick McKenna, my grandfather on my mother‟s side, left Ireland at the

turn of the century and joined the Welsh guards as a boy soldier. By the time the Great War

broke out he was married to my grandmother, had been promoted to captain, and was sent to

France with his regiment.

       During one engagement he was very badly wounded, losing an arm, and with the rest

of the wounded who had outlived their use, he was sent home. He lived over in England for a

while, but missed Ireland so much that he returned here, which was probably the worst

decision he ever made. Ireland was in turmoil against the British. Still is to this day. So you

can guess that he didn‟t exactly get a hero‟s welcome. My grandmother was sometimes spat

on in the street when she went shopping, and they both became almost reclusive after this. I

myself was bullied in school about it at times, but inspired by my grandfather‟s tales of

bravery; I always stood up to the cowards.

       He had told me how he had lost his arm when during one engagement he had charged
                                                                                              68



a group of Germans who had just killed his best friend and some other comrades. He shot the

six of them dead, only to have his arm riddled with machine gun fire, which had to be

amputated immediately,”



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       ―What did he see?‖ Mick asked impatiently.

       ―Let him speak,‖ Sarah spat at Mick as she gave him a stern look, and James

continued.

       Sarah‟s really getting into this, Otis thought, as James talked on.

       ―Well, as you know Mick, last year he was diagnosed with cancer of the lungs, and

only given a short time to live. Well, as usual I went to pay him a visit. On this occasion

though, he was very alert and he seemed very anxious to see me.‖



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       „Shut the door,‟ he said to me, wheezing, „and come close,‟ he whispered. „Listen to

me James,‟ he said, gripping my arm tightly, „there is something I must tell you, something I

have never told a living soul before, not even your grandmother,‟ he coughed. „But I haven‟t

got long to go in this world and I want you to know the truth.

       Those stories I told you about the Great War, and how I lost my arm, you know, they

just weren‟t true, well not all of them anyway.‟

       Then he broke into a coughing fit and I was left feeling dumbstruck. What was he

talking about, I thought? Was he not a hero after all? And why was he telling me all this? My

head was reeling.
                                                                                              69



       Here was a man I had modelled myself upon all my life, a man I had almost

worshipped as a hero, and now he was about to tell me it was all a lie. My God I thought.

Then he stopped coughing and began to speak again.‟

       „It was the sixth of February, nineteen seventeen, and there were three of us left alive

after the worst German bombardment we had ever encountered.

       Before it had started I was down at one end of the trench with a company of the men

waiting to counter attack, when all hell broke loose. The Germans shelled us like never

before and I watched helpless as my comrades all around me were cut to pieces. I took cover

under two of their bodies, waiting and praying for it to stop, but the shelling seemed to go on

for an eternity, before it suddenly ended and all that was left was an eerie silence.

       When I stood up all were dead around me.

       Then through the smoke I could just make out two of our men coming along the

trench. It was a cold wet murky day, and the mud was as bad as I had ever seen it, but the

two battled their way through it toward me. „Are you all right sir?‟ One of the men shouted,

and I immediately recognised his voice.

       It was my good friend Robert Rankin, a big strapping Englishman, a sergeant with

whom I had come through the ranks with, but I did not know the young fellow with him,

obviously a new man, I thought.‟

       „Oh lord, oh lord,‟ the young man cried over and over again, as he surveyed the

carnage around us. I tried not to show my fear to the men, but there are limits to what the

human body can endure, and to tell you the truth I was also at the end of mine.

       Then Sergeant Rankin, who seemed to be taking a funny turn, shouted out that the

Germans were coming, and climbed up to the top of the trench, which was a very dangerous

thing to do. However, the next thing I remember is that the boy and I where alongside him,

and we were all surprised to find that the ground in front was deserted, save for the hundreds
                                                                                                 70



of craters that pockmarked the land.

        As we sat waiting for the attack that must surely come, Sergeant Rankin removed his

squeezebox, which he had secured to his belt. He played a soft melody to our dead comrades,

a calming melody to which I found myself humming along. I was enjoying the moment, but my

escapism didn‟t last long when the new boy shouted out, „up in front sir,‟ and we all

crouched down. I scanned the area, but in the fading light and drizzling rain I could see

nothing. This young boy, no more than sixteen I believed, was either very keen eyed, or he

was cracking under the strain.‟

        „I see him sir,‟ yelled Rankin, pointing to a group of trees about three hundred yards

away. „In front, in the trees,‟ he yelled.

        „Yes,‟ I answered, „I can see him too.‟

        „I could see him, faintly, but yes, he was there, in the distance, moving slowly through

the branches.

        Sergeant Rankin jumped down into the muddy well of the trench, and was shouting to

one of the dead men to report for duty immediately, and I realised his mind was going

rapidly. Then he picked up his 303 rifle, and climbed back up, handing the rifle to the boy as

he turned to me. „Best bloody shot in the damn regiment sir,‟ he boasted. The boy took a

steady aim at the German who was still slowly moving along the top of the trees and fired at

the slow moving figure, but the figure moved on.

        „Missed,‟ I said.

        „No sir, I did not,‟ the boy replied confidently, before firing again. „Direct hit sir,‟ he

shouted, but still the figure moved on.

        Then to our horror the figure cleared the trees, levitating, about thirty feet off the

ground, and swiftly began floating toward us. The figure was hooded; looking like some old

medieval monk as it quickly came toward us. The boy was firing rapidly at it now, and
                                                                                                 71



Sergeant Rankin and I also opened fire on it, but despite our best efforts, it came on toward

us.

       Then we could make out its hideous face, its mouth contorting as it pointed its long

gnarled fingers at us. Everyone dived into the trench, praying that this manifestation from

hell, (because it could have been from nowhere else) would leave. A few minutes passed and

we thought our prayers had been answered, when suddenly the young boy started to cry and

pointed along the trench. As I glanced around I saw it.

       It was hovering about five feet from the bottom of the trench, about one hundred yards

away, but coming faster this time, much faster, its long dark cape blowing in the wind behind

it. Then it stopped, about twenty feet away, its cruel face seemed to mock us as it sensed our

fear. „It‟s the angel of death,‟ the boy screamed.

       „No lad,‟ Sergeant Rankin calmly answered, as he clipped his bayonet onto his rifle.

„This is no angel, of life or death. This fucking thing is the work of the devil. C‟mon, let‟s see

if the bastard likes the cold steel?‟ Then Rankin gave me a look I shall never forget. This look

was a cold deathly look, unnatural, like a man who was about to go in front of the damn

firing squad. Then he winked, before charging at it.

       „No, come back,‟ I ordered, but he ran on into it, and we watched as he bayoneted the

foul thing, which suddenly gripped his head with its two grotesque hands, and twisted it,

tearing it away from the neck. We watched helpless as it threw the sergeants headless body

into the air, and out from the trench.

       The young lad was in hysterics now as I tried to reason with the beast. „What do you

want with us?‟ I shouted, but it simply moved its head from side to side as if I wasn‟t there. It

stayed like this for a full minute, and then as quick as a flash it was upon us again, staring

into the boys face. When it screamed, it was a bloody scream that I will never forget until my

dying day.
                                                                                                72



       It was right beside me now, and in my anger and fear, and as the boy fainted, I thrust

my revolver toward its mouth, exploding the weapon into its hideous face a number of times

as I repeatedly pumped the trigger.

       I‟m unsure about what happened next, but as I tried to push it away from the boy it

twisted my arm and ripped it off from the elbow. This thing had the strength of twenty men

and as I lay bleeding profusely trying to tighten my belt around my arm to stop the bleeding,

it floated off and away, in a backward motion, staring at us all the while. I prayed James. I

prayed like never before, until it disappeared up and over the far end of the trench.

       Then I looked at the boy laying there in the mud, shaking uncontrollably, and the next

thing I remember I awoke in a field hospital. I never did find out what had happened to that

boy, never even got to know his name. I am telling you this James, because I want you to

know that there are forces out there. Greater forces than we mere mortals can even imagine,

things we should never have to see, but I did James, I‟m telling you I did. Trust in our Lord

James, trust in our lord,‟ he said.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       ―And that my friends, was the last time we ever spoke, because he died later that

night. But that was the true story my grandfather told me.‖

       ―Listen!‖ Otis replied, interrupting. ―Shellshock can do a lot of things to the brain,

hallucinating being just one of them.‖

       ―He wasn‘t hallucinating,‖ James answered firmly.

       ―Well, how do you know that? You weren‘t there, right?‖ Otis stated.

       ―I know my grandfather, he wouldn‘t make this sort of thing up,‖ James replied, now

feeling annoyed at the American‘s doubting attitude. ―Well, what about the six Germans he
                                                                                              73



was supposed to have killed? What about all that bullshit he made up?‖

        ―I don‘t think I like your tone Yank,‖ James fumed, as he walked slowly away from

the table.

        ―I‘m going home,‖ Sarah barked angrily to Otis, and stormed quickly out through the

door of the pub.

        Otis ran outside after Sarah and caught her by the arm. ―Where do you think you‘re

going?‖

        Sarah turned angrily on him. ―I cannot believe how ignorant you were back there,‖

she said. ―What do you mean ignorant?‖ Otis asked loudly. ―Do you mean ignorant in my

knowledge of ghosts? Or that I was ignorant to the big Irish guy?‖

        ―You mean James?‖ Sarah replied.

        ―Oh, I see,‖ Otis said loudly. ―Why I‘m so sorry, I didn‘t realise you guys were on

first name terms just yet.‖

        Sarah turned her back on him. In all their years together he had never shown any sign

of jealousy toward her, and this took her by complete surprise. ―What did you expect?‖ he

said, as if reading her mind. ―Do you think I‘m just some sort of dumb lard ass American

who flew in from cloud cuckoo land? Huh? Jesus Christ Sarah, Banshees, Fairy women. Do

you know what I would really like to know? Where does Dracula fit into the picture here?‖

        Sarah shook her head in dismay and walked quickly on, and already Otis was feeling

sorry for his outburst. ―Wait honey,‖ he said loudly, ―please wait,‖ he said again in a whisper.

Sarah strode on, ignoring him. ―Goddamn stubborn Irish woman,‖ he mumbled. ―Frankly my

dear, I don‘t give a bloody damn,‖ he mimicked badly and rather loudly after her, but Sarah

continued to ignore him and walked on.

        Otis had left the car unlocked outside the pub, but he didn‘t care now as he followed

discreetly behind her. Besides, Sarah the wise one, Sarah who knew everything had said that
                                                                                              74



there was hardly any crime in this country, so the car was bound to be safe. Anyway, the

walk and the breezy cold night air would cool them both down by the time they reached the

house.

         He had never realised that Sarah was as superstitious as this before. Sure she had

talked about the old country many times in the past during their time together, but she had

never mentioned anything supernatural about the place, and he suddenly felt that he didn‘t

really know her as well as he had thought he had.



                                         *   *   *   *   *



         As they walked toward home, Otis was following about fifty yards behind Sarah when

he suddenly sensed something moving in the hedge at the side off the road. He stopped in his

tracks as he wondered what it could be. The sound of something familiar reached his ears. It

sounded like water being splashed about in a bottle. For a moment he thought of James and

his grandfather‘s monster, but laughed it off. ―Bullshit,‖ he whispered as he went over to

investigate.

         Pulling back the bushes he was startled to see an old woman clutching a bottle of wine

to her bosom, sitting on the wet ground. ―Wanna drink?‖ She cackled, as she thrust the bottle

of cheap wine toward him. The wine splashed about inside the half empty bottle.

         ―No thank you lady,‖ he said.

         ―Names Elspeth, not Lady,‖ she shouted, as she burst into a laugh.

         ―Are you all right?‖

         ―No! Give me some money,‖ she cackled, ―or I‘ll put a curse on you.‖

         ―Well just how much do I have to pay you for the privilege of you not putting a curse

on me?‖ Otis said with a smile.
                                                                                               75



       ―How much you got?‖ she asked through a toothless grin.

       Otis pulled a brand new crisp one punt note from his wallet and handed it to the old

drunken woman. ―This ought to cover it,‖ he said, smiling

       ―Why, God bless you sir,‖ she said, as she kissed the note several times.

       ―You‘re an American,‖ she slurred, her laugh now gone.

       ―Why, yeah, sure am,‖ Otis laughed, ―Now how did you know that? I guess my

accent wouldn‘t have had anything to do with that now would it?‖

       ―No!‖ Elspeth replied. ―Only a fucking stupid Yank would give money away so

easily,‖ she cackled and continued to laugh loudly.

       ―Well now, if you‘re going to be rude then maybe you should give it back?‖ Otis

stated as he held out his large outstretched palm.

       The old woman jumped up with surprising agility for someone of her age and held her

fists out like a boxer. ―Fight you for it,‖ she croaked, as she spat on the ground.

       ―Well, on second thoughts maybe you should just keep it,‖ Otis answered as he

backed away and pretended to be afraid.

       ―Wait Yank, don‘t go,‖ she shouted, and started to laugh again. ―Would you like old

Elspeth to teach you to dance? I used to teach all the children to dance at the school,‖ she

claimed. ―Many years ago,‖ she added with a distant whisper.

       Otis watched in amazement as Elspeth started to dance around him, standing up on

her toes like a ballerina, and somehow he guessed that at one time maybe this old woman was

a professional dancer. As she danced her way back into the woods Otis called to her.

―Elspeth, where in hell are you going?‖

       ―Home,‖ she answered. ―It‘s a short cut.‖ Then as an afterthought she turned and

stepped back over to Otis. Her voice was serious now, the laughter gone, the dancing

stopped. ―Listen Yank,‖ she slurred. ―Don‘t ever go into these woods alone, especially at
                                                                                                  76



night.‖

          Otis laughed and Elspeth responded by lifting her hand above her head, forcing him to

take a step back as he believed she was about to strike him, but the haggard woman simply

pointed deep into the forest.

          ―The dead woman lurks there,‖ she said.

          ―The dead woman lurks there,‖ Otis echoed.

          ―Yes, but she doesn‘t come near me now, not after I asked her to dance and I

accidentally spilled some wine on her. She didn‘t like that wine you know, and made such an

awful fuss before she took to her heels screaming.

          ―I still see her though. She can‘t dance, but she can float through the trees, way up

high,‖ Elspeth exclaimed as she pointed to the tree tops. She tipped the wine to her head, but

paused again.

          ―Sure you don‘t want some Yank?‖

          Otis shook his head without speaking.

          A long drink from the bottle and Elspeth was gone. Otis watched her run speedily into

the woods, her long grey matted hair bouncing behind her as she bobbed and weaved through

the bushes, laughing all the while.

          Otis instinctively knew that somehow this crazy old coot must have been a beautiful

woman once, and he wondered how the hell this could have happened to her.

          Then as he walked quickly on, he noticed that Sarah had already disappeared around

the bend, and as he shook his head he kicked a pebble hard into the air.

          ―Only in Ireland,‖ he laughed. ―Only in Ireland.‖
                                                                                                    77




                                           CHAPTER 7



        A light rain was descending over the village as the rat moved along the side of the

road. Its mission was to get food for its offspring waiting back at the den. The pain in its

crushed rear leg was immense now as it moved slowly on its remaining legs.

        It was the man thing that did it on the night before, when the normally vigilant rat was

distracted by the flashing lights in the sky, and the man thing had stood on it before crashing

to the ground.

        It had sensed that the man thing was injured, perhaps as badly as it was, but this

quarry was much too big anyway and so the rat had crawled to the side of the road and

limped back to its den. Tonight though, it would try again, its young desperate for food. It

was almost up at the place where the man things lived when it spotted the worm. It moved

with lightning speed, considering its injury, and secured the plump worm in its razor sharp

teeth. It would not make the same mistake again, as it sniffed the air, its senses to the full. No,

there were no man things nearby.

        Suddenly through the darkness it sensed a movement. Something large was coming

through the trees, and it crouched down into the grass, hiding itself and the worm. Then it

quickly appeared. It looked like a man thing, but it had no man thing smell, and as it floated

slowly passed, it made no man thing noises.

        The rat stared at the figure as it rose up to the top of the man thing‘s den, and watched

as it turned slowly in a full circle, until the rat could see its face. It didn‘t know why it was

frightened, but its primitive senses were confusing it and it dropped the worm and scurried
                                                                                               78



off. Tonight its young would go hungry again, but tonight it would be fed.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       Otis walked silently into the house; fixed himself a quick drink, and looked over at the

unresponsive Sarah slumped on a chair. ―Goodnight hon,‖ he said smiling, giving an

apologetic bow, but Sarah did not answer and he carried on, up to the bedroom.

       He could tell her mood swings by now, and he knew that tomorrow she would be fine.

Inside the bedroom, he stared out from the window at the cloudy night sky. What the hell is

wrong with these goddamn superstitious people? Otis thought as he let his mind wander back

to his own country and the home he had left behind.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       Back at the bar, Mick suddenly realised that he had nowhere to sleep tonight. Father

Frank Quinn, he thought. Father Quinn had been a priest at the village for almost ten years,

and had earned the reputation as a caring priest. Besides, when Mick told him what he had

witnessed at the house, combined with his broken arm, then the priest could do nothing but

help him, he believed.

       As Mick left the bar he took a deep breath and sauntered up the steep hill toward

Father Quinn‘s house, which was situated next door to the church. When he arrived there he

rapped on Father Quinn‘s door, but received no answer. Undeterred, Mick rapped again on

the large brass knocker. Upstairs Father Quinn lay naked on the bed, listening to the loud,

incessant rapping on the door, and held his breath, afraid.

       ―Oh, sweet mother of god,‖ cried the naked woman next to him, ―he‘s found out, it‘s
                                                                                               79



James, he‘s found us, He must have followed me,‖ she moaned pitifully.

       ―Oh no Rose, what have we done? Oh no, oh no,‖ he repeated, as he felt a massive

weight of guilt surge through his body.

       Just a few days ago he had been preaching love and family values from the pulpit, as

he continued to carry on this illicit affair with Rose, James wife, and he suddenly felt like the

biggest hypocrite on the face of the earth. ―Are you there Father, it‘s me, Mick,‖ old Mick

shouted. They both heard him and Rose buried her head in her hands, relieved.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



       When the affair had started with Frank five months ago she was aware of the

consequences of her husband finding out. He would kill them both, and of that she was sure,

but she couldn‘t help herself getting involved with the handsome priest, and the guilt ridden

priest couldn‘t resist the beautiful woman‘s advances.

       ―It‘s only that old drunk, Mick,‖ she stated and sighed with relief. She placed her

arms around his neck, as he pulled himself out of the bed and turned his back to her. ―Oh

Frank,‖ she whispered, as she nibbled at his ear. ―I love you; you mean everything to me.‖

The priest did not answer, but stared to the floor for a moment.

       To him this was a warning, a shot across the bows. God himself is warning me, he

thought, as he suddenly realised the full implications of what he had done.

       He had betrayed James Flanagan, a man who had shown him some kindness when he

had first come to the village. He had also betrayed everyone in town who believed in him,

and above all, he had betrayed God, the church and the Holy order. It was a full two minutes

before he could speak.

       ―We have to end this, Rose. We have to end this now!‖
                                                                                               80



       ―No!‖ Rose shrieked, ―I love you, I want to be with you, please don‘t say that.‖

       ―I‘m sorry Rose; I have been a fool and a sinner. James is a good man and this affair

must end.‖

       ―No!‖ Rose pleaded with the priest. ―My husband‘s not a good man, my husband‘s a

useless drunk, and you know that,‖ she shouted.

       ―The man has been trying Rose,‖ the priest replied.

       ―Well he‘s too damn late, Frank. It is you I love, more than dear life itself and you

don‘t know what you‘re saying,‖ she cried.

       ―Rose, I‘m sorry, but in the eyes of God we cannot go on like this. We have both

made a stupid mistake,‖ he said, unable to look Rose in the face.

       Rose walked quickly to the other side of the room; her head buried in her hands and

stared hard at the floor, crying. How could Frank say this to her? After she had given herself

to him so completely, and had loved him so much.

       ―I‘m sorry Rose,‖ he said, ―but you know, this was the worst kind of sin,‖ he

repeated.

       ―Shut up, you hypocrite, you bastard, just shut up‖ Rose yelled, tears running down

her cheeks. ―Is that all I am to you, the worst kind of sin?‖

       Outside Mick was listening to the shouting coming from upstairs in the house,

unaware that it was his good friend‘s wife. ―So the priest has a floozy,‖ he chuckled to

himself. Mick could hear the loud footsteps coming down toward him as they fell hard on the

staircase, and he instinctively stood back from the door which suddenly sprang open.

       Rose, in somewhat disarray, ran out past him, crying, unaware of Mick‘s presence,

followed by the half naked priest trying to stop her. ―Rose,‖ Mick muttered, unable to believe

his eyes, but feeling the resentment quickly rise up inside him. Mick coughed hard to clear

his throat before he could speak. ―I was along with your husband tonight,‖ he shouted loudly
                                                                                               81



to the fast retreating woman.

       ―I see your sister has greatly improved,‖ he added sarcastically as an afterthought.

       The priest, ashamed, turned to face him. ―Please, I can explain, please listen,‖ he

begged.

       ―What can you explain?‖ Mick asked. ―James is a fine man, and you‘re supposed to

teach against this sort of thing you bastard,‖ he slurred, sorry now that he had not been sober.

―Why I wish I was a young man again,‖ Mick stated loudly, unable to contain his anger as he

held his clenched fist up to the priests face. ―I would give you a bloody good hiding. You

know I came here to see you tonight concerning God‘s work, but I see I‘ve come to the

wrong bloody place.‖ At that he turned and walked away into the night, trying not to stagger,

as Father Quinn buried his head in his hands and wept silently.



                                         *   *   *   *   *



       Otis lay awake in bed and pondered for a moment. Sure the place itself was fine, and

most of the people made you feel welcome, but it wasn‘t America, and he knew it was going

to be very hard to adopt. He thought about the things he would probably miss most about

back home, the great highways that stretched from state to state, even though he had never

driven more than a hundred miles on one, the drive-in movies, even though he‘d only been to

them a few times, the skyscrapers, even though he had a fear of heights, and the normal day

to day things that make America what it is. Yes, even in its troubled times, America was still

one hell of a place to live in; but in any event, he always had Sarah he supposed, and that was

really all he needed, no matter where he was or how hard it got. And for both their sakes he

would have to give this his best shot.
                                                                                                  82



                                         *   *    *   *    *



           Otis covered his face and lay back as sleep came to claim him, while downstairs Sarah

kicked off her shoes and sat down on the comfy chair, thoughts filling her head.

           She had been too hard on the big guy she felt. After all, wasn‘t he the one who gave

up everything to come with her to a place he had never even visited before? He had never

once tried to talk her out of doing this, and she knew in her heart that it was because he felt

that her happiness was his happiness, and selfishly, she had played on this. Sure he was out of

order in the bar to talk to the company the way he had, but she supposed that perhaps he had

a point.

           However, the encounter had frightened her, because Sarah knew there was another

side to Otis, and it was a side she didn‘t like. Although a very easy going guy, Sarah was very

aware that Otis could become as wild as a tiger if provoked.

           She had once witnessed him almost beat two white guys to death when they had

called her a nigger-loving whore, as Otis accompanied her home from the movies one night.

Now she was glad that the big guy Otis had insulted had not resorted to any violence,

although she was still pretty sure what the outcome would have been.



                                         *   *    *   *    *



           Sarah lifted the poker and stared into the warm fire as thoughts of her happy but

distant childhood raced through her mind and she thought of how much she had loved

Cappawhite way back in the past.

           Things were different back then though, she felt. She was young and naïve in those

wonderful summer days. Days when the thought of falling in love was way over the horizon
                                                                                             83



for someone like her.

       Now she didn‘t feel quite the same as she did then, but she couldn‘t explain to herself

why. Maybe she had outgrown the place, or perhaps she had become so involved with the

American way of life over the years that things didn‘t seem to be as she imagined they would

be back in Ireland.

       Her school friends from way back then had all but disappeared, most of them

probably scattered across the length and breadth of Ireland. Most of them would maybe be

grandparents by now. It would have been much easier, she supposed, if she had been able to

have children of her own. She had thought of adopting, but somehow never got around to

following it up.

       But even though she had Otis, there were times when she was very lonely. Sometimes

she would think back to the robbery. And even though the robbers were killed, in a way they

had killed part of her.

       She still blamed her mother for taking her to America, but somehow she felt tied to

the place.

       Suddenly the realisation that they had given up everything in the States hit her and she

felt as though she was having a panic attack as the doubts set in.

       Maybe in a month or two I will feel differently though, she thought, as she poked hard

at the fire, maybe.
                                                                                              84




                                          CHAPTER 8



         Donald O‘Shea was the village Constable. He had been in the force for eight years,

joining the Garda Siochana when he was a fresh faced eighteen year old, and although still a

young man, he was well respected and thought of as a dedicated and strict but fair officer,

always ready to help anyone out.

         At times he thought the job boring, but he reckoned it was better than working the big

cities with the dangers that come with big city policing. He checked the corner pub door and

walked on through the cold drizzling rain. Up on the hill, out in front he could just make out a

figure leaning against the old shop wall, and he increased his step.

         As he approached he recognised the figure as old Mick, but the clunk click of his hob

nail boots had gave him away, and old Mick saw him first. ―Hello Donald,‖ said Mick, his

speech still slurred.

         ―Why hello Mick,‖ Donald replied. ―Not exactly the best of nights to be outdoors,‖ he

added.

         ―No!‖

         ―And what the hell has happened to you Mick?‖ Donald asked.

         Mick stared hard at the friendly policeman for a moment before speaking.

         ―Can you help me Donald?‖ Mick asked earnestly, avoiding the question.

         ―If I can Mick, if I can,‖ Donald repeated.

         ―Can you let me sleep in the station cell tonight?‖ Mick asked.

         ―I‘m sorry Mick, but I cannot do that.‖
                                                                                                   85



        ―Listen!‖ Mick pleaded, ―I have nowhere to stay tonight, and I‘ll die out here in the

cold and rain. Have some pity, man.‖

        ―Listen Mick,‖ Donald answered firmly, ―Sergeant Woods is on duty at the station

tonight, and there‘s just no way for it to be possible to let you sleep in the cell tonight, not

unless you have committed a crime.‖

        Sergeant Woods was a never bend the rules policeman who would have arrested his

own grandmother had the need arose, and Mick knew there would be no chance of this

sergeant letting him kip down in a cell for the night. ―Now it looks as though you‘ve had a

few too many Mick, so go on up home and get some sleep like a good fellow.‖

        Mick responded by picking up a large stone, and as he held the stone tightly in his

hand, he stared hard at the surrounding windows.

        ―Now what in God‘s name do you think you‘re going to do with that stone?‖ Donald

asked sternly.

        ―I‘ve got nowhere to stay tonight. Donald, and if you don‘t lock me up then I‘ll break

every window in the fucking village. I swear it Donald,‖ Mick replied earnestly.

        Donald had known old Mick for many years, and had spoken to the man on many

occasions before this, but to date he had never had any cause to arrest or even caution him.

This was a different old Mick than the one he had known up until now though. He had never

heard Mick swear like this before, and he had never seen this normally mild mannered old

man as agitated and aggressive as he was now.

        ―Put the bloody stone down, for Jesus‘ sake and tell me what‘s annoying you,‖

Donald replied, softly and reassuringly.

        Old Mick stared at the smiling Constable for a moment before tossing the stone aside.

―All right Donald, you win.‖

        Mick admired Donald enough to relay his story to the trustworthy policeman, who
                                                                                              86



after briefly hearing it, thought that perhaps there may have been a burglar up at Mrs Doyle‘s

house on the previous night, and that Mick, plied with the drink had simply imagined the rest.

       The Constable assured Mick that he would go up to the house immediately and check

on the old woman and that he would come back and try to sort something out for him. ―No,

Donald,‖ Mick cried. ―Do not go up there; did you not listen to me? I‘m telling you, there‘s a

demon lurking up there in that house.‖

       ―Now hold on a moment there, Mick,‖ said Donald as he pointed at old Mick. ―Best

let me be the judge of that. Just stay here until I return,‖ he said, as he walked away from the

still protesting drunken man.

       The rain had started to pick up now, and Donald was glad he had his waterproofs on

as he made his way steadily up toward Mrs Doyle‘s house.



                                      *    *    *   *    *



       Sarah stepped into the kitchen and put the kettle on, staring out from the kitchen

window as she did at the empty darkened road, and she thought about the old house and Mrs

Doyle. Why had the old woman been so inhospitable toward them? Sarah pondered. After all,

they had been friendly in their approach, only trying to help the woman. Maybe it was

because Otis was black? Sarah thought, God alone knew the humiliation she had suffered at

times in the States because of her mixed marriage. Things she had never dared tell Otis about,

when even some of her friends had turned against her and said some cruel, hurtful things to

her. But this had made her stronger, had made her admire Otis all the more, because she knew

he was not the kind of man who would put anyone down. And just because she believed that

the people in Ireland were not racist, didn‘t mean to say that some of them weren‘t.

       It would take time for them to settle in, but she hoped through time that things would
                                                                                                87



all work out and perhaps someday they would go back and visit America again, even though

there was really no one there for them anymore.

       Sarah‘s mother had died when Sarah was in her late twenties, and with her being an

only child there were only distant relative‘s left over there, and friends that had distanced

themselves from her. As for Otis, his parents had both died when he was young, and Michael,

his only brother, an air force fighter pilot, two years younger than Otis, had been killed in

action during the Korean war.

       But Otis never talked about him at all, refusing to accept that the brother he loved so

very much was dead, refusing even to go to Michael‘s burial service. As far as Otis was

concerned, Michael was still serving overseas and Sarah dared not even mention his name,

letting Otis handle Michael‘s death in his own strange and macabre way.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



       James Flanagan left the bar, made his way home and entered his empty house. Rose

would be at her sister Kate‘s house all night, caring for the terminally ill woman, a role which

she would do a few nights each week, and now he was sorry that he had caused the row with

Kate all those years ago.

       He had been drunk and had called her some things that she would never forgive him

for, and she had warned him never to set foot inside her home again. It wasn‘t Kate that he

hated though, it was her no good leech of a husband who was mainly to blame for anything

that had been said.

       As he sat alone in the empty house he started to think about what old Mick had said,

and also about his grandfather, about the stories they had told him, and he felt frightened

somehow.
                                                                                              88



       A noise upstairs sent him racing to the drawer of the cupboard, and he rumbled

quickly inside it, withdrew his rosaries, sat down, and wrapped them around his large fist.

       It had been a long time since he attended church, and he wished now that he had gone

more often. Tomorrow, he promised himself. Just then the door flew open and he jumped up,

startled. It was Rose.

       ―Jesus Christ Rose,‖ he shouted. ―You frightened the living dayli…‖ James stopped in

mid sentence when he seen his wife‘s agitated state. ―My God, Rose, is Kate all right?‖ He

lightly gripped his wife‘s arm. ―Rose, is Kate all right?‖ He repeated.

       ―Yes Kate‘s all right, now leave me alone,‖ she cried, as she pulled herself away from

him and ran upstairs.

       This illness of Kate‟s is starting to tell on Rose, he thought, and he quickly followed

her.

       ―Rose,‖ he whispered to the crying woman lying on the bed. ―Is there anything I can

do for you? Please let me help you,‖ he begged.

       ―Go away,‖ Rose sobbed, ―Go back to your cronies at the bar and help them out,‖ she

yelled. ―They need you more than I do, James Flanagan.‖

       This was hurtful to him. Sure at one time he drank more than his fair share, rolling in

drunk on many an occasion, but this had not been the case for a long time now, and Rose

knew it.

       ―What if I was to go up and visit with Kate, and apologise to her? Would that help?‖

James asked.

       Rose sprang up on the bed and immediately stopped crying. ―Do not even think about

going anywhere near my sister,‖ she said threateningly, pointing at him. ―Do you hear me?‖

Rose shouted. ―Stay away from Kate.‖

       ―I‘m only trying to help you. I love you Rose,‖ James replied.
                                                                                               89



         ―That‘s a laugh,‖ she barked. ―You wouldn‘t know the meaning of love if it bit you in

the arse. Now fuck off and leave me alone,‖ she shouted.

         James walked slowly back downstairs letting the rosaries slip from his hand, as his

eyes filled, and his stomach churned at her savagery toward him.



                                       *   *   *    *   *



         Back at the house Sarah was just about to pour her tea into a cup when she heard the

clanking sound of steel toecaps and heels against the concrete road outside.

         The noise indicated that there was someone walking alongside her house, and she

stared out through the window. But it was hard to focus on the figure through the darkness

and the rain. Then as the figure came into her vision, she could see it was a policeman, and as

far as she could tell he was a very young policeman, going up to the old woman‘s house, no

doubt.

         As he passed he sounded like a marching soldier she felt, and suddenly he gave her a

little wave, and she waved back smiling, and then he was gone.

         Sarah‘s mind wandered back to when she was a little girl, when she would come here

regularly to visit her Uncle Pat, and she would go up the lane to the old guest house and play

on the swing outback with her new little friend Francis, whom she had met, and who was

staying up there at the guest house for the full summer with her mother. She smiled broadly

and giggled as she thought about the fun times they had together there, during those fine

sunny days.

         Donald had not been up to the house for at least two years, when he had taken a walk

up there while on duty one summer‘s day. It had only been a social visit that fine day, but he

remembered the large one story building then as being unkempt, and he also remembered the
                                                                                                 90



unfriendly Mrs Doyle, who had told him to go away, and not in any friendly or polite manner.

       However, something had frightened old Mick, and he was going to march up there

and find out what it was. He checked his hand held-radio, but the battery was almost flat, and

so he realised that if anything had happened at the house, then he would be unable to

immediately summon help from the station. Even though his only weapon was a truncheon,

he ploughed on in the knowledge that it was very seldom that burglars carried weapons, and

this burglar, if indeed it was a burglar would be long gone by now anyway.



                                         *   *   *   *   *



       As he approached the sinister looking house with its large chimney pots towering into

the dark sky, he removed his torch and walked around the front, shining his beam through

every window.

       Every room at the front was bare except for one, which had a small mattress on the

floor, and an old dressing table beside it. He could just make out a few empty stout bottles

and he supposed that this must be old Mick‘s room, and carried on. Poor old Mick, he

thought. Once a good man, but like so many before him, ruined by the drink. As he turned the

corner to the side of the house, a pigeon, or a bat perhaps — he couldn‘t tell, flew toward his

head and almost collided with him, and as he threw his hands up in defence, his hat fell off,

landing in a large puddle at his feet.

       As he bent down to retrieve the soaking hat, he heard a long piercing scream coming

from the rear of the house.

       The already alert policeman drew out his truncheon and wrapped the small strap

around his wrist, transferring the torch to his other hand, as he cursed his useless radio. He

paused cautiously for a moment, and then he strode on through the worsening rain.
                                                                                                 91



       She must be playing her wireless, he decided, as he glanced through each window in

turn. Then he heard it again, much louder this time, a scream, no, more like a shriek, so loud

that it frightened him, and it was near. Then he heard a woman‘s voice, faintly, in the

distance.

       ―Go away and leave me in peace,‖ it shouted. Donald‘s heart was racing now as he

shone his torch through the next window. So it was a burglar after all, coming back for a

second time to rob and torment the old woman, or maybe worse. Maybe a sexual deviate, he

thought.

       As the beam of light from his torch entered the window, it lit up the old lady who was

sitting up in bed looking across the room, but she quickly turned her head toward the beam.

―No,‖ she shouted in his direction, as the constable shone the torch across to the other side.

       The figure, hooded, had its back to him, and as it extended a long arm, it pointed its

skeletal like hand at the old lady. It was levitating about a foot from the floor, and then it

slowly rotated around, to face him.

       The face was distorted and grotesque, as it mouthed meaninglessly at the policeman,

and then it wailed. A wail so loud it was almost ear bursting. Then the demon floated across

the room, toward him, moving its hooded head from side to side. ―No!‖ Donald heard the old

woman yell, as he dropped the torch and ran for his life, his heart pumping fast.

       ―Holy Mother of God,‖ he cried over and over again as he sprinted along the roadside.

It was behind him now, he knew, he could feel its presence moving quickly through the trees,

close to him, at the side of the road. The rain beat hard against his face as he panted for

breath, and as his adrenalin kicked in he thundered on in terror, feeling at any moment that

his very life would be torn from him.
                                                                                                 92



                                       *    *   *    *    *



       Sarah was putting away her now empty cup, when she heard the policeman‘s steel

toecaps in the distance, pounding down the concrete road toward her house, and she quickly

ran outside, shoeless, to find out what was going on. As she stepped out onto the road, the

now hysterical policeman almost collided with her, but as he moved to avoid her, his steel

toecaps made him slip on the wet surface, and he skidded to the ground, his truncheon

scraping along the hard road as it slipped from his grasp. Struggling to get up, he found

himself looking into a large rain pool that had formed at the side of the road, and he saw the

reflection of something moving fast, high in the trees, from right to left, its cape blowing

around it in the wind. As Sarah went to help him to his feet, he jumped up, looked at her

pitifully, and ran on, leaving the shocked woman to face this accursed abomination on her

own.

       As the now frightened Sarah looked after him fading into the distance, she sensed a

movement behind her and spun around. There was nothing or no one to be seen, only the rain

beating down through the darkness. Now she ran, afraid, back toward the safety of her home,

the fifteen feet from the gate now feeling like fifty, and as she slammed the door behind her,

she felt her mind race.

       What the hell is going on here? Sarah thought as she staggered toward the stairs. She

would talk to Otis in the morning, get the hell out of here, rectify this mistake, and they

would return to America immediately.

       As the terrified woman walked up the staircase, she could feel the wet floor beneath

her naked, grass-stained feet, and for a second she froze with horror, but she bravely climbed

onward.

       At the top of the staircase, where the carpet still had to be laid, she noticed a little wet
                                                                                                93



patch on the wooden floor, hardly visible, but there none the less. Someone had entered her

house, she knew, and they were in her bedroom. Her only thought was for Otis now as she

strode bravely on, and as she entered the dark bedroom, she saw it.

        ―My God,‖ Sarah groaned, and stared in horror as the cloaked figure that was

hovering above their bed slowly turned toward her, moving its grotesque head slowly around

and to the side, as if it were studying her. Sarah put her hands up to her face, backed slowly

up against the wall, and looked over at the still sleeping Otis. ―Wha, what do yo, you want

with us, she bravely stammered with a whisper, trying not to waken Otis, lest it should attack

him.

        The creature was opening and closing its mouth as it slowly moved toward her, but no

sound came from it. Then with a swift jerking movement it was upon her, its grotesque face

just two inches away from hers, as it rubbed its spindly fingers over her eyes and nose. Sarah

knew instinctively that the beast must be almost blind, as it tried to focus in on her face, and

she tried to turn away, but it held her jaw firmly in its powerful grip. Its very breath smelt like

death, and Sarah felt her head swoon.

        Then it wailed, so loudly that Sarah fainted. Otis jumped up out of his sleep in the

darkness, confused. The noise had sounded like a car slamming on the brakes at high speed,

screeching and skidding across their bedroom floor.

        As he surveyed the dark empty silent room, he noticed that Sarah was not in bed, and

he quickly got up and made for the bedroom door, tripping over his outstretched wife, who

lay flat out on the floor.

        Flicking the light switch he felt panic when he saw Sarah lying there, but he quickly

carried the unconscious woman back to the bed, noticing as he looked her up and down that

her wet feet had grass on them. ―What the hell has happened here honey? Sarah, wake up,

Sarah,‖ he shouted to his sleeping wife, ―wake up.‖
94
                                                                                               95




                                          CHAPTER 9



       Father Quinn was now dressed and heading out through the door of his home. He

would go to Rose and see if she was all right, and to hell with the consequences. He had been

just as responsible for the affair as Rose had, more so perhaps, except he should have known

better. He was a man with the same sexual desires as any other man, but he should have

turned to his beliefs for inner strength, instead of becoming a partner to Satan, he felt. As he

walked down the hill he carried his umbrella under his arm, but he didn‘t use it, and seemed

unaware of the small streams of rain that ran down the sides of his face.

       Old Mick had taken shelter from the rain under the short roof that jutted out from the

shop doorway, and he grew impatient as he waited for Donald to return.

       Father Quinn had just approached the shop when he saw old Mick sheltering from the

rain. He knew Mick was a good friend of James, and he also knew the full harrowing history

of the old man. The priest walked over to Mick and was about to speak when Mick raised a

hand to silence him. Mick would hear no lame and sorry excuse from him this night.

       Then from down the street the two men heard the unmistakable clip clopping of the

Constable‘s boots as he ran toward them. Louder they sounded, until as he was almost level

with the men. Old Mick ran into the road and blocked his path. ―Did you see it?‖ Mick

shouted, as Donald side-swept passed, ignoring him. Mick instinctively knew that he was

heading for the police station though, and hurried after him, followed by the priest.

       Inside the police station Sergeant Woods was busy mopping out the hall area of the

entrance. It was an old station in need of some repair, but it was all they had for now and
                                                                                               96



Sergeant Woods was determined at least that it should be kept clean.

       He could hear the familiar sound of Constable O‘Shea‘s hob nailed boots running

toward the station and as he straightened up in surprise, the door of the station burst open and

slammed loudly against the wall, almost breaking the reinforced glass as the distraught

constable came charging in, cascading into the sergeant and sending him and the contents of

the mop bucket careening across the station floor. ―Don‘t let it get me,‖ he screamed at the

sergeant and scurried behind a desk.

       Sergeant Woods, thinking they were under some form of attack, immediately raised

himself from the ground and raced over to the small armoury, quickly lifting some shells in

one hand, as he drew out his Webley revolver with the other. He quickly loaded it up, and

stood inside the doorway, waiting for whoever was chasing Constable O‘Shea to attack.

       The attack came in the form of old Mick and the priest, who both rushed into the

police station and were immediately confronted by Sergeant Woods aiming his revolver at

them. ―Don‘t shoot,‖ Mick shouted, as father Quinn slipped on the wet floor, falling to the

ground and sending a little spray of water up around the wall. ―What the hell‘s going on

here?‖ roared Sergeant Woods, looking around at the normally dependable O‘Shea, and then

back to old Mick, who was dripping wet in the doorway. ―There is a demon up at Mrs

Doyle‘s house,‖ said old Mick, in a matter-of-fact manner.

       Sergeant Woods looked at the priest for some sort of explanation, but the priest who

had now picked himself up raised his hands to gesture that he knew nothing about it. ―I have

seen it,‖ said Mick, ―and now so has Donald.‖

       The Sergeant walked over to the desk, the water from the mop bucket still dripping

from his arms onto the floor, and leaned across to the shaking constable who was still

fighting to get his breath back. ―Just what happened to you tonight son?‖

       The young policeman tried to speak, but no words would pass his lips.
                                                                                                  97



        ―He‘s seen a bloody demon I told you,‖ Mick repeated, as Sergeant Woods raised a

hand to silence him. ―A banshee, we both seen it,‖ Mick went on.

        ―Banshee my arse,‖ yelled Sergeant Woods at Mick. ―Have you been on the bloody

drink again?‖

        ―Yes, I have been on the drink,‖ Mick answered. ―But your constable hasn‘t been

drinking and just look at the state of him.‖

        Sergeant Woods then turned to Constable O‘Shea again. ―Get up man,‖ he

commanded. O‘Shea who was sitting on the floor now climbed slowly and awkwardly onto

the chair.

        ―No one is going to hurt you,‖ exclaimed the priest, and the constable gave a nervous

half smile. ―Mi, Mi, Mick‘s right,‖ the young constable stammered to the sergeant, ―I seen it,

on my mother‘s grave, I swear it, the woman‘s in danger.‖

        ―Mrs Doyle‘s in danger?‖ Sergeant Woods asked.

        ―No, I mean yes, and the other woman as well,‖ groaned the constable, as if in pain.

        Sergeant Woods stood hands on hips and shook his head. He had served on the force

for almost thirty eight years, but had never witnessed anything like this in his entire career.

        What the hell had happened to these men? Sergeant Woods wondered. Well one thing

was certain; they must have seen something, something that would require an immediate

police investigation.



                                       *   *    *    *   *



        Sarah awoke to find Otis using a wet cloth to moisten her face and she held him with

all her might. ―Never let me go,‖ she begged. ―Promise me darling,‖ she pleaded. Otis looked

down at his wife‘s feet.
                                                                                                98



       ―What‘s with the grass on your feet honey?‖ Otis asked. ―What the hell were you

doing outside on a night like this?‖

       ―I‘m done for,‖ she cried. ―The banshee was here, and it looked upon me, and now it

will be coming back for me, for my very soul. I know it will.‖

       Sarah started to cry and Otis held her tightly. ―Nothing‘s coming back for you Sarah, I

promise,‖ he said. Otis felt his stomach heave. What the hell is wrong with her? He thought.

Is Sarah losing her mind? No, it‟s the place, the people, mass hypnosis, yeah that what it is

alright. But then what about that noise that awoke me.

       Anyway, he would take her to the hospital in the morning and get this damn mess

sorted out.



                                       *   *   *   *     *



       At the station, Sergeant Woods made a move to the desk and lifted the telephone,

dialled a number and after a few seconds began to talk. ―Hello is the inspector there?‖ Woods

asked loudly, ―well Sergeant Cummings will have to do then.‖ After a pause he spoke up

again. ―Hello Joe, its Arthur Woods here. Something‘s happened down here, Joe, and you‘ll

have to come over right away. I‘ll tell when you get here, and Joe, bring as many men with

you as you can. Well, three will have to do then, but please hurry, yes goodbye.‖

       Sergeant Woods slowly sat the phone down and looked around suspiciously at the

three men in front of him as he raised an eyebrow. My Lord, he thought, as he stared at the

trio; a priest, a drunk and a constable who was almost in the state of collapse. ―They‘re on

their way,‖ he said pointing at the men. ―And I only hope I‘m not bringing them here on

some bloody fool‘s errand,‖ he said, menacingly.
                                                                                                 99



                                        *   *    *   *   *



          Otis stared out the window and wondered. He had never believed in anything

supernatural before in his life, and this went against his whole grain of thinking. Sarah had

said she‘d seen something though, and maybe she had, or maybe she and everyone else in the

damn village were going crazy, but he trusted and believed in his wife. Then he thought about

something that had been told to him about fifteen years or so previously, and he wondered

why it had never entered his mind until now. It was something to do with Sarah saying that

this banshee was coming back for her soul that made him realise he had heard a story like this

before.

          He had been on duty with one of his many partners, Eric Little Feather, a full blood

Indian of Sioux descent, and one of the bravest men he had ever met. Even though these men

had come from different cultures, they had hit it off straight away, and had become very good

friends. They had been sitting on a stakeout, quietly waiting one night, and Otis had jokingly

remarked to Eric that he would give up his soul for a syrup pancake. Eric had taken exception

and warned Otis that he should never joke about his soul this way. Otis asked him to take it

easy, and then informed him that the Indian people were a very superstitious race who viewed

life too seriously.

          ―No!‖ Eric had answered him, it was the white man who took life too seriously, he

had said. The white men have always wanted to own everything, he had added. And he

reminded Otis that the white men had even owned the black man once. Otis couldn‘t argue

with that and said no more, sorry now that he had mentioned the goddamn pancake in the first

place.

          Then Eric proceeded to tell him about an Indian from his tribe by the name of Satra,

who was faced with losing his soul.
                                                                                             100




                                       *   *       *   *   *



       „Long before the white man came to our land,‟ Eric said, „Satra, a fearless Lakota

Sioux warrior, who had shown his bravery in many battles against our then sworn enemy, the

Ojibwa tribe, left his village on foot, accompanied by a party of ten braves, and went out

across the Great Plains in search of the buffalo. They had travelled far that day, and when

darkness fell they made camp and settled down. A brave named Two Bears was looking out

across the cloudless sky as the rest of the party slept, and he watched as a shooting star

raced across the sky.

       Although he had seen this many times before, this star had moved in the direction of

their village, and he thought it a bad sign. As he stretched out his arms yawning and twisting

around to observe his sleeping brothers, he noticed something else in the sky, showing up in

the glare of the moon, a figure, a large figure.

       Not a bird, bigger than a bird, but with no wings. A man he thought, in the distance. A

bird man, who was coming slowly through the sky toward him and the sleeping band.

       Frightened, he yelled loudly to the others, who all awoke at once. Two Bears pointed

into the sky and walked backward, stumbling as he did. Satra lifted his spear and walked to

the front of the trembling band, as three or four of them started to chant, but Satra silenced

them. Still onward it came toward them, descending all the while, and everyone could see

that the bird being was hooded. Satra was very frightened by this floating figure, but he

would not show his fear in front of the others and he stepped forward, spear at the ready.

Watching in terror as the hooded one drew nearer, two of the younger braves ran screaming,

and Satra shouted on them to come back, but they ran on into the darkness. „What is this

thing that comes to us in the night?‟ Spotted Dog asked with fear in his voice, as he looked
                                                                                              101



around at the others for an answer.

        Then the bird being was almost upon them, and they could just make out its grotesque

features. Three of the braves fired off arrows at it, with two arrows striking the body, but still

it came on, until it was level with the little band. Satra commanded the braves to lower their

bows and the shaking men obeyed as the hooded creature looked upon them for the longest

time.

        Then it moved, stunning everyone with its speed as it flew across to Satra and stared

into his face. Satra looked slowly up and down its body and watched as it moved its hideous

long gnarled fingers up to his mouth, gently caressing his nose and eyes,

        The creature seemed to be trying to talk to him, as it opened and closed its mouth, but

no sound came from it, until it screamed loudly into his face, but Satra held firm.

        Another brave by the name of Moving Shadow almost knocked Satra over, as he dived

onto the creature, followed by Two Bears and Spotted Dog, as they tried to wrestle it to the

ground.

        The hooded one had the strength of very many men though, and it responded by

tearing off some of Moving Shadow‟s limbs, and then it threw Two Bears high through the

air. Spotted Dog struck the beast in the face with his knife, but it also threw him to the side as

easily as a man throwing a rock. Satra rammed his spear into the beast, but it simply moved

its head from side to side for a moment, and then it slowly moved off in the direction from

where it had come, rising into the sky, and away.

        Moving Shadow was clearly dead, but Two Bears, although badly hurt, was still alive.

Spotted Dog was also alive, but had many broken parts. The shocked braves sat together in

fear, until the sun came up and gave light to the plains, and then they moved as quickly from

this place as they could travel. They would call off the hunt and go back to their village.

        When they returned, Satra visited old Chief Cloud, whom the tribe believed had the
                                                                                               102



wisdom of all living things on his tongue, and after listening to Satra‟s story, Chief Cloud

told Satra that he was certain that his band had been visited by the Great Spirit Woman, who

has always roamed the plains like a great hunter.

       This hunter though, was the hunter of souls. The chief, who was over one hundred

years old, had been told many stories when he was a young brave, but remembered them all

as if he had heard them only yesterday. He spoke of the Great Spirit woman, who would

choose someone‟s soul and then return for it, and no living thing could stop her. The Chief

asked Satra if the Great Spirit Woman had looked upon him, staring into his eyes and when

Satra agreed that she had looked upon him, Chief Cloud stared to the heavens and chanted.

       When he next spoke he had tears in his eyes, and his heart hung heavy as he told

Satra that his soul had already been claimed, and the Great Spirit Woman would visit him

again, within ten moons. This visit would be to take him away.

       The chief also told Satra that no one could help him now, and that even though the

braves would all fight for him when she came to take him, no one would live who stood

against her power.

       The next day Satra left the village early, before the sun came up, and was never seen

again, but very many moons later a hunting party found some of Satra‟s belongings, although

there was no sign of Satra or his remains.‟



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       This great warrior, Eric had told Otis, had crossed the plains to face the Great Spirit

Woman alone, because he wanted no others to die in vain trying to help him. But it could

have been different for Satra. He didn‘t have to go off alone to his death, because there was

another way, Eric had told him.
                                                                                          103



       Otis had laughed this story off at the time, and had thought it a typical Indian

superstition, but now he didn‘t know what to think. Eric had never made stories up, he

believed, and was always truthful with him, and now that he thought about it, so was Sarah.
                                                                                               104




                                         CHAPTER 10



         Back at the station reinforcements had arrived, in the guise of Sergeant Joseph

Cummings and two constables. Joe was an old hand and very experienced, as was Constable

Pearson, but young Constable McCann, only on the job for four months, was still pretty wet

behind the ears.

         ―Hello Arthur,‖ Joe said, as they entered the small station. ―What‘s going on here

then?‖

         ―Hello Joe,‖ Sergeant Woods replied. ―Well Joe, I don‘t know where to start with this.

It seems these fellows here have seen something up at Mrs Doyle‘s house.‖

         Sergeant Woods pointed to the three men standing behind him, and wondered if he

should say any more.

         The priest put his hand up to gesture that he had seen nothing, and was about to speak

when old Mick interrupted, ―It‘s true,‖ Mick said, his speech still slurred, ―It‘s up at the

house, the demon,‖ he urged. The three new arrivals looked at each other in disbelief, and

Sergeant Woods felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. ―Donald has seen it as well,‖ Mick said

pointing at the still shaking policeman. ―Tell them Donald,‖ Mick pleaded.

         ―I did, I swear I did. It chased after me,‖ the young constable answered.

         Joe Cummings had seen it all, he felt. In his long service years as a policeman he had

heard many a tall tale, but he had never heard anything quite like this before. However, he

had been born and raised in this village, and he knew old Mick, as a drunk perhaps, but not a

liar. He had also been a friend of Don O‘Shea‘s father, and he remembered Donald as a
                                                                                              105



young boy, a very honest and truthful boy then, he thought. He didn‘t know the priest though,

but if these men said they seen something at Mrs Doyle‘s house, then that was good enough

for him.

       ―Well, Arthur,‖ he said, ―Why don‘t we all go up there and investigate this?‖

       Old Mick spoke up again. ―I wouldn‘t go near that place if the whole bloody Irish

army came with me,‖ he shouted, ―I‘m telling you.‖

       ―I w-won‘t go there either,‖ stuttered Constable O‘Shea.

       ―Will you join us father?‖ Sergeant Woods asked, feeling that perhaps this priest may

be needed more than anyone else.

       ―Yes I will. I would really like to help you out,‖ Father Quinn replied, anxious to

redeem himself in any way that he could.

       Sergeant Woods ordered Constable O‘Shea to guard the station until he got back, and

Mick volunteered to keep him company. Sergeants Woods and Cummings; together with the

two Constables, Pearson and McCann; and Father Quinn, stepped into the police vehicle, and

proceeded toward Mrs Doyle‘s house at full speed.



                                       *    *   *    *   *



       Sarah had fallen asleep now, and Otis came downstairs and stepped out into the

garden. He stared up into the night sky as he mumbled a little prayer. It had been a long time

since he had prayed, but this prayer was not for him, this prayer was for the woman he loved,

and he started this prayer off with a quick apology for having not prayed for so long.

       When he had finished praying he looked around in thought at the rain-soaked garden.

Surely, he thought, there must be some other explanation for all of this. Just then he noticed

the car, headlights glaring, coming past his house, and as they turned into the little road at the
                                                                                             106



side of his house he could see they were policemen.

       Otis ran out in front of them causing the car to skid to a halt. ―Something‘s happened

to my wife,‖ he yelled.

       Sergeant Cummings, who was driving the car, jumped out and approached him on

foot. ―Does she need an ambulance?‖ He enquired.

       ―No,‖ Otis replied. ―Something has happened to her, but she‘s not hurt, I think she has

been frightened very badly by something. She‘s asleep now though,‖ he said.

       ―What do you mean, you think?‖ Sergeant Cummings asked.

       ―I just don‘t know,‖ Otis answered ―I heard something.‖

       ―Well, once we have dealt with our call we will come back to you,‖ Sergeant

Cummings promised.

       Otis butted in. ―You‘re going up to the Doyle house, right?‖ Otis enquired, as he

rested his hand on the Sergeant‘s chest.

       ―Yes we are,‖ Sergeant Cummings answered with some suspicion.

       ―Listen,‖ Otis stated. ―I was a cop in L.A. for over twenty years, and I may be able to

help you, because whatever is going on up there in that house,‖ he said, pointing toward the

lane, ―is responsible for my wife being the way she is right now.‖

       ―Sorry,‖ Sergeant Woods said, ―this is strictly police business.‖ Otis held his head as

Sergeant Cummings returned to the car.

       ―Listen Arthur,‖ Sergeant Cummings said, ―I think we should let the big Yank go

with us, never know what‘s up there, and we may need all the help we can get.‖

       ―Well, all right,‖ Sergeant Woods replied after a pause, ―he can go, but only as an

onlooker.‖

       ―You can go,‖ Sergeant Cummings informed Otis.

       ―But only as an onlooker,‖ Sergeant Woods stated loudly, his voice full of authority
                                                                                             107



as he let everyone know who was still in charge. ―Get in,‖ he said to Otis, as though he were

speaking to a cadet.

           ―We can‘t leave Sarah alone,‖ Otis answered.

           ―McCann,‖ shouted Sergeant Cummings, showing that he too had some authority,

―stay with this man‘s wife.‖

           ―Yes, Sargeant Cummings,‖ answered the relieved constable as he promptly exited

the car.

           The wind was picking up now as Otis pushed his way into the cramped car, and they

sped up the road. As they drove into the lane approaching Mrs Doyle‘s house, Otis noticed

that the Keep Out sign was standing erect, and he wondered who had fixed it. As the men

exited the car, Otis also noticed that both the sergeants had revolvers in their hands, and he

looked surprised when the priest pulled out some rosary beads and a small crucifix from his

pocket.

           There was no sign of any movement in the house as Constable Pearson shone his

torch in through the windows, and the small band moved slowly together as one, frightened at

the thought of what they might encounter. As they moved further along the rear of the house

they could see a figure asleep in one of the bedrooms. ―It‘s Mrs Doyle,‖ exclaimed Sergeant

Woods. Father Quinn quickly kissed his rosaries as Sergeant Cummings walked along and

rapped loudly on the back door. ―She‘s not moving,‖ shouted Constable Pearson, who was

still shining his torch through the window at her.

           ―Break it down,‖ Sergeant Woods ordered. Constable Pearson came over and handed

Sergeant Cummings his torch, and immediately shoulder charged the heavy wooden door,

which didn‘t budge. He tried again with the same result, as he masked the searing pain that

shot down his arm and across his whole body.

           ―Excuse me,‖ Otis said as he pushed Constable Pearson out of the way, and before the
                                                                                                108



man could say anything, Otis flew at the door, breaking it down, sending dust and wood

splinters flying everywhere.

         ―Well done,‖ Sergeant Cummings said rather loudly, as if justifying why he had asked

that the big American should be allowed to accompany them in the first place.

         With the door now opened the five men hesitated, staring at each other to see who

would make the first move. Father Quinn ducked under Otis‘s outstretched arm which was

holding firmly to the doorframe, and entered the dark, litter infested hallway first, closely

followed by Constable Pearson who had retrieved his torch, and was shining it all over the

place.

         The putrid smell that wafted along the hall nauseated the men, all except Otis that is,

who had long since lost his sense of smell. He had lost it on the operating table all those

many years ago, when he was so concerned about losing his eye, that it was weeks before he

even noticed he could not smell. It was when the senior nurse announced to him one morning

that she loved to enter his private hospital room just to smell the fresh flowers that Sarah

religiously brought with her on her visits, that Otis first noticed he couldn‘t smell them. But

he didn‘t dwell too much on it then, thinking that it would only be a matter of time until it

returned.

         Sergeant Cummings fought to stop himself from being sick, while the priest, who was

used to these sorts of smells on his daily visits around the community, moved slowly on.

―There‘s a light switch,‖ shouted someone, and Otis flicked it, but nothing happened.

Sergeant Woods whispered to Constable Pearson to shine his torch on small areas at a time

and stop waving it about all over the bloody place, but he ignored the Sergeant, whom he

didn‘t regard as his superior anyway and continued to ark the beam of light around the walls

and ceiling.

         The men, still led by Father Quinn, slowly made their way down the hall, walking
                                                                                               109



over the pile of debris that had accumulated there over the years as they made loud crunching

sounds on the rotting floorboards.

       ―Good God,‖ croaked Pearson as he tripped over something, and grabbed Sergeant

Cummings to prevent himself from falling.

       ―Stop!‖ Sergeant Woods commanded, ―I think I hear something,‖ he whispered. Each

man stopped to listen, hardly daring to breathe in the silence, when suddenly a door flew

open. Constable Pearson quickly pulled his torch up, and lit up the large figure in the

doorway.

        ―What do you mean by this intrusion?‖ The tall figure raged. It was Mrs Doyle,

standing in the doorway with her unkempt hair and filthy nightdress, her white skin giving

her a ghastly, death-like appearance. Sergeant Cummings was now already convinced of what

the men had seen at this house, and so he decided to take a back seat in the matter and let the

already confused Sergeant Woods run the show from here on in.

       ―Mrs Doyle,‖ said Sergeant Woods. ―We have had a report that you may have had

burglars in your home, and we are duty-bound to investigate.‖

       ―There are no burglars here,‖ she shouted, ―This is that old drunk Mick O‘Neill‘s

doing I‘ll bet, now get off my property.‖

       Father Quinn stepped forward, crucifix still in hand, which glistened in the light of

Constable Pearson‘s beam. ―Now we are only trying to help you Mrs Doyle,‖ the priest said

softly, but Sergeant Woods moved quickly, interrupting the priest. This was his show, he had

started it, and he wasn‘t going to damn well leave it until he received some answers.

       ―We believe madam, that there is someone in the house who should not be here, and

we need to check this matter out, and until we are satisfied that there is no one here then we

cannot leave,‖ he informed her.

       Mrs Doyle kept yelling at the men to get out, swearing obscenities at them, but they
                                                                                              110



ignored her outbursts and quickly marched on passed her, making their way into the

bedroom. Sergeant Woods knew that if they found nothing at the house then there could be

hell to pay with his superiors, but he was convinced that the men had seen something, and so

he pressed on. Someone found a bedside light and switched it on, and although the low

wattage bulb was not very bright, it was just bright enough to let the men see around the

room, and the squalid conditions this woman was living in.

          Never during his career, before or after for that matter, had Otis witnessed anything as

filthy as this, and it made him feel sad for her.

          ―Has there been anyone here in the last two nights?‖ Sergeant Woods politely asked.

          ―No!‖ Was the stern reply from Mrs Doyle, as she lowered her head to avoid eye

contact.

          She‟s lying, Otis thought.

          ―Listen Madam,‖ broke in Sergeant Cummings, who now decided to get involved

again, and not let his friend Arthur shoulder all the responsibility. Besides, he didn‘t believe

her either.

          ―We will not intrude upon you much longer madam, but we have to satisfy ourselves

that there is not somethi — er — someone,‖ he corrected, ―dangerous in this house before we

leave.‖

          ―Get out,‖ was the reply, but the Sergeant ignored her again. The men checked every

room in the house, but could find nothing.

          ―There‘s just no one here,‖ said Sergeant Cummings after a thorough search.

          ―Okay,‖ Sergeant Woods replied. ―We will secure the broken door and I‘ll send

someone up tomorrow to fix it properly. I apologise for any inconvenience madam,‖ he said

to Mrs Doyle.

          ―No!‖ Otis belched, ―she‘s hiding something, why can‘t you men see that?‖
                                                                                               111



       ―I‘m sorry,‖ said Sergeant Woods, ―we can do no more.‖

       ―Like hell you can‘t,‖ Otis raged as the policemen started to make their way out.

       Otis looked sternly over to the woman who was now sitting gravel faced at the end of

the bed. ―My wife is in grave danger because of the fucking monster you are hiding here,‖ he

yelled at Mrs Doyle, as the policemen held his arms and tried to pull him out. ―Please help

us,‖ he shouted to Mrs Doyle. ―Help us or my wife will die,‖ he begged.

       Mrs Doyle held her head in her hands sobbing as the policemen forced Otis to leave

the house.

       ―We just have no proof man,‖ Sergeant Cummings said to Otis while patting him on

the back as they climbed into the car. The fresh air felt great to the men and they greedily

gulped it down, clearing their nostrils from the stench they had just endured.

       Sergeant Woods patted Otis on the back as he was almost manhandled into the rear of

the police vehicle.

       Suddenly Mrs Doyle appeared, sobbing at the door, and motioned for the men to

return, and at once Sergeant Cummings felt sick at the thought of entering the house again,

but forced himself back with the rest of the band, still led by the priest.



                                       *    *    *   *    *



       Inside the sobbing Mrs Doyle eyed each man in turn, before asking them to sit down.

       There was an old chair and a partly broken stool, which the two sergeants claimed,

and Constable Pearson sat on an old newspaper on the floor, while father Quinn and Otis

decided to stand. It was a few moments before the old woman started to speak; the small band

of men listening intently to her every word.

       ―I cannot go on any longer with this,‖ she sobbed. ―Not when she‘s hurting other
                                                                                            112



people.‖

       The priest interrupted her, as the small band of men looked at each other in confusion.

       ―Did you just say, ‗she‘?‖ Father Quinn asked.

       ―Yes, she,‖ answered Mrs Doyle, ―Emily.‖

       Otis was standing beside the old woman and she looked sadly at him, which gave her

a gentler and friendlier appearance compared to the raging figure of the brutish woman five

minutes before.

       Mrs Doyle then took his hand in her own large but frail, worn-out hands.

       ―I‘m sorry for you and your wife, but it‘s already too late for her now,‖ she said. Otis

grabbed hold of her wrist almost lifting the woman up from the bed.

       ―What the hell is this thing?‖ he yelled at the woman angrily.

       Father Quinn placed a calming hand on the big American‘s shoulder, afraid that Mrs

Doyle would clam up if Otis hurt her. ―Please my son,‖ he implored, and Otis let go, as the

old woman rubbed hard at her wrist.

       ―Strong, I like that in a man,‖ she said, making everyone in the room feel

uncomfortable. Then she looked around at the small band of men, once again eyeing each one

of them in turn before speaking. ―I‘ll begin,‖ she said softly.
                                                                                             113




                                         CHAPTER 11



         „Many years ago, when I was a child and living in County Wexford, my mother died

suddenly, leaving my father to raise myself and my older sister Emily. But Father couldn‟t

cope with mother‟s loss, and took to the bottle more and more, leaving Emily and I to do

mainly as we pleased.

         I was ten years old at the time, and Emily was twelve. One of the things we loved to

do was to play outdoors in the back garden, down by the small stream, where we would have

endless days of fun throughout the long summer months, until Father came in one day that is,

and forbade us to play outdoors again. There were dangerous escaped criminals somewhere

in the forest, behind the house, he had said, and under no circumstances were we to go out

there.

         About a week later though, our cousin came to visit, and as we played in the bedroom,

Violet, our cousin, asked us if we could keep a secret. „Please, oh please tell us,‟ Emily

pleaded, and after we promised to keep her secret, she told us that she had overheard her

parents talking about our father, and how he was going to have to sell the house to clear his

debtors. „No!‟ Emily screamed into Violet‟s face, as I started to cry.

         „Yes!‟ Violet screamed back. „You two may end up in the convent, and there are no

criminals in the wood. It‟s the Fairy Woman, Mother says.‟

         Emily stared at Violet for ages before speaking again. „Father would never sell this

house,‟ Emily had shouted at her. Then she called Violet some bad names and ran to her

room crying.
                                                                                             114



       A short time later when Violet and her parents had left, I went to Emily‟s room. „Are

we going to be all right?‟ I asked.

       „Mary,‟ Emily stated, „No matter what happens, I won‟t let us be separated from each

other, I promise you.‟ Then she hugged me.

       „What‟s a Fairy Woman?‟ I asked her, but she said she would tell me all about it

when I was a bit older.

       Next day was a beautiful day, although a bit windy, and as Father was away, Pearly

the maid would soon take her afternoon nap. Pearly always did when Father was away, and

so we had decided to disobey Father, and go play in the back garden for a spell, while she

slept. Just like clockwork, and after ordering us not to leave the house, Pearly fell asleep on

the couch.

       She would be like this for a couple of hours, and so we made our escape. We had only

been playing for a short while, about five minutes, when the wind blew up really strong and

the sky darkened somewhat. „Perhaps we should go indoors,‟ remarked Emily.

       „All right,‟ I answered, but before I could stand up Emily dropped the doll she had

been holding, and pointed behind me. Something was coming through the trees very fast

around the side of us, high off the ground.

       „Run,‟ Emily yelled as it broke from the trees beside us, and grabbing my hand, she

pulled me along.

       „It‟s the Fairy Woman,‟ I shouted as the hooded creature blocked our way. I pulled

away from Emily and ran toward it. If this was the Fairy Woman then she would grant me a

wish, I thought, and then I could save the house for Father.

       „Don‟t look at it,‟ I heard Emily shout. But Emily was wrong. The kind Fairy Woman

would help us I thought. Then I was upon it, and as I looked up into the kind Fairy woman‟s

face, I drew back in horror.
                                                                                               115



        This was no kind Fairy Woman, but a demon of the worst evil. Its face was twisted

and grotesque, and it was mouthing words at me, but I could hear no sound. Then it

screamed at me, and for a very short time I must have fainted. The next thing I remember was

poor Emily dragging me along the ground, and I could see the vile creature disappear into

the distance.

        When we reached the house we crashed through the door, and I remember Pearly

shouting down into my face as I lay dazed. Then I fell into a deep sleep. When I awoke Father

and Emily were at my bedside, and Father was holding my hand. I smiled up at father as

Emily stood sobbing behind him. „You‟re all right now Mary, you‟ve had a fright, but you‟re

going to be alright,‟ said Father.

        „Don‟t cry Emily,‟ I said, „I‟m all right, just like Father says.

        Old Father Lynch had been sent for and had come to the house almost immediately. I

could hear him talking with Father and Emily, their voices raised, and I felt frightened

somehow until Father looked across at me and ordered them to be silent. „What is wrong?‟ I

heard myself say, „Please tell me,‟ I pleaded, and it was Father who spoke up first.

        „We must leave straight away,‟ he said. „I have a friend in London who will let us stay

at his home for a while. Go pack immediately,‟ he ordered Emily, pointing to the bedroom

door.

        „But I don‟t want to leave here,‟ I cried.

        „No, you don‟t seem to understand,‟ Father Lynch said loudly to father. „The only

place the child will be safe is in the sanctity of the church, where it dare not enter. If you go

anywhere on this planet it will find her there, anywhere. Go to the north or south pole, or the

deepest depth of the ocean,‟ he repeated, „It will be there and it will never give up, however

long it takes, years, decades, it will always be there, relentless.‟

        „How can we kill it?‟
                                                                                               116



       „You cannot kill that which is already dead,‟ Father Lynch replied.

       This was all making me feel even more frightened now, and I started to cry.

       „Listen to me, my child,‟ he said as he came over beside me. „I do not mean to frighten

you, but this you must know. The mark of the Banshee is on you. It has laid claim to you, and

it will not rest until it has come back to claim your soul, but to do that, it must take you

bodily. You will only be safe in the church where it cannot enter. But time is of the essence

however if we are to save you,‟ he said.

       Before I knew it the old priest and my father had me bundled into a large pony and

trap and were heading full speed toward the church, with Father scanning every bush and

tree in case it should be waiting for me.

       As we entered the church and the doors shut behind us, I could see the relief on

Father‟s face. „How long must I stay here?‟ I ask.

       „My child,‟ said Father Lynch. „You can never, under any circumstances leave here,

ever. You can never venture outside into the garden. Why even an open window could be

dangerous for you if you go too near it, but if you want to live, then the rules we will lay

down for you must be followed to the letter.‟

       I believe I cried for three or four days after that, and only cheered up when Emily

came to visit with me.

       I would have loved Emily to have stayed with me but it was against the church rules.

       I had my own room though, which was quite nice, but I was just like a prisoner, and

as the weeks turned to months my longing to be outside was overwhelming. The priests and

nuns treated me very well though, and even allowed me to have a small pet hamster.

       After a few months Father‟s visits became less frequent as the illness he had

developed became worse, but sweet, devoted Emily never missed coming to see me, and I

believe at this period of my life we were never as close as we were then. It was during one of
                                                                                             117



these visits the following summer, when the sweltering heat inside the church was

unbearable, that Emily took out some material and scissors.

       We had just started to make some clothes for our dolls and I asked Emily if we could

play over at the church door where it was cooler, and she agreed. One of the nuns had left

the outer door open and the breeze from outside wafted in which helped cool us down.

Looking out of the church I could see that there was not a cloud in the sky, and because the

church was surrounded by open fields, there was not a tree in sight. I started to cry, and

when Emily asked me what was wrong, I told her how I longed to be outside. „You know you

can‟t do that,‟ said Emily.

       „But there is no one about,‟ I said, begging and pleading with Emily. „Please I said,

just for one minute.‟ I believe Emily knew what I was going through, because she walked

outside and looked around.

       Father Lynch had gone to town and we didn‟t know when he would return and young

Father Malloy was busy studying in the church library. Emily was walking back into the

church, nodding her disapproval, but she must have read my disappointment, because she

suddenly stopped, had another look around and then waved me forward. „Come on Mary,

you‟ve got five minutes,‟ she whispered.

       When I stepped outside it took a moment to adjust to the light, and then it was great. I

burled around a few times, basking in my new-found freedom, while Emily watched intently,

scanning all around. We were about ten feet from the church door, when Emily stopped me

from going any further. “I‟ve missed this,” I said.

       Then everything was sort of hazy after that. A heavy gust of wind came from nowhere

and blew Emily‟s hat off, and I ran after it and picked it up, about twenty feet away. As I was

dusting it down I noticed the priest standing just outside the door of the church and I

wondered why he was wearing a hood on a scorching day like today. „Oh God,‟ I heard
                                                                                                118



Emily shout, as she ran toward me, and then I knew at once. It had returned for me, just like

they said it would, and my heart sank low. It was off the ground, just slightly, and floating

toward us now, as Emily frantically dug into her pockets and pulled out the scissors we had

used earlier. It seemed to be almost blind as it circled around us groping with its gnarled

fingers as Emily took hold of me, and with the scissors, cut a very large chunk of hair from

my head. „Lie down,‟ she demanded, in a whispered voice. „I won‟t let it take you,‟ she said

softly as I lay on the ground. Then Emily put her finger to her mouth, urging me to be quiet as

she walked over to it, holding my hair in front of her face.

       Emily had realised by the beast‟s groping manner that it must be blind, and at once,

and to my horror, I realised what she was doing. She was pretending to be me.

       I jumped up from the ground and started to run at Emily and the beast, when someone

grabbed hold of me. It was Father Lynch; he had returned. I fought and kicked at him, but he

was too strong and he dragged me to the ground as he shouted for help.

       Then I heard someone else shouting. It was the young priest, Father Malloy, crucifix

in hand. He ran toward the beast, thrusting his crucifix into its hideous face. The beast,

ignoring the priest, then ran its fingers through the hair that Emily was holding in front of

her face, my hair.

       It then seized Emily around the waist, and I watched with terror as it very quickly

floated into the air with Emily in its evil grip, and then it was gone.

       Father Malloy was on his knees in prayer as I screamed for him to help her, but I

knew deep down in my heart there was nothing anyone could do.

       I don‟t know how many days had passed before I could speak again, but I must have

been in shock because everything was like a blur to me, and Father Lynch said I was

incoherent for the longest time.

       The police questioned the priests, and then I was questioned, three times to be exact,
                                                                                              119



and I thought they had disbelieved me, but they never came back to me after that third time.

Father Lynch brought an old priest, Father Adams, to see me, and he explained what would

happen next. „My dear child,‟ he started. „Everyone here would like to express their profound

sadness for you at this terrible time,‟ he said. „But I am duty-bound to immediately tell you

the consequences of your brave sister‟s actions so that you may be prepared. The first thing

is that when your sister duped this foul abomination into thinking she was you, then once

taken, it had to accept her soul, and therefore it could no longer lay claim to your soul.‟

       „You mean Mary‟s free of it?‟ Father Malloy interrupted.

       „No!‟ Father Adams, rather loudly proclaimed. „My child,‟ he went on, his voice

softening. „Your soul cannot be taken from you now, or this beast cannot take you away, that

part we are sure of. However, we at the church believe that your sister is now transformed

into one of these creatures, and that she will be as an outcast among them, roaming this earth

in torment, unless she can drive you to suicide or madness, returning your soul to her. This is

what she will have to do, because if you die naturally, or by accident, then she will have to

stay this way for eternity without your soul, or without peace. This will be her only way and

her one and only purpose. She cannot physically harm you, but now she will visit you, and

relentlessly try to force you to her will, that is to say, force you into madness.‟

       „When you say that Emily is one of them now, do you mean to say that there are many

of these abominations?‟ Father Lynch asked.

       „Most definitely,‟ Father Adams answered. I had started to cry again and Father

Lynch reached out and took my hand.

       „Don‟t worry Mary,‟ he said, „you are welcome to stay here in the safety of the church

for as long as you wish.‟

       „Yes,‟ agreed Father Adams, „you will be quite safe within the holy walls of the

church.‟
                                                                                                     120



        „What about Emily?‟ I cried, „I won‟t let her suffer like this, I‟ll kill myself first,‟ I

sobbed. „You still don‟t understand,‟ said Father Adams. „Emily, in any real sense of the

word is dead. This creature is not Emily, but a shell if you like, from Emily‟s existence.

Remember, this creature wants you to take your own life, or go insane. Any of these two will

serve her purpose, and it will do anything it can to get you to do this, anything,‟ he repeated.

„Also, you can never have a child, because your child‟s soul will fill its needs just as well,

and unlike you, it can kill your child for its soul.

        If your love for Emily is as strong as her love for you, then Emily must not have been

allowed to have died in vain. For her sake you must be strong and brave as to how you live

the rest of your life,‟ he said.

        I stayed in the church for sometime after this, but when Father became very ill I

decided to go to him, even though I knew what was in store for me.

        I realised that after what Emily had done for me, I would have to be as brave as she

was, and face this Demon.

        It first appeared to me on the second night at my father‟s house, as I lay in bed.

Although I was terrified, I had complete trust in Father Adams that it could not harm me

physically, and I tried not to show any fear to it, but the grotesque being screamed and

tormented me so much that night that I believed I would go insane if I had to endure another

night of this horror.

        Next day though, I decided that I was not going to barricade myself into the church,

and from now on it could do whatever it wished, but I would not give it the satisfaction of

giving in to it. It came to me many times in the night after this, but the worst night of all was

when Father died. It came as if to mock me, but I tried to talk to it by calling it Emily, which

only made it scream and wail all the louder.

        Other family members burst into my room that night when they heard the screams, but
                                                                                                121



the creature had already made a hasty retreat, and no one saw it. Later, I married Shaun, but

although Shaun had wanted us to start a family, I would never consent to have children with

him. This caused great friction between us, and even although I had explained to him the

reason why, I don‟t think he ever really believed me. The beast never appeared to me while

he and I were together, which I think made him look at me as if I must be mad, and I must

admit that many a time I felt as if I were. When Shaun was hospitalised though, it came back

almost every night, and when he passed away, then, well, it‟s been almost constant ever

since.

         Father Lynch and Father Adams have been dead these many years now and the last I

heard Father Malloy had moved far away from these parts and is no longer a priest. I‟ve

been here alone, except for old Mick who lodges here now.‟



                                        *   *    *    *   *



         ―What about Sarah, my wife?‖ interrupted Otis.

         ―Your wife will only be safe in a church,‖ but as for what happens to her after this,

well you‘ll have to ask the priests, they‘re the ones who are supposed to know about this

stuff, although I wouldn‘t hold on to your breath for any hope there,‖ Mrs Doyle said

sarcastically.

         ―We must take your wife to the church now.

         It‘s the only place she will be safe, but we‘ve no time to lose,‖ said Father Quinn,

interrupting, while looking at Mrs Doyle pitifully.

         Otis nodded in agreement, still confused about what they were up against.
                                                                                               122




                                         CHAPTER 12



        This was the story Mrs Doyle told the group of men, and as they left the house

Constable Pearson spoke first. ―You boys don‘t believe that load of baloney, do you?‖ he

said. No one answered him, so he spoke up again. ―Listen,‖ he said, as he shook his head

nervously. ―Everyone around here knows that Mrs Doyle‘s an old crazy woman.‖

        ―What about the old man and the constable?‖ asked Otis, ―they have seen it.‖

        ―They‘ve seen something,‖ answered Constable Pearson, ―no doubt about that, but

Banshees or fairy women, or whatever you want to call them, not a bloody chance.‖

        ―Look,‖ said Father Quinn, ―There are many things you won‘t, or don‘t want to

understand, but there are also many things today that still cannot be explained, in any event, I

think we should take this man‘s wife to the church immediately, until we can find out more

about it.‖

        ―Let‘s go,‖ yelled Otis, who by now was convinced that Sarah was in mortal danger.

        When the band arrived at the house Sarah was still asleep, and everyone couldn‘t help

but notice the relief on young Constable McCann‘s face at their arrival. Otis wasted no time

in wakening Sarah. ―C‘mon honey,‖ he said as he picked her up from the bed in his strong

arms and carried her downstairs. Father Quinn stared at the large black man and thought to

himself how this man would have been very handsome at one time, before some bad accident

had befallen him, leaving him with one eye and one side of his face badly scarred.

        Otis noticed the priest stare at him. He had seen the same stare hundreds of times

before, as people‘s curiosity got the better of them. He didn‘t want their pity, and he sure
                                                                                               123



didn‘t want their stares, and it made him feel angry inside, but there was no time for this now,

not while Sarah‘s life was on the line, and he quickly pushed passed the priest, knocking him

against the doorframe.

       ―Where are we going Otis?‖ asked Sarah, by now wide awake.

       ―Tell you all about it when we get there honey,‖ answered Otis.

       The drive over to the church was fast and furious, with Otis, Sarah, and Father Quinn

in the car, and Otis pushed his hired car to its limit, and even though it was only a short trip,

the priest sat in the back and crossed himself, afraid of the speed, but afraid to say anything

because he knew that this Demon could come for Sarah at any minute.

       ―Thank you Lord,‖ said Father Quinn when the car stopped safely at the church, and

they quickly ran inside.

       Otis let the priest do all the talking, and he watched Sarah as she listened intently to

Father Quinn‘s every word. Father Quinn assured Sarah that he would make her stay at the

church as comfortable as he possibly could, and that he would have counsel with Rome if

need be to find an answer to her predicament. It was against the rules though to let Otis stay

at the church, but he would be allowed to visit Sarah as often as he liked during respectable

hours, Father Quinn informed him.

       The next day Otis walked into town and enquired as to where James Flanagan lived.

He had decided to pay him a visit, to see if he could learn more about this demon, and he

supposed the guy might not be too friendly toward him, but he would go anyway, he thought.

Otis rapped on the door and a very attractive woman wearing a yellow apron answered.

       ―Hello,‖ said Otis, ―does James Flanagan live here?‖ he enquired.

       ―I‘ll go get him,‖ the red eyed woman answered, avoiding looking Otis directly in the

face. She looked as though she had been crying, and Otis felt he had maybe stepped into the

middle of a family dispute.
                                                                                                124



         ―I hope I haven‘t come at a bad time?‖ he said loudly after the woman, feeling

slightly embarrassed.

         Just then James appeared behind his wife‘s shoulder. ―Hello Yank,‖ he said, ―what

can I do for you?‖

         ―It‘s about the night we talked in the bar,‖ Otis replied.

         ―So you‘ve come to apologise have you?‖ asked James, feeling good that the big yank

had seen sense and backed down.

         ―Not exactly,‖ said Otis. ―I came to talk to you about your grandfather.‖

         ―Oh,‖ said James, disappointed and showing it.

         ―Well, to tell you the truth, something happened to my wife last night, and I guess,

well I guess I am sorry for disbelieving you,‖ said Otis, as he held his hand out in a friendly

manner. James took his hand and firmly shook it.

         ―Come inside and sit down, then tell me about it,‖ said James, giving him an honest

smile.

         The house was very small with very few possessions inside, but the place was spotless

and comfortable, and James ushered Otis into his own favourite chair. ―Rose, would you

kindly bring our guest some tea?‖ James politely asked loudly.

         ―I don‘t want to be any trouble,‖ answered Otis.

         ―No trouble,‖ said Rose, from the kitchen, I‘ve just made a fresh pot.‖ Otis didn‘t

really like tea, being more of a coffee type person, but he didn‘t want the people to think he

was being inhospitable, so when Rose gave him the cup, he drank it up.

         Otis could feel Rose stare at him, and he shuffled in his seat. ―What happened to your

face?‖ Rose asked, and immediately James jumped up from his seat.

         ―Rose,‖ he shouted angrily. ―I‘m sorry my friend, Rose shouldn‘t have ask you that, I

hope you can forgive her?‖ James said apologetically, as he stared wildly at Rose. ―She
                                                                                              125



hasn‘t been herself for a while, since her sister‘s illness,‖ he added.

       No one had ever asked Otis about the scars on his face before, not outright like that,

about his injury, most preferring to stare as if he was some sort of freak show, and as he

looked up at her, he smiled his Burt Lancaster smile. His smile was so broad, that James

began to smile along with him. Otis admired her, admired her sort of innocence and naivety,

and he thought that this woman had led a very sheltered life, but he felt comfortable talking to

someone as open as this.



                                       *    *    *   *    *



       Otis said he didn‘t mind one bit Rose‘s honest question, and he explained to them

about his time in the police force in L.A., and how he received his injury on duty. He felt

good getting it off his chest, as it was a subject he never really spoke of. Then as Otis related

to James about the events that had happened since their last meeting, Rose kept popping in

and out from the kitchen, the men not noticing that she only did this when Father Quinn‘s

name was mentioned.

       ―Your wife is safe enough in the church for the time being anyway, thank God‖

exclaimed James, reassuring Otis.

       ―Yes,‖ answered Otis, ―I believe she is, but things can‘t stay like this forever though.

Anyway, can you think of anything else that your grandpa said? Any damn thing at all. No

matter how small it may seem to you to be.‖

       ―No!‖ James replied, ―I‘ve told you all I know, but I will say this, if this thing is the

same creature that came to my grandfather in the trenches, then you cannot kill it. Only the

Lord above can do that.‖

       ―Yeah, then why the hell doesn‘t he?‖ Otis asked.
                                                                                                 126



       James thought for a moment before speaking. ―Do you mind if I ask you a question?‖

       ―No, go ahead,‖ Otis answered, wondering where this was leading to.

       ―Do you attend church?‖ James asked.

       ―No, never felt the need to.‖ Otis replied.

       ―Well then, perhaps God doesn‘t kill this creature for the same reason you don‘t

attend church. Maybe he just doesn‘t feel the need to. After all, most people nowadays only

call on him when they are in trouble, and maybe — well maybe God is just fed up with it all.‖

       Otis thanked them for their time, said goodbye and started back toward the church.

Who knows, thought Otis as he walked along the cold street, maybe James was kind of

speaking the truth, and now he was almost starting to respect the guy.



                                       *    *    *   *    *



       Earlier that morning Inspector Mooney had strolled into the small police station on

one of his fortnightly visits, and was surprised to see old Mick still asleep in the station‘s

single cell. Inspector Pierce Mooney, a tough, over-zealous, no-nonsense cop, wanted to

know why Mick had been arrested, as to his knowledge he had never knew Mick to be in

trouble before. Sergeant Woods briefed the Inspector about the events from the previous

night, but Mooney remained quiet for a moment, his face like thunder, before speaking. ―Is

this what you lot get up to at night?‖ Mooney bellowed. ―Tramping around the damn country

on some wild bloody witch hunt, looking for damn ghosts. My dear Lord man, if you could

just hear your bloody self,‖ he shouted, and the Sergeant felt foolish and embarrassed. ―If

there‘s any more of this bloody carry on you may just find yourself back on the beat, minus

your stripes,‖ he shouted.

       Sergeant Woods walked from the building in a rage, and as he proceeded to walk
                                                                                            127



home he thought about this ignoramus of a man, who in his eyes wasn‘t fit to sweep the

streets, let alone be a police inspector. Mooney had always been this way though, he felt. This

man was a bully, a tyrant, and a man whose mind did not contain a hint of compassion for

anyone. A snake in the grass, he thought. This inspector had never taken any of his men‘s

parts, always believing the worst in anyone around him, and the sergeant felt glad that he was

coming to the end of his career, away from Mooney and his kind.

       Back inside the station Inspector Mooney swung open the cell door violently. ―Right,

my boy,‖ he shouted to old Mick, who had already been wakened five minutes before this by

the raised voice of the inspector as he ranted at Sergeant Woods. ―Let‘s be having you,‖ he

continued, making sure the whole station could hear him.

       Mick stood up, shook his head, and sauntered out of the cell; and slowly walked away

from the inspector without speaking.

       ―Where do you think you are?‖ Mooney bellowed. ―Come on,‖ he said, as he pushed

old Mick in the back. ―Out you go, this is not a damn hotel, you bloody vagabond. Move it,

before I stick my boot where the sun doesn‘t shine.‖

       Mick had heard Mooney shout and swear at Sergeant Woods without really giving

him a chance to explain things properly, and he felt sorry for the sergeant. Now though,

Mooney was venting his anger out on him, and Mick, who did not care for the inspector or

his remarks, stopped and reeled on him. ―By the way, did they ever find out who your real

father is?‖ Mick shouted, and ran through the doorway as Mooney‘s flying boot missed him

by a whisker.

       Otis, now back at the church, sat and comforted his distraught wife who hadn‘t

spoken a word since she awoke earlier. ―Everything will be all right,‖ he promised as he

tightened his arm around her.

       Suddenly Sarah jumped up out of his grasp and stood erect, still sobbing. ―It won‘t be
                                                                                                 128



all right,‖ she cried loudly. ―We should never have left America and I‘m so sorry for bringing

you here. It was so selfish of me and now God has decided to punish me for it.‖

       ―No honey, no,‖ Otis said softly, ―why if God had his sights set to punish someone

like you, as honest and decent as you are, then he would certainly have to punish the rest of

us first, and that‘s the way I see it.‖ Sarah cried for a long time after this, and Otis decided to

confront the priest again to see what they were going to do about the situation.

       ―I have arranged for a very experienced man, Father Doran to visit us,‖ said Father

Quinn. ―He will be arriving next Wednesday. He has been involved in the paranormal, more

than anyone in the church, and he‘s very experienced.‖

       ―Yeah but has he ever dealt with anything on this scale before?‖ asked Otis.

       ―Well maybe not on this scale.‖ admitted the priest, ―but I still believe he may be able

to help us.‖ The next few days passed quietly and uneventfully, as they waited for Father

Doran to arrive at the church.

       Otis however, was growing impatient.



                                        *   *    *    *   *



       Old Mick, in the meantime, had been allowed to stay in a tiny worn out caravan that

belonged to Constable O‘Shea‘s mother. It was situated at the bottom of her field, some

distance from the house, but it overlooked the church grounds, which made Mick somehow

feel better. There was no toilet or electricity, but there was a small gas cooker, a small gas

fire, some gas lights and a five gallon water container. It hadn‘t been used for a long time

now, but there wasn‘t much fixing up to do and at least it would be a roof over his head,

Constable O‘Shea felt.

       ―I‘m overwhelmed, madam. Thank you so much for this very kind gesture,‖ Mick
                                                                                             129



said when he entered the small van, but he said nothing when he felt his teeth chatter in the

cold fridge like interior.

        ―Well, it will help you out for a while until you can find something better,‖ Mrs

O‘Shea exclaimed. ―Just come up to the house when you need the water refilling, there‘s a

water tap outside on the back wall. Oh, almost forgot, I have left you two full gas cylinders,‖

she added as an afterthought.

        As Mrs O‘Shea walked away old Mick turned to the young constable, arm extended.

―Thank you again Donald. Your mother is very kind,‖ he said, as he shook Donald‘s hand

vigorously.

        ―No need to thank me Mick,‖ said Donald. ―After all, you and I both know what‘s

lurking up in that house, and one thing is certain, you can‘t go back anywhere near the place.‖

        When Donald had gone, Mick sat down and thought about Mrs Doyle. It would be

fair to say he thought, that Mrs Doyle was the most bitter and nasty woman in the whole of

Ireland, but she had let him stay there free of charge, and at least on that score he owed her

that. Now he felt sorry for her as he realised that the demon may have been responsible for

the way Mrs Doyle behaved. He also believed he knew the reason why the woman had

forbade him from going round to her rooms. She was simply protecting him, he felt. Of

course he had heard the rumours. Those rumours he had never believed or even considered

worth believing.

        The rumours of an entity in the old house had been spread about for many years now.

Nobody had really ever taken them seriously. Anyway, he himself had never imagined there

was anything strange with the house until he had seen it for himself, and now Mrs Doyle had

confirmed it to the policemen, although he was sure they did not believe her either.
                                                                                               130



                                       *    *    *   *    *



       Back at the church Otis shook hands with Father Doran as he entered the hallway.

―Hello Father,‖ he said, impatiently. ―How are you?‖

       The priest eyed Otis as if he were an old commander inspecting his troops before

speaking. ―Troubled,‖ he answered, ―deeply troubled. This business is all too shocking. Still

we‘ve got to deal with it, whatever may happen.‖

       ―How do we do that Father, just how do we do that?‖ Otis repeated, his hands clasped

as if in prayer, and hardly giving the priest a chance to get through the door.

       Father Doran motioned Otis over to a large wooden bench and sat the impatient man

down. ―Well it seems that what we have here is a manifestation, a manifestation of the very

worst kind. Anyway, I have been granted permission from the church to perform an exorcism

on it, but first we will have to find it, wherever it lurks, because it is not going to come inside

the church to us, that you can be sure of,‖ answered Father Doran, smiling.

       ―So if the mountain won‘t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad will just have t...‖

       ―No, damn it,‖ Otis interrupted. ―You know where it is. It‘s up at Mrs Doyle‘s house,‖

he said, breaking the priest off in mid sentence.

       ―Then we are going to have to take your wife there, to Mrs Doyle‘s house that is,

meet this challenge head on,‖ said Father Doran.

       ―No, we can‘t do that, it‘s just too dangerous for her,‖ Otis replied.

       ―My son, you don‘t understand the ways of the church. Sarah would have to be

wherever this demon is for this to work,‖ Father Doran informed him.

       ―Listen,‖ Otis said, almost in a whisper. ―These plans you‘re concocting for this, um

challenge of yours, having Sarah leave the church that is, and using her for bait. I mean, what

if you‘re wrong about this thing? What if the demon is more powerful than you can ever
                                                                                               131



imagine? According to Mrs Doyle, this thing eats priests for breakfast. Can you tell me how

you‘re going to guarantee Sarah‘s safety up there, huh?‖ Father Doran fiddled with his collar

and coughed uncomfortably.

         ―There‘s just no way on earth that Sarah can leave this church‖, Otis said, ―not while

this monster is after her. Look, Father, I just don‘t think you realise what you‘re dealing with

here.‖

         ―My son,‖ the old priest replied, touching Otis on the shoulder. ―To fully understand

the paranormal as I understand it, then one has to be in contact with it very frequently. I have

just returned from casting out an entity from a home where the couple would often

experience paranormal activity, lights being switched on at different occasions, water taps

turning on when no one is there, especially at night, and I have performed many rituals in the

casting out of demons, but never in the church. In order to exorcise this particular one we will

need to be in a neutral place, away from consecrated ground.‖

         ―Listen to me,‖ Otis said sternly. ―Have you ever dealt with a Banshee before?‖

         ―No, but I can assure you that these entities are all from the same place, the dark

side,‖ the priest answered.

         ―Could you just answer me this one last question?‖ Otis asked, his voice becoming

noticeably louder. ―When you perform an exorcism on someone or someplace, then you cast

off the unseen entity or poltergeist that possesses that person or place, right?‖

         ―That‘s correct,‖ answered the priest. ―I see you have some knowledge,‖ he replied

patronisingly as he smiled.

         ―No, I don‘t have any goddamn knowledge,‖ said Otis loudly, pointing back at the old

priest who began to be frightened by Otis as he grew angrier. ―But I know that Sarah is not

possessed, so therefore she doesn‘t need a damn exorcism‖ he shouted. ―I also know that Mrs

Doyle‘s house does not have a poltergeist. This thing comes to her when it feels like it, so
                                                                                                132



there‘s nothing there to exorcise, and I‘ll tell you something else. This Banshee or whatever

the hell it is came to my home. It can move all over the goddamn place. And there‘s the old,

um, dancing woman, Elspeth. Why, she sees the damn thing in the woods all the goddamn

time. And do you know what? I don‘t think you can even comprehend the predicament we

are in here. Do you know what else I think? I think you‘re really way outa‘ your goddamn

league here. Sarah is not leaving this church, and that‘s final.‖

        Father Quinn stepped between the two men unable to conceal his embarrassment.

―Please gentlemen,‖ he said, ―this arguing is not going to help anyone.‖

        Otis buried his head in his hands as Father Doran looked at the younger priest, willing

him to take control of the situation, afraid that this large, seemingly demented black man may

lash out for the slightest reason.

        Suddenly Sarah appeared and silently walked over to the men, knelt down and placed

her hands on Otis‘s face. She had stopped crying now, composed herself, and had gathered

her wits about her. She couldn‘t ever remember a time when she loved Otis as much as she

did right now as she witnessed just how much he cared about her. She smiled, but she knew

that she would have to take charge of her husband who was now appearing to be going

rapidly off the rails. ―Otis,‖ she said affectionately. ―Calm down. Things will be all right.

You know you were right. God won‘t let anything happen to me.‖

        Otis looked up sadly at her with a tear on his cheek. ―God helps those who help

themselves, Sarah,‖ he said. ―And I intend to get us some real help here.‖

        Father Quinn shepherded the older priest away, realising in his heart that Otis was

right, and that this woman needed more help than Father Doran could provide. ―Come with

me Father, and I will show you to your room,‖ the priest said as he lowered his head and led

Father Doran away.
                                                                                            133



                                       *   *      *   *   *



       Otis sat back and pondered for a while, his thoughts drifting back to his police days

and Eric. Eric Little Feather had said something to him about the Great Spirit Woman. He

had said something about the Indian brave Satra, who had gone out to meet this demon alone

on the plains. Satra did this alone because he didn‘t want anyone to be killed on his behalf.

But Eric had claimed that Satra didn‘t need to do this, because there was another way. What

did he mean another way? Otis thought long and hard and wished that he had paid more

attention to their conversation that night. He knew Eric was no longer in the force, knew

about Eric‘s drink problem. He had also known that Eric had been forced to resign a few

years after his own discharge because of it, but it didn‘t make Eric any less of a man in his

eyes. The drinking had started with Eric after his wife had died some years back. Maria had

died under suspicious circumstances. Her body had been found fully clothed in a field, so

badly mauled by wild animals that a post mortem could not find the proper cause of death,

although they believed she had been strangled.

       Eric was questioned for a time though, and the accuser‘s finger had been pointed at

him, so he had turned to the bottle for solace.

       Otis was sure Eric had not killed his wife. He had known the guy as a true friend, and

had got to know his easy going ways. Why, this guy would give you the shirt of his damn

back, he thought. He knew Eric was not jealous of Maria. Why to tell the truth about it, Maria

didn‘t exactly register very high on the beautiful women of America scales. There was also

the fact that Eric had no insurance on her either, which was usually the reason in most cases

why a guy would kill his wife.

       No! Otis believed that Eric had no case to answer. The fact was that her body had

been found dumped fifty miles away, and police there believed there may have been a sexual
                                                                                                134



motive, although they found needle marks covering different parts of her body. This led Otis

to believe that Maria was a user, and so he thought it to be a drug related killing. Over the

years, the two men had lost touch with each other and the last Otis had heard Eric was living

alone on the Isabella Indian Reservation in the state of Michigan. Otis knew what he had to

do and that he would have to do it immediately. There was just no time to lose.
                                                                                               135




                                         CHAPTER 13



        Old Mick sat in the corner of the empty pub and stared at the untouched pint of

Guinness in front of him, unaware that behind the bar Matt was also staring at him as he

washed a pint glass in the small sink. ―What‘s up with you tonight?‖ shouted Matt. ―Are you

not drinking?‖

        ―Is it me you‘re talking to?‖ Mick replied.

        ―Well, considering there‘s no one else in the place I would have to answer yes to

that,‖ Matt answered with some sarcasm in his voice.

        ―As a matter of fact,‖ said Mick. ―If you must know I‘m trying to give up the drink,

and I feel that if I stare long enough at this pint I may eventually lose my interest in all forms

of alcohol.‖

        Matt put his head down and rubbed hard at the glass he was washing, sorry now that

he had spoken. With customers like this, he thought, I‟ll be out of bloody business by next

week.

        Mick was still staring at the pint when he heard a familiar voice at the bar ordering a

whisky. He had been so engrossed in his thoughts that he hadn‘t heard James come in, even

though the door creaked like an old fishing boat crane.

        ―Hello Mick,‖ shouted James as the barman pointed over toward Mick. ―Would you

care to join me?‖

        Mick had truly liked James since he had met him all those many years ago, and he had

always found him to be a great drinking companion. Over the years they had become the best
                                                                                             136



of friends, but how could he sit with someone he liked and admired so much in the

knowledge of what he knew about this friend‘s wife and her carrying on with the priest

behind his back and yet say nothing about it.

       How could Rose have done this to James? Mick thought. True enough he supposed,

there was no doubt that the priest with his film star looks would have had many a woman

fancying after him, but James himself was quite a handsome man, and in his opinion,

although bias, was the better looking man of the two. It would tear James apart if he where to

find out about the affair though, and Mick already knew what it was like to be torn apart,

even if it was for a different reason. No, James would not hear it from his lips, even if he did

feel like a bloody traitor. ―I‘m only having one, thanks anyway,‖ Mick lied.

       ―Nonsense man,‖ the puzzled James replied, as he looked at Matt the barman who

simply shrugged his shoulders.

       ―I think he‘s seen too many bloody ghosts,‖ Matt whispered to himself.

       ―Whisky,‖ James ordered. ―In fact, please make the order two whiskies!‖

       Matt poured the drink out and smiled.

       James sat down beside Mick and thrust the whisky toward him. ―The big Yank came

to see me today, Mick,‖ he said.

       ―You mean Otis,‖ Mick answered, by now preferring to call the American he had

begun to like by his proper name.

       ―Yes, Otis,‖ James replied, feeling that Mick was being somewhat cold and

unfriendly in his manner toward him.

       ―What did he want then?‖ enquired Mick.

       ―Well, he wanted to apologise for his behaviour the other night,‖ James lied. ―Oh, and

he wanted to talk about his wife. They have her staying at the church you know.‖

       ―I know all about it,‖ Mick whispered as he swallowed down the whisky neat.
                                                                                             137



       ―This creature must have been the same one my grandfather saw, couldn‘t be a

different one,‖ exclaimed James.

       ―Now that‘s where you are wrong, James,‖ Mick answered. ―Not the same one, but

the same type.‖

       ―You mean to say there is more than one of these abominations?‖

       ―Most definitely, James. I overheard the policemen talking about it at the Garda

station. It seems that this one was once Mrs Doyle‘s sister a long time ago, and it‘s been

coming to torture the poor soul these past decades.‖

       ―Decades you say? And no one knew?‖ James said as he rubbed his chin roughly.

―Well there have been rumours about the place over the years.‖ But no one has really paid

any attention to them until now.

       ―I‘ve heard those rumours,‖ James added. ―But just how the hell are they going to

deal with it, Mick?‖

       ―I don‘t believe anyone can deal with this monstrosity. Only the Lord God himself

can help them now,‖ he replied as he blessed himself.

       Suddenly the bar door opened and in stepped Ivan McAllen, who, as he approached

the bar, eyed the two friends with distain and grinned. ―Seen any ghouls lately?‖ he laughed,

as James stood up and stared intensely and angrily at him, curling his lip menacingly.

McAllen immediately went quiet. Fighting with old Mick was one thing, but James; well

James was a different story. ―Sorry James, but sure didn‘t I only mean it as a joke,‖ he said

with a grovelling, apologetic voice, and James slowly sat back down his seat as old Mick

patted him firmly on the back and smiled proudly.



                                      *   *    *    *   *
                                                                                             138



        Another man had entered the bar unnoticed while this was going on, and he sat over

in the corner, the same corner he had sat in on the night James had relayed the story about his

grandfather. He had unintentionally overheard the story but had listened to it with great

interest. The man stared over at James and old Mick for a moment, before slowly rising from

his seat.

        As he approached their table he spoke loudly in a polite English accent. ―Can I kindly

indulge you gentlemen in a drink of your choice?‖

        Oxford, maybe Eaton, James thought.

        ―Well, sir,‖ answered Mick, ―That‘s very kind of you indeed, but I don‘t think you

would find our company to be at its best tonight.‖

        ―Nonsense,‖ the seemingly educated man replied, a man who Mick guessed would

have been well into his sixties, ―I‘m sure gentlemen, that your company would be just

perfect.‖

        Everyone stared at the man intently.

        ―Allow me to introduce myself,‖ he said, as he took off his shiny bowler hat that

looked as though it were two sizes too small for him. As his bald head reflected off the bar

lights, old Mick stifled a laugh. ―My name is Cedric Hawthorne, and I‘m visiting your

charming country, accompanied by my dearest wife Harriet, of course. We‘re both staying at

the inn down the street, although Harriet has decided to stay in bed in our room tonight.

Touch of a cold don‘t you see?‖

        James politely ushered the man into a seat at their table and made introductions, as old

Mick pulled a funny face at McAllen who was annoyed that no one had offered to buy him a

drink and cursed at them under his breath. Matt smiled broadly when the man waved him to

their table to take the order.

        Old Mick noticed McAllen glance around at their table and say something to Matt as
                                                                                            139



he came from behind the bar, and Mick instinctively knew he had said something bad about

him.

        ―Why don‘t you go back to bloody Portlaoise prison where you belong?‖ Mick

shouted at McAllen, who flushed with rage. ―Sure don‘t you know he served five years there

for using the wrong document to withdraw money from the bank in Tipperary?‖ Mick said

loudly to no one in particular.

        ―He used the wrong document?‖ James asked puzzled.

        ―Yes,‖ Mick went on as he pointed at McAllen. ―He used a thirty-eight Smith and

Wesson, if you follow my meaning. And the police station just fifty yards from the bank.

When he came out of the bank with the money half the bloody police force was waiting for

him,‖ Mick said laughing, and James, who couldn‘t contain himself doubled over with

laughter as well.

        ―C‘mon now boys, behave yourselves,‖ Matt ordered, but he too fought hard to keep a

straight face.

        Later, when the men settled down, and after a few drinks, Cedric reminded them

about the conversation he had heard when James told the story about the creature in the

trench. ―That was all true, I swear it,‖ said James. ―Every word my Grandfather told me.‖

        ―I fully believe you my friend,‖ Cedric answered, as he gave him a friendly pat on the

hand. ―You know, in our country we too have our ghosts and ghouls,‖ he said as he glanced

around at McAllen, who was still seething with rage at the bar.

        James straightened up in the chair, interested, while Mick stared at the Englishman,

giving him his full attention.
                                                                                              140



                                          *   *   *   *   *



         ―Did any of you fellows ever hear of the Munro, H. M. S. Munro that is?‖ Cedric

asked.

         ―No!‖ Both men answered in unison.

         ―Well, that‘s no surprise,‖ he answered. ―Officially it doesn‘t exist. Never did

according to the naval files. But when the Navy erased the ship from all of their records and

swore what remained of her crew to silence, they didn‘t count on the popularity of her

captain. Bingham his name was, and that they couldn‘t erase.

         ―This captain was one of the bravest, well liked and respected captains in the fleet at

that time. Then when the Munro, a hundred gunner, docked back in Portsmouth way back in

eighteen thirty, minus Captain Bingham and most of the crew, stories about men being torn to

shreds by a demon emerged. And with a ship‘s company that had been half scared to death,

the Admiralty had to act, and act fast.

         ―They had already had their share of mutinies, and didn‘t want moral between the

men sinking any lower than it had been.

         ―England had many enemies at that time and the Navy was the backbone and first line

of defence. Without a navy all would have been lost.‖

         ―What happened to the crewmen on board?‖ Mick asked impatiently, uninterested in

Cedric‘s history lesson.

         Cedric glanced around the bar and his eyes met Ivan McAllen‘s, who had been

listening with contempt to every word, and he looked away and smirked. ―Well,‖ Cedric

continued, as he lowered his voice. ―The story handed down through the years has it that the

ship was sailing peacefully through the Bering Straits, when from nowhere a fierce storm

blew up. This they say was the worst storm any of her crew had ever encountered before,
                                                                                               141



taking the Munro by complete surprise, and that a demon somehow came on board. Came

from the sky they say, killing a few of the crew as they tried to fight it off.

       ―Tore them to pieces they say, before floating away back into the clouds. When the

storm abated the captain and crew headed full speed for home. But then, just nine days later,

and about five weeks from a friendly port, the demon came back on board again. The captain,

the surviving seamen later reported, had given firm orders to the crew that should this demon

return; they were not to molest it in any way. He assured them that it would only return for

him and that no man was to risk his life.

       The crew disobeyed him though when it tried to take their captain and they savagely

attacked it. This time though, it killed half the men, before it vanished over the side with

Captain Bingham held tightly in its arms. The Navy report however later stated that Captain

Bingham had drowned at sea on another vessel, and the matter was officially closed.‖

       ―What happened to the vessel then?‖ James asked.

       ―The ship was scrapped when the men refused to sail on her, and later it became

known as the ship they never built. The story leaked out however, although to this day the

Navy still deny it,‖ said Cedric.

       ―So even then it seems they covered things up,‖ said James.

       ―It‘s the bloody same thing,‖ Mick shouted unable to control himself. ―It‘s the

Banshee I tell you.‖

       Matt turned and washed some more glasses, uncaring if they talked about the man in

the moon, as long as they kept paying for their drinks, while Ivan McAllen shook his head

slowly, and silently cursed them.

       Cedric held up his glass. ―To the Munro and good Captain Bingham,‖ he toasted,

before swallowing the contents of the small glass in one gulp.

       He then, without warning, put on his small hat, bid everyone a polite goodnight, and
                                                                                           142



staggered out through the door of the pub, pulling up his collar as he walked smartly into the

cold wet night.

       As he left he was closely followed by McAllen, who walked speedily from the pub,

slamming the door hard behind him, before purposefully made his way toward home. As far

as McAllen was concerned, this night was not over. Not by a long chalk it wasn‘t.
                                                                                            143




                                         CHAPTER 14



       The rain was drizzling down onto the cold wet ground, and at the side of the deserted

country road the trees swayed in the ever increasing wind. The two hares darted swiftly from

the bush, twisting and bouncing, colliding and almost tumbling over each other as they shot

across the road before quickly disappearing through the hedges on the other side, frightened.

       Frightened by the figure that had come upon them, startling them as it crept its way

along the forest‘s edge, breathless and wet, its evil intent paramount above all else. Then the

figure stopped, deciding that this spot would be perfect. An ideal place to wait, he thought,

hidden behind the large trees and hedges, unseen in the darkness. What better place to wait

for old Mick to pass by, drunk and disorientated as he headed for Mrs Doyle‘s house; a ritual

he had performed every night.

       This would be the perfect ambush, Ivan McAllen thought, as he gripped the shaft of

the heavy hammer tightly.

       He had suffered enough bloody humiliation from this man, he felt, and now he would

act on it. He would finally do what he should have done years ago and sort it out once and for

all. I will kill this bastard and have my revenge, he thought.

       He swung a few practice swings with the hammer, then smiled in anticipation of what

was to come.

       Suddenly a movement caught his eye, a slow movement to his right, coming from

deep within the forest, something large. Then it disappeared behind the windswept trees. Just

my imagination, he thought.
                                                                                                  144



        The driving wet and freezing wind penetrated his clothes, and he cursed aloud.

        But he would gladly suffer this wind, because the pleasure he was about to get as he

smashed old Mick‘s head to a bloody pulp would be the best thing he had ever done. He

gripped the heavy hammer tightly. Even if he were to be caught later, it will all have been

worth it, he felt. Suddenly another movement caught his eye. The figure was high in the trees,

and now he knew it wasn‘t his imagination.

        His pulse raced fast now, the cold and wet forgotten as the creature hovered toward

him. He ran across the road and darted through a hedge, pushing his body as fast as his legs

would carry him. After what seemed like an eternity he stopped behind a tree and gulped

some much needed air into his lungs. He was in a very dangerous situation here. And if he

didn‘t get out of here soon, he was sure the cold would kill him even if this creature didn‘t.

        He waited for around an hour before making his decision. He knew he had missed old

Mick on this night, but for now his priority was to make it home alive. Mick could be dealt

with some other time. He was confident this thing he had seen was long gone and so he made

his move. He had just cleared the trees, hammer in hand, when he saw it again, and he froze

in terror as the hovering,-monk like figure moved slowly up beside him. The strong wind

blew at its cape, sending it high into the air, its gnarled hands outstretched to him, and then it

was upon him. He was freezing with cold, but fear spurred him to the defensive and he

instinctively struck out at the figure, striking it hard with the hammer, but it surged forward,

its mouth open. He could feel his stomach burn, chest tighten, as he felt a fear he had never

known before. He stared terrified upon the rows of black, shark-like teeth, as the moonlight

reflected onto the monk-like figure‘s hideous face. Something like a tongue, yellow, darted

about behind the teeth.

        Instinctively he tried to strike it again but the hammer felt like a lead weight now, and

it fell to his side. The creature seized his throat in its powerful grip, before biting a large
                                                                                             145



chunk out of his face. He felt himself go weightless as it flung him like a discarded piece of

fruit through the air.

        His body broke through a few small branches as he tumbled into the tree tops high

above. When he crashed to the hard earth below he could feel his ankle break badly, and he

screamed in pain as he clutched his profusely bleeding face.

        Although badly injured, McAllen‘s fear of what this thing was going to do to him next

forced him to scramble upright, and he pushed his body on, screaming in pain, fear and cold.

        He was limping and stumbling now as he moved deeper into the forest. And he was

losing blood rapidly from his wound.

        Head spinning, McAllen tumbled face down into a small pond. He hadn‘t believed

these people in the pub when they talked about demons. In fact he thought they were all

crazy. Hadn‘t his beloved father always told him these things only existed in the eyes of

men? His father though had been wrong. He had seen it. And now he knew just how true it

was.

        How in God‟s name can this be? he thought.

        He tried to get up, but he knew it was hopeless. Because right now he was beginning

to lose consciousness. Now he was beginning to lose his life.

        Just before he closed his eyes for the last time, he witnessed the creature slowly float

away through the trees, no longer interested in him, and he took one last look at the hammer

which was covered in his own blood.

        The hammer was still firmly clutched in his hand, the object of his failed ambush, and

he threw it from his hand as though it were a snake, as he realised the sin he had been about

to commit on an old innocent man.

        ―Holy Mother, forgive me,‖ he whispered as his head fell forward into the pond,

staining it red.
146
                                                                                                147




                                         CHAPTER 15



        Otis clenched his huge fists round the edge of the arm rests as the plane was about to

touch down at Heathrow airport. He still hated flying, but now he hated it even more due to

the fact that Sarah could not be with him.

        He would have to take an even longer flight to Chicago after this, and then possibly

another short hop through to Michigan, to the Isabella Indian Reservation. Otis had tried to

call long distance, but gave up after three attempts when the guy at the reservation who

answered the phone sounded drunk, and Otis couldn‘t understand a word he was trying to say

anyway.

        He didn‘t even know why Eric was staying there in the first place, as the Sioux

Reservation was Crow Creek in South Dakota, but he felt it had something to do with Maria,

and he dwelt no more on the matter.

        Otis had explained to Sarah about the story Eric Little Feather had told him, and she

too was convinced that this was where the answer lay. Sarah didn‘t want him to leave her and

go back to America, but in her heart she knew that this was what he would have to do if they

were to have any chance of having a normal life together. Father Doran had asked Otis to

reconsider, but Otis was having none of it. No priest was going to gamble with Sarah‘s life,

and that was the end of the story as far as he was concerned. Somehow the Indians had more

knowledge of this dilemma than the priests had, and for now he reckoned that they would be

his best bet.

        Sarah felt lost and alone when Otis left, but for his sake she would try to be brave.
                                                                                                148



Their future and everything else depended on this, but Sarah knew that if anyone could find

out what they needed to know, then it would be Otis. He would never give up on her, she

knew, not while he had one ounce of breath left in his body, and she smiled at the thought of

his devotion.

       Otis spent the best part of three days waiting at airports, and travelling, before, and at

long last, he arrived at the Isabella Indian Reservation. The place itself was huge, and Otis

hoped it wouldn‘t be too long before he found Eric.

       He wasted no time, starting his search immediately in the town of Mount Pleasant,

which split through the reservation. Otis was certain that this was where Eric would be,

because there were strictly no bars on the reservation, and most of the inhabitants there would

usually visit the nearest bars outside of the boundary. However, no one whom he spoke to

said they knew anyone by the name of Eric Little Feather. The guy at the police station was

of no help to him either, so he had decided to check around and see what he could find.

       At one bar, two Indians said they knew where Eric was, and would take him there for

a fee, but when Otis asked them for a description of Eric, they didn‘t even come close and he

felt lucky to get out of the place without a fight. Otis knew there was a high alcoholism rate

amongst the Indian people now, and that it could be dangerous for him floating from bar to

bar asking questions, but he had no other choice and would have to keep trying.

       Outside one of the numerous bars Otis had visited, three little kids approached him

and begged him for some money, and Otis threw them a few quarters. An Indian guy of about

twenty-five years of age, he guessed, had followed him out of the bar, and slowly approached

him. ―I can help you find your friend,‖ he said.

       ―Listen up bud,‖ Otis said threateningly. ―I just don‘t have time for this.‖ He walked

on and ignored the man.

       ―No, wait,‖ the young man shouted. ―The man you are looking for, I know him, Eric
                                                                                                 149



Little Feather.‖

       Otis was sure the guy had either heard him asking for Eric Little Feather at the bar, or

that someone had sent him to follow him outside. ―Go home,‖ Otis said loudly.

       As Otis walked briskly along the young man followed behind him, and Otis spun

round to confront him. ―Which part of fuck off don‘t you understand?‖ he shouted angrily.

       The young man held his hands up in an unthreatening manner. ―I do know Eric,‖ he

said softly ―He is very sick, and I can take you to him.‖

       Otis was about to walk away, but suddenly felt that he had listened to enough of this

man‘s crap, and he felt the anger rise inside him. In all his years in the force he thought he

had met them all; people who would stoop to anything for a dollar, beggars, cheats, robbers,

pimps, wife beaters, child molesters, and all sorts of scum that inhabit large cities. These

people had one thing that was different from this guy though. They robbed and shot each

other, and kept out of Otis‘s personal life.

       A line had been crossed here and Otis would act swiftly on it. Otis turned quickly and

rushed back over to the man without giving him the chance to pull a weapon, and with

surprising speed he had the guy pinned against the wall with his arm up his back before he

had a chance to blink.

       ―You‘re hurting me,‖ the man groaned, as Otis frisked him. Finding nothing on him,

Otis put his hand in the man‘s face and pushed him violently away, and he fell to the ground.

       ―Now get out of here before you get seriously fucking hurt,‖ Otis spat.

       The man picked himself up and rubbed his mouth as he walked away, then stopped

and turned around. ―He‘s an ex-cop,‖ the man shouted back. Otis was stunned by this remark.

No one had known about Eric being a cop, because Otis hadn‘t mentioned it. The man then

turned and walked on, still reeling from the indignity that Otis had just put him through. Now

it was Otis‘s turn to follow. This guy obviously did know Eric and he‘d said that Eric was
                                                                                                150



sick.

          ―Wait, please,‖ he shouted, but the man walked on. ―Please, I‘m sorry,‖ Otis called,

wishing now that he had not lost his damn temper. Suddenly the man stopped and slowly

turned around. ―Listen, I‘m real sorry,‖ pleaded Otis, as he handed the man a twenty dollar

bill.

          ―I don‘t want your money,‖ exclaimed the man, feeling even more undignified than

before.

          ―I thought you were someone else,‖ Otis whispered in almost a grovelling fashion.

―And you know I think I‘ve kinda got off on the wrong foot here,‖ he said apologetically.

―Really, I‘m truly sorry,‖

          The man stared at Otis for a moment before speaking, ―Well okay, I think we both

kinda got off on the wrong foot here.‖ After they had stared at each other for a few seconds

that seemed more like minutes, Otis held out his hand and smiled, and the man responded by

shaking it firmly. ―Peter,‖ the young man said, introducing himself, ―Peter Ahenakew‖

          ―Hello Peter, I‘m Otis, Otis Tweedy.‖

          Peter pointed to a little coffee shop across the road, and invited Otis to have a coffee.

―My treat,‖ said Otis, smiling as the men sat down.

          ―Can you tell me something, Otis?‖ Peter asked, ―How did you come to know Eric,

and why are you looking for him?‖

          Otis outlined how they had served together in the force and briefly explained about

Sarah and some of their predicament, but not everything, convincing the young man that he

was genuine. ―Okay Otis, I work at the Isabella hospital on Elk Street as a nurse, and when I

heard you mention Eric‘s name, well, I had to make sure that you were a genuine friend of

his, you know how it is.‖

          ―I understand that.‖
                                                                                              151



       ―Eric‘s one of our patients there at the hospital,‖ Peter explained. ―He‘s been a patient

there for the last couple of months. You have probably come just in the nick of time though,‖

he exclaimed. ―The doctors don‘t expect Eric to last much longer. It‘s his liver, hepatocellular

carcinoma, um, very advanced cirrhosis,‖ he added.

       Otis was visibly shaken and felt his legs go weak, and for a second he gripped the

table for support. This was the man who had saved his life all those years ago, and a man who

Otis admired immensely. Otis cursed loudly at the unfairness of it all, and Peter at once

realised that this guy was closer to Eric than he had at first thought. Now he was sorry he

hadn‘t broken the news of Eric to him more gently. ―You know what this means Peter?‖ Otis

said solemnly. Peter said nothing but held his arms out and nodded inquisitively. ―It means,‖

Otis said as he lowered his head onto the table, ―Well it means that apart from losing a dear

old friend, I now don‘t have any way of saving my wife. Eric was the only one who could

have helped me there.‖

       ―Well, Eric can still talk,‖ said Peter. ―Weak maybe, but he‘s still fully coherent. He

could still help you. Look, I‘m on tomorrow at two o‘clock, come and meet me at the front

entrance and I‘ll take you up to the ward.‖

       ―Thank you Peter, thank you so much. I‘ll be there.‖

       The men finished their coffee and shook hands again before parting and going their

separate ways.
                                                                                             152




                                        CHAPTER 16



       Next day Otis made a long distance call to the church back in Ireland, and was

comforted to hear his wife‘s beautiful voice. He had told her that he had located Eric and

would be visiting him soon, but he neglected to mention the state of Eric‘s health, supposing,

he thought, that Sarah had enough to worry about, and he also neglected to tell her that his

trip may have been for nothing.

       Sarah cradled the phone and smiled at Father Quinn, who had just entered the

hallway. ―What news Sarah?‖ he asked.

       ―Otis has located Eric, his Indian friend,‖ she said, smiling, ―and he is to meet up with

him today.‖

       ―That‘s great news Sarah,‖ answered Father Quinn, ―but please don‘t mention any of

this to Father Doran though.‖

       ―Don‘t worry Father,‖ Sarah laughed, ―I won‘t breathe a word to Father Doran.‖

       Father Quinn had a great admiration for Sarah and Otis since the short time he had

known them. To be confronted with something as evil as this was bad enough, but to see a

man so devoted to his wife that he would travel great distances and perhaps face many

dangers in order to try and save her, was incredible. Then to see a wife whose main concern

was for her husband, and to put his welfare before her own, made them, in his eyes, a most

wonderful and devoted couple.
                                                                                              153



                                       *   *    *   *    *



       Two hundred yards away from the church, old Mick was preparing to settle down for

the night in his small borrowed caravan, and had just turned off the gas fire and lights. As he

lay in the small damp bed, he cursed as the pains shot up his broken arm. It would take the

pain killers a while to work, he thought, and as he pulled the blankets up to his chin, he

mumbled a quick prayer, before shutting his eyes.

       He was just dozing off when he felt the caravan shake. A quick shake, not prolonged,

but instant and sort of final, and he felt as if someone had entered inside it, before suddenly

stopping in their tracks.

       It had happened very quickly, no more than two seconds, he imagined, but the thump

and the noise he had felt in those two seconds was enough to convince him that he wasn‘t

dreaming. Mrs O‘Shea had informed him immediately that the door lock was broken on the

caravan, and he had meant to get it repaired later that day, but he had simply forgotten, and

now he was sorry. Moving slowly from the bed he could feel his heart pounding, as the fear

he had so lately realised returned to him, and he didn‘t notice that for now the pain in his arm

had subsided. Mick tried to focus, but everything was pitch black inside, and with no

electricity in the caravan, Mick would have to light the gas lights.

       His mind was reeling now as he groped in the darkness to find the matches he had

placed on the small work top beside the stove, and he jumped with pain, cursing, as he stood

on a small pebble. Suppose this thing is inside the caravan with me, he thought, waiting to

tear me limb from limb. ―Dear sweet Mother of Jesus, save me,‖ he whispered.

       Suddenly there was another bump which seemed to come from outside, and Mick

slightly pulled the curtain at the window back as he peered out into the darkness, cursing that

his eyes were taking so long to focus. He could see a movement. Something was there. It was
                                                                                               154



about fifteen feet away, almost invisible. Mick strained his eyes to focus and the figure

moved slowly to the left. There is no doubt about it, he thought. A large figure is moving

around outside, at the far end of the caravan.

       Mick‘s heart started to pound faster now and he looked down at his trembling

sweating hands.

       The Banshee. It had seen him after all, and now it was back with a bloody vengeance

to claim him body and soul.

       Mick made for the caravan door that was located up this end, away from the demon,

hoping that he could steal away and make it across to the church and safety, before this foul

beast from hell would notice him gone. He opened the door cautiously, and silently he put his

naked foot out onto the freezing step, cracking the little thin layer of ice that had formed

there. Slowly he stepped down onto the cold ground, praying all the while that he wouldn‘t be

seen. ―Holy Mother, please forgive me my sins,‖ he muttered to himself as he scanned around

in the darkness, ignoring the freezing cold that was quickly overtaking his limbs.

       He was about to run when the figure turned the corner, just two feet away from him,

and as it collided with him, he collapsed to the ground in a dead faint.

       ―In the name of God man,‖ the slurred drunken voice shouted down at him, ―What the

bloody hell are you doing?‖ Mick opened his eyes and stared up at the large figure bending

over him.

       ―James, you bastard,‖ he shouted, ―You almost frightened me to bloody death man,

you stupi...‖

       ―I‘m sorry Mick,‖ James slurred, interrupting him. ―But it‘s Rose. She says she has no

love for me anymore, and she‘s asked me to leave, but I‘ve got nowhere to go,‖ he sobbed.

       Mick picked himself up from the ground and rubbed himself down as he looked sadly

at James.
                                                                                            155



       He was relieved and happy that for now at least he was safe, and he immediately

calmed down.

       ―Don‘t you fret now son,‖ Mick wheezed, breathless and still shaking, but now

feeling the biting cold.

       ―Come inside and I‘ll make us both a warm cup of tea, and you can sleep it off here.‖

       Mick helped the drunken, staggering James up the step with great difficulty, but he

managed to steer him to the bed and help him sit down. He fumbled clumsily for his matches

through numb fingers, but soon he had the gas fire and one of the gas lights lit.



                                      *       *   *   *   *



       Mick warmed himself up, made the promised tea, and had just poured out two strong

cups when he heard James snore, and as he looked around James lay stretched out across the

small bed. ―Well, looks like it‘s the old chair for me tonight,‖ he mumbled as he stared sadly

at James for a while, and thought of their friendship.

       ―What are you doing to yourself man? Do you want to end up like me?‖ Mick

whispered down to him, as James lay oblivious to anyone or anything around him. Then for a

moment he thought of Mary, and how things could have been so different for him, if only he

had believed in her all those many years ago, those years before the drink.

       These long and terrible lonely years that had taken their toll on him. Years when he

sometimes believed that death would be his only comfort, when the only thing that could

replace Mary was the bottle, and replace her with it he did. He would not cry though, he had

already done that. God only knew the tears he had shed already after Mary‘s death, and he

believed he had no more tears left to give.

       He would talk to James in the morning though, he decided. Better still, he would talk
                                                                                          156



to Rose. Plead with her if need be to try and make her see sense. He would even talk to the

priest, but he would not under any circumstances see a fine man like James end up like the

thing he himself had become, a sad, drunk, and lonely man. And he would see an end to this

affair, by God he would.
                                                                                               157




                                         CHAPTER 17



       Otis stood impatiently outside the hospital and glanced up and down the road leading

into the large entrance. It was twenty minutes before two, but he hoped Peter would show up

early. As he looked around a little sports car being driven by a young beautiful blonde

woman drew up, and as her passenger kissed her a quick goodbye, then exited from the car,

he waved to Otis. It was Peter. ―I hope you haven‘t been waiting too long?‖ Peter enquired.

       ―No,‖ Otis lied, ―just a few minutes.‖

       Peter put a friendly hand on Otis‘s shoulder and the two men entered the building.

Inside the place was a hive of activity as nurses, doctors, orderlies and staff of all descriptions

made their way up and down different corridors to their various locations. ―Eric‘s on the third

floor north,‖ Peter exclaimed as they waited for the elevator. As they entered the elevator,

Otis noticed an old bald guy stare intently at him, and he wondered what the man was

thinking. Come see the freak show, he thought. He had grown to hate these goddamn people

who seemed to view other people‘s misfortunes as a right to stare and study. These sick

people who had simply nothing better to do with their time, he felt. Otis was just about to say

something to the old man, when the man smiled at him; a warm sort of caring smile, and Otis

smiled back at the old man and returned a friendly wave.

       I‟m becoming paranoid again, he thought to himself. Besides, at the moment he just

didn‘t care anymore anyway. He would have gladly given up his other eye, and disfigured the

rest of his face to save Sarah.

       Head lowered, he thought of Eric. Of years long past when Eric and he had patrolled
                                                                                             158



the streets together, and the trusting, unbreakable, mutual friendship he had formed with his

Indian partner. He hadn‘t wanted to meet Eric this way, but he knew Eric would understand.

As they walked into the private room that Eric now occupied, Peter once more put a hand on

Otis‘s shoulder. Peter knew what sort of shock the big guy was in for when he would see his

friend after all these years apart, and so he would try to give him as much support as he

could. Otis looked down at the sleeping figure on the bed and immediately spun around. ―Is

this some kind of a damn joke?‖ Otis said to the astonished Peter.

       ―Why, this man isn‘t Eric,‖ he exclaimed. This man on the bed is old and withered,

and barely has skin left on his bones, and in no way even resembles Eric, Otis thought.

       Otis pushed Peter sharply out of his way, and was about to storm from the room when

he heard the voice, barely audible, yet somehow familiar. ―Otis,‖ the voice softly called.

―Otis, my dear friend,‖ it said.

       Otis turned and stared at the old yellow withered figure on the bed with disbelief. This

person didn‘t even come close to the Eric he remembered, even with all the weight loss and

the aging.

       The figure on the bed struggled to hold one arm up as it beckoned Otis over, and Otis

slowly approached the bed with caution as he studied for recognition. ―Otis,‖ the voice

weakly repeated.

       Otis gazed into the dying Indian‘s trusting eyes, and at that moment he knew he was

reunited with his old friend. Otis gently hugged him, and he felt Eric place his hand lightly on

his back. ―I‘m so sorry,‖ croaked Otis, as he wiped a tear away from his cheek.

       ―No, my good friend,‖ Eric whispered weakly, ―Do not be sorry. I go soon to join my

people, be happy for me and do not grieve. I have had a happy life with very many wonderful

memories, your friendship being just one of them, and words cannot express how happy I am

to see you after all this time my friend,‖ he whispered.
                                                                                               159



        Otis didn‘t know how to tell Eric the real reason for his visit, and he now felt

embarrassed as he made small talk with his ex-partner.

        Suddenly Eric tightly grasped hold of Otis‘s wrist. ―Tell me what troubles you,‖ said

Eric, in an almost normal voice, and Otis, startled, sat upright in his chair.

        It was as though Eric could read his mind, he felt.



                                       *    *   *    *    *



        It was a half hour later when Otis had explained the situation to Eric, and somehow he

still felt ridiculous.

        Eric knew better though, and wasted no time as he quickly motioned Peter to come

closer, to which the young Indian speedily obeyed. Eric raised himself up with a groan and

pointed to the bedside cabinet. ―Pen, paper‖ he croaked, as he pointed to a notebook. ―You

must take my friend to this address,‖ he ordered, as he scribbled slowly onto the page.

―Joseph Lapahie,‖ he said, ―whose father and grandfathers before him where all medicine

men. He will know what to do. He knows of the Great Spirit Woman, and he is the only one

who can help you now.‖

        ―Will he help me?‖ Otis asked.

        ―Give him this,‖ Eric said weakly, as he reached out to Peter to take the piece of paper

he had just written on. ―I wish to speak with Otis alone now,‖ Eric said to Peter, and Peter

nodded before silently leaving the room.

        Eric motioned Otis to come closer, even though there was no one else in the room,

and Otis leaned across to him. ―I also have a great secret,‖ said Eric, as he coughed up some

blood, and Otis wiped it with a tissue as he called loudly for a nurse. ―No my friend, no,‖

coughed Eric loudly, as he pulled Otis by the sleeve, and Otis now gave him his full attention.
                                                                                                  160



Eric held Otis‘s hands tightly before speaking.

           ―Do you remember my wife, Maria?‖ Eric asked, wheezing.

           ―Why yes, of course, I was real sorry to hear about that,‖ he said, feeling slightly

embarrassed that he hadn‘t tried to contact Eric when the damn thing happened.

           ―I did it,‖ Eric said matter-of-factly as Otis squirmed in his chair.

           ―You did what?‖ Otis asked as he felt something was coming that he just didn‘t want

to hear.

           ―I killed Maria,‖ Eric said loudly.

           ―No, you don‘t know what you‘re saying right now, what with the drugs and stuff

you‘re taking, messing up your fucking brain,‖ whispered Otis, who was now having trouble

believing what he was hearing.

           ―Please, Otis,‖ Eric said, ―I need to tell someone before I die, someone like you, my

true friend. Someone I can trust. I need to unburden myself before I go to be with my

people.‖

           Otis buried his head in his hands and nodded for Eric to go ahead, but he didn‘t want

to hear this. Quite frankly, this getting it off your chest thing was something he could have

done without, but he felt duty bound to sit and listen. As Eric spoke, Otis kept his head buried

in his hands and found he could not look Eric straight in the face, as his dying friend talked

on.



                                          *      *   *   *   *



           ―Maria had been drinking heavily that night,‖ Eric choked. ―She‘d been drinking

heavily for over a year before this, and she had been doing hard drugs as well.

           ―I couldn‘t get her to stop; no matter how hard I tried, so one night I decided to pack
                                                                                                  161



up and leave, but she pleaded and begged me for another chance. After some hard thinking I

told her I would do this for her, but I told her this would be the last time. Then two weeks

later, I get a call. You remember Carl Brewster?‖ Eric asked.

        ―Yeah, sure do, mean, tough son of a bitch,‖ Otis answered. ―He‘s a detective now,

isn‘t he?‖ Otis asked, as he removed his hands from his face and looked at Eric, who nodded

painfully.

        ―Well, as I said, I received a phone call,‖ he went on, coughing between words. ―Guy

told me that if I wanted to see something interesting then I should go visit Harry‘s Bar. The

caller would not leave his name, but I knew his voice, even though he had tried to disguise it,

I knew it was Carl Brewster. I figured later that Carl was only trying to help me out, as he

owed me a big one. Anyway, I went to this um, Harry‘s Bar, and as I approached the place I

saw her, Maria.‖ Eric paused for a moment as the tears welled up in his eyes.

        ―She was coming outside with some guy, kissing and fondling, you know,‖ he

continued ―and I watched as they disappeared into the alley at the rear of the place.

        ―I sat inside the car for a few minutes, my heart pounding as my mind tried to work

out just what was happening. I mean, how could she do this to me, betray me like this, I

thought, and then I left the car and walked right over there, into the alley.

        ―Caught her having sex with the guy right there and then. I was crazy and I punched

the guy a couple of times. I wanted to kill him, but he ran off. Then I dragged Maria back to

the car and started to drive home, but she started to abuse me as we drove along the dark

road. I was so angry that I stopped the car. We fought, and well, I had my hands around her

throat when she collapsed.‖

        Eric paused for a moment and Otis knew he was having trouble with this. It was clear

that Eric still had deep feelings for his wife.

        ―I,‖ he coughed again. ―I didn‘t mean to kill her. I guess I still loved her and I just
                                                                                              162



couldn‘t handle it. Then I drove to the place where they found her body and left her there. I

would have got away with it too, but the spirits decided to turn against me, and that‘s why I

am here now, dying.

       ―But I still love Maria and I didn‘t really want to live without her anyway.

       ―I just wanted you to know that my friend,‖ he said, tears running down his cheeks.

Otis sat straight in his chair and looked sadly at this shadow of the man he was.

       He fully believed now that Eric had killed Maria, and he felt numb.

       ―That was some goddamn favour Brewster done for you,‖ Otis said, his voice filled

with anger and sarcasm. Eric did not answer, but remained silent.

       ―Damn it,‖ Otis said as he recalled back to when he and Eric were partners. Maria had

been kind to him on any occasion that he had visited their home, and he wished Eric had

confessed to someone else, but who was he to judge Eric? Otis thought.

       How the hell he would have handled the same situation if Sarah had been unfaithful to

him would have been anyone‘s goddamn guess, and he felt angry just thinking about it. No,

he would not judge Eric, but he was sorry that Eric had not decided to take his secret with

him.

       ―Go now my friend,‖ he said to Otis. ―For you time is important, and I have held you

back enough,‖ he wheezed.

       As Otis got up to leave, he rubbed Eric‘s cheek with the palm of his hand. ―Goodbye

old friend,‖ he said, his voice weakened with emotion.

       When Otis was about to leave the room, Eric called out to him. ―When I‘m on the

other side,‖ he said, coughing, ―I will see if I can help you from there. Now go, go and see

Joseph Lapahie.‖
                                                                                            163




                                     *    *   *    *   *



       Peter would have to work some of his shift, but he was owed some time off, he

informed Otis. He would meet him later that day at six o‘clock outside the hospital, and they

could go directly to the medicine man‘s house.

       Otis thanked him for his help and walked away, unable to remember when he had last

felt as lost and as helpless as he was feeling now, and he looked to the heavens for some

comfort.
                                                                                             164




                                       CHAPTER 18



       At the church back in Ireland, Sarah, who was about to get undressed for bed, was

surprised at the sound of the raised voices she could hear coming from the corridor outside. A

woman‘s voice had broken the silence of the normally quiet church, and Sarah inquisitively

opened her door to listen. The woman, whom she didn‘t recognise was pleading with Father

Quinn. ―Please Frank,‖ she was saying. ―I love you; please don‘t do this to me.‖

       ―I‘m sorry Rose, but you cannot stay here. It‘s over Rose, you have to accept this,

there‘s just no other way,‖ Father Quinn answered.

       Oh, my word, Sarah thought, and closed the door almost tight, leaving only enough of

a gap to peer out.

       ―There‘s someone else, isn‘t there you bastard?‖ Rose shouted.

       ―Please Rose,‖ the priest implored, ―be quiet, Father Doran is here.‖

       ―Then maybe Father Doran would like to know just what his whoring priest gets up

to.‖

       Just then the hysterical woman looked over in Sarah‘s direction, and Sarah, in reflex,

slammed the heavy wooden door shut. She could hear the woman‘s shoes clatter across the

hard tiled floor toward her room, and she instinctively knew what was going to follow next.

       Sarah stood back as the demented woman quickly pushed her room door open,

slamming it hard against the wall, and she felt uncomfortable and embarrassed as this strange

angry woman, whom she had never seen before stared wildly at her.

       ―Who the hell are you?‖ The angry woman demanded to know, as Father Quinn tried
                                                                                                165



to restrain her.

         ―I‘m Mrs Tweedy, and I‘m staying here for a while,‖ Sarah answered meekly.

         ―I‘m sure you are, you bloody whore,‖ yelled the woman, as she looked disgustingly

back toward the priest.

         ―Please Rose, no, it‘s not what you think,‖ the priest whispered, as Rose attacked

Sarah.

         Rose was kicking and slapping at Sarah now, and the two women fell over a chair and

onto the hard cold floor. Sarah was up first though, and as the still violent Rose got to her

feet, Sarah punched her hard, full in the face, sending her reeling across the room and onto

her back.

         Otis had taught her how to do this many years ago, in case she was ever attacked, but

until now she had never had any reason to use it. ―Get up you bitch,‖ Sarah roared, her fear

overtaken with anger and hurt. Now it was her turn to call someone a bitch, and in her fury,

she liked it.

         ―No, stop this right now,‖ shouted the priest.

         Suddenly Father Doran came running into the room, as Father Quinn held his head in

his hands, while Rose sat up on one knee and cried pitifully into the arm of the chair.

         ―Why are you doing this to me?‖ Rose sobbed at Father Quinn, tears running down

her face. ―Why do you torture me so?‖ she cried, as Sarah stepped back, hardly able to take

all this in.

         ―What in blazes is going on here?‖ said Father Doran loudly, looking shocked and

puzzled as he gazed angrily from each of the trio in turn, and he knelt down to comfort the

crying woman,

         Sarah marched passed Father Quinn toward the bathroom, and paused for a moment

as Father Quinn lowered his head again. ―Seems you‘ve got some damn explaining to do,‖
                                                                                                 166



she said angrily.



                                         *    *   *    *   *



          Old Mick had fallen asleep without realising it. His cup still lay in his lap, and as he

glanced around he noticed that James was sleeping like a baby. The light outside barely

penetrated the old thick curtains, and as Mick opened them up the old caravan sprang alive

inside with light. ―Where am I?‖ James asked as the light awoke him and he held his

throbbing head.

          ―You‘re with me in the caravan,‖ answered Mick. ―You came here last night claiming

that Rose had thrown you out and almost scared me to half to bloody death in the process.‖

          ―I‘m really sorry Mick,‖ James replied.

          ―Not to worry James, my lad. Sure what are friends for if they can‘t but help each

other?‖

          The two men sat and talked for a couple of hours before James decided to go home.

His head was almost clear now and he believed it would be better for him to confront Rose

now. He didn‘t like arguing with Rose, but he would go home now, get this matter sorted out

once and for all.

          ―Are you sure you don‘t want to stay here for a few days with me and give Rose time

to think things over?‖ Mick asked. ―You know, sometimes absence makes the heart grow

fonder, or so they say,‖ he added.

          ―No Mick, it‘s best if I go now. I think she only said it because I was drunk, and I

don‘t think she meant it when she told me she didn‘t love me anymore, but thanks anyway.‖

The two friends shook hands, hugged affectionately, and then James was gone.

          Mick shut the caravan door and closed the curtains before removing his wallet from
                                                                                              167



his pocket. He pulled out a small brown envelope, scattering its contents onto the bed. A

small collection of faded photographs that he had kept all these years was the only contact

that he had with the past, his past. Another lifetime ago, he thought, as he looked

affectionately at them, smiling, before placing each one in turn carefully back inside the

envelope. First he looked at Meg‘s photograph. A wonderful sister to him, and a most

pleasant woman. Meg‘s was a sister he could never replace, so friendly and helpful to

everyone, he thought. Then he stared at the photo of Alice. She would sing to herself from

morning until night, always happy. He knew she was away from the south of Ireland and

living up north somewhere with her protestant husband.

       Then it was Brenda‘s turn. Brenda was the most attractive of his sisters, and she had

moved to England and married a fireman. Then the next in the row was Annie. Poor Annie

who didn‘t deserve the fate she received at her mad sister‘s hands. Then Clare, always up to

mischief and always smiling, who still lived somewhere in Ireland the last he had heard. And

then came Laura, sweet little Laura, he thought. Laura had gone to America after Meg‘s

death, and he had never heard from her again. The next photo he kissed and hugged

affectionately, and stared at for a long time.

       ―Oh my poor darling innocent Mary, can you ever forgive me?‖

       Old Mick felt his stomach tighten, the way it always did when he looked at Mary‘s

photograph. His eyes welled up as he stared at the beautiful woman who in the photo was

now somewhat faded, before carefully placing the photo back inside the envelope.

       He had never seen any of his remaining sisters again after he had run away, halfway

across Ireland, and God only knew if they had tried to find him. But he had chosen this path,

and had exiled himself from them in his guilt. Maybe now, he thought, I should try and

search them out. ―Maybe I will,‖ he said loudly to himself.

       Then he picked up a photograph that he could not look upon with affection, a
                                                                                              168



photograph of Bridget, but a photograph that he could not bring himself to destroy either, no

matter how much sadness she had caused him. This poor mad creature that he had loved so

much as a sister, once his favourite, who was now more to be pitied in her sad, demented

state. This was a sister though that he had never even thought of, or wanted to inquire about,

and who could be dead and buried for all he knew, or cared for that matter. This was a sister

who had destroyed Meg‘s, Annie‘s, Mary‘s and his bloody life, he felt, destroyed all their

lives for that matter. But still he could not bring himself to destroy her photo, and the tears

welled up in his eyes as he shoved the picture away, deep below the others, out of his sight.

       Then he stood up and blessed himself, sat down and said a quick prayer for James and

Rose. Then as an afterthought he asked that if the Lord wasn‘t too busy, could he perhaps to

be kind enough to look after himself as well.
                                                                                              169




                                         CHAPTER 19



       Otis was waiting for Peter promptly as arranged, and it wasn‘t long before Peter

appeared. ―I have the car here,‖ Otis said, as he pointed to the Oldsmobile he had rented

earlier. As they left town, Peter directed Otis to the address Eric had given him, and twenty

minutes later they had arrived.

       The district was pretty much run down though, and Otis prayed that he hadn‘t come

all this way to be beaten now, hoping above hope that this medicine man could give them the

help they so desperately needed. As they studied the house they noticed that it was set back

off the road, and compared with the rest of the buildings the place was actually quite pleasant.

Peter rapped on the large brass knocker that was in the shape of an Indian chief, including

war bonnet. ―Sitting Bull,‖ he said to Otis, showing off his knowledge, and just as he was

about to rap for the second time a small boy slowly opened the door.

       ―We would like to speak to Joseph Lapahie?‖ Peter requested. The young boy looked

suspiciously at the men before running back down the hallway. ―Grandfather, Grandfather,‖

he shouted, and ran into a room off the hallway. An old man entered the hallway, the small

boy now hiding under his arm, and came quickly toward the men as he patted his grandson on

the head.

       ―Eric Little Feather sent us,‖ Otis stated, as Peter thrust the note Eric had written into

his hand. The old Indian looked relaxed but puzzled somewhat. He also was suspicious of

these men. He glanced at Otis and then the note, before he pulled on a pair of old fashioned

glasses which Otis felt to be really expensive with their meticulous carvings of what looked
                                                                                               170



like buffalo on the sides. The men waited as Joseph studied the note intently.

       After a pause Joseph spoke. ―Come inside,‖ he said, any suspicions he had now

completely gone, which showed his respect for Eric, and as the young boy ushered the men

into the room, Otis was immediately stunned.



                                      *   *      *   *   *



       Inside, the place was a veritable Aladdin‘s cave of Indian artifacts, and it was like

they had travelled through space and time, he felt, as he surveyed the room that was filled

from floor to ceiling with all sorts of Indian memorabilia. As he gazed around Otis guessed

that most of the stuff was probably authentic.

       ―Sit,‖ commanded Joseph, as he slumped down on the floor cross legged. Otis sat on a

rather large bamboo chair that somehow seemed out of place in the room, and Peter contented

himself to sit on a wooden bench that was propped against the wall. Joseph called out

something that Otis could not understand, and all of a sudden a rather plump woman

appeared and shyly nodded to the men. ―My wife, Singing Bird,‖ he announced, and the men

nodded back. ―Something for our friends,‖ he barked at the woman, and at that Singing Bird

disappeared quickly through the door.

       Otis reckoned that Singing Bird was at least thirty years younger than Joseph, but then

he supposed that Chiefs and Medicine Men where sort of elite in the tribes, and had perhaps

first pick of everything, including the women.

       After having some food which was very well prepared, the men settled down to talk.

Joseph enquired about Eric and was saddened by Otis‘s report of him. Otis then explained his

story to old Joseph. The men had to sit for fifteen minutes as the old Indian smoked on an old

carved pipe that Otis felt was carved from ivory. Then as Joseph slowly and carefully
                                                                                            171



lowered the pipe to his side, he chanted and sang. Another five minutes were to pass when

suddenly Joseph sprang up from the floor with an agility that surprised both men. Joseph

asked Otis if he would be willing to die for Sarah, and Otis said yes without really even

thinking about it.

       The old Indian then asked Otis to show him his hands and he held them out. Both men

noticed a tear in Joseph‘s eyes just before he spoke. ―You have strong hands,‖ he said as he

grasped Otis‘s hands firmly. ―You will need strong hands, and a strong heart, because the

Spirit Woman knows no fear, and has the strength of very many men. Her greatest weakness

is in her sight, but her smell and senses are very strong. ‖

       ―What do I have to do?‖ Otis asked, but felt his stomach heave in anticipation of what

Joseph was going to say next.

       ―The Spirit Woman cannot be killed,‖ Joseph exclaimed. ―No mortal hand can do this

thing, but she can be greatly weakened, and she can also be very greatly confused. The only

way your wife can lead a normal life now, is if someone gives up their soul for her, and that

someone must be you.‖

       ―I, um, you mean suicide, is that what you‘re saying here? I have to kill myself,‖ Otis

groaned, hoping the old Indian would come up with another, much better plan than this one.

       ―Even this may not be enough,‖ Joseph answered. ―The Great Spirit Woman‘s

strength must not be underestimated.‖

       Otis felt spent and cheated. He had travelled all this way to be told he would have to

die to save Sarah‘s life, but this wasn‘t even an option. Without Sarah he felt that he would be

nothing, and life would not be worth living anyway.

       He also believed that Sarah would feel the same way. How in God‘s name did this

happen to us he thought to himself.

       ―To greatly weaken her,‖ Joseph went on, ―you must do two things. Firstly you must
                                                                                             172



chant these words from the Great Sundance. Wakinyan Wakatanka Hunka Tokapi Ni O

Okodakciye,‖ he chanted, as Peter wrote the words down in a notebook. ―This will help

protect you, as well as confuse her, and cause her to lose almost all of her power.‖

        ―Wasn‘t the Great Sundance performed at Wounded Knee to protect your people from

the soldier‘s bullets?‖ Otis asked, puzzled. ―Every single Indian that day was massacred,

including women and children,‖ he added.

        Joseph thought for a moment before speaking. ―Many of our leaders now believe that

The Great Sundance should not have been used at Wounded Knee.

        ―But it was used to defeat Yellow Hair at t…‖

        ―General Custer,‖ Otis said, interrupting him.

        ―Yes, Custer. He was the coward who would not listen to us.‖

        The old medicine man looked sadly at Otis. ―Wounded knee was different. We were a

spent people who had nothing left. The Great Sundance is spiritual, and should only have

been used for the spiritual purpose.‖

        ―Spiritual?‖ Otis whispered.

        ―The Great Sundance is about self sacrifice. The more you give of yourself, the

greater the reward, and in your case, the more you give of yourself while fighting the Great

Spirit Woman, the more she will weaken. And remember, every drop of your blood she takes

as you chant to her, will be as if it were her own blood, but it will work for you,‖ Joseph said.

        ―Stand up,‖ Joseph ordered.

        Otis stood up, looking around at Peter, puzzled at where the old Indian was going

with this.

        Peter watched as Joseph grabbed the unsuspecting Otis in a clinch, arms around him

as he squeezed with all his might, knocking the wind out of him. Otis tried to struggle free,

but the old Indian held firm and Otis couldn‘t move. ―The second thing you must do is
                                                                                               173



exactly what I am doing to you now, you must give her the hug of the bear, and hang on like

this as she fights you,‖ Joseph exclaimed.

       Otis felt like his chest was being held in a vice, and he struggled for breath as the old

Indian talked on. ―This will also greatly confuse and weaken her, and allow you to get in

close to her as you chant the words from the Great Sundance into her ear, and when she has

no fight left in her she will have to take you instead of your wife. But be warned, even though

she will lose almost all of her power very quickly, she will still be very strong, and if you fail

to hold on to her then her power will return to her just as quickly as it left her. No matter what

happens, you must not let loose your grip, not under any circumstance.‖



                                       *     *   *   *    *



       Otis was almost gasping for breath when the old Indian released him, and he fell back

clumsily, onto the chair. ―Now you know what you have to do,‖ said Joseph.

       It was a full five minutes before Otis got his breath back and he began to question

Joseph about the Indian named Satra who went out to face the Spirit Woman alone, so that no

others would be killed. Eric had said that he didn‘t have to do this, that there was another

way, and Otis really damn well wanted to know just what this other way was.

       Joseph pondered for a moment before speaking. ―I know of this story,‖ he answered.

―You see, Satra could have hidden and lived on the great burial grounds, where the Spirit

Woman would not dare go. This sacred ground would have saved him from her wrath, but

this brave warrior could not have spent his life hiding like a woman among the dead, and

being disrespectful toward them, so he took the only path that he felt was open to him, and

confronted the Spirit Woman.‖

       ―Yeah, and look where it damn well got him,‖ Otis answered. No, now he knew,
                                                                                               174



knew the harsh reality, the hard facts. It was sad, sad for both of them that Sarah would have

to spend the rest of her life like this in the church in isolation. But it would be a damn sight

sadder with one of them dead. As they said their goodbyes Otis slipped the old Indian a

twenty dollar bill. ―For the boy,‖ he said. Then he thanked the old Indian and wished him

well.

        ―I don‘t know to thank you, Peter. I know where I stand now though,‖ he said as they

made their way back into town in the Oldsmobile.

        ―Do you mind if I ask you a question Otis?‖

        ―No, feel free.‖

        ―Did you actually see this demon for yourself?‖

        ―Well no, I didn‘t see it personally, but there were other people there who did, my

wife Sarah being just one of them,‖ Otis replied.

        ―Then you‘re convinced by it?‖

        ―Yes I am, absolutely, or I wouldn‘t have made this trip and left Sarah on her own

back there.‖

        ―That‘s scary stuff,‖ Peter exclaimed, but when Otis didn‘t follow up on the

conversation, he got the impression that Otis didn‘t want to talk about it anymore, so he kept

quiet for the remainder of the journey.

        Soon they arrived back in town and Otis dropped Peter off at the corner of his street.

―Here,‖ Peter said, as he tore out the page and handed Otis the words of the Great Sundance

he had written down.

        ―No thanks Peter, I won‘t need them now, suicide just ain‘t on my agenda yet.‖

        ―It was a pleasure knowing you,‖ Peter said, as he shook hands. ―I hope you find

peace from this demon.‖

        ―It was real nice knowing you too, and once again, thank you for everything,‖ Otis
                                                                                                175



replied.



                                        *   *    *   *    *



        As Otis drove away he noticed the sheet of paper that Peter had tried to give him

laying on the passenger seat and he crumpled it up to throw it from the car window, before

changing his mind and stuffing it inside his jacket pocket. He would return to Ireland as soon

as possible, but only after he had returned to the hospital to visit Eric one last time. Otis slept

soundly in the hotel room that night, which surprised him, as he hadn‘t slept properly since

the whole messy business began.

        Otis knew there was no great rush now, but he still wanted to get home to the woman

he loved. After a quick shower and an even quicker breakfast, he hurriedly packed his

belongings and left the hotel. It would be like a jail sentence for Sarah, he thought, never able

to leave the church, ever, never to walk through the park again or go down to the sea, which

were just some of the things she loved to do. But he would just have to find a way to make

her happy, and with his support they would somehow get through this together, he felt, at

least until they could figure out how to destroy this monster.

        As he entered the hospital he noticed that the nurse who had been looking after Eric

on his last visit was walking down the corridor toward him. ―Hi,‖ he said, ―just going up to

see Eri...‖

        ―Wait,‖ said the nurse loudly, interrupting him, and Otis stopped dead in his tracks.

He had seen that look before, recognised the body language. Anyhow, the look on her face

gave it away, and he knew before the nurse spoke again that Eric had passed away.

        The nurse informed him that Eric had died peacefully during the night, and Otis

cursed aloud that he hadn‘t visited his dying friend on the previous evening. But he just
                                                                                             176



didn‘t believe that Eric could die as quickly as that, and Otis realised that Eric had only been

holding on all along until he could get his terrible burden of guilt off his chest. Anyway, he

thought, maybe now Eric and Maria are together again.

       And as far as Eric‘s confession was concerned, his secret had gone to his grave with

him, because Otis would never repeat it to no one, not even Sarah.

       As he left the hospital he looked into the cloudless sky and paused for a moment as he

stared sadly at the heavens, before walking silently away.
                                                                                              177




                                         CHAPTER 20



        James searched in every room in the house, but it was clear to him that Rose wasn‘t

there and he slumped down into his chair and held his head tightly. As he looked around him

he could see his shirts and other clothes all neatly folded up, and he was grateful that at least

he had a clean and hard working wife.

        He had always found it hard to show his true feelings to Rose, and he admitted to

himself that he hadn‘t always been there for her, but things seemed to be improving, although

he had not been intimate with her for some time now. He felt though that it would not be long

before they would be together again properly. Ok, so she had said she didn‘t love him

anymore, but he felt that she didn‘t mean this, and that most of it was only said out of

frustration. He believed though, that Kate had badly interfered in their marriage since they

had been first wed, and although he did not want the woman to die, he selfishly felt that Rose

would have no one else but him to turn to when she did. Then, when that happened, he would

be there for her, better this time.

        He would love her like he had never loved her before, and then they could put the past

behind them. He would have to go to Kate‘s house first though, because he knew that Rose

would be there, and even if it meant causing a damned argument, he would have his say.

Anyway wasn‘t all this part of the problem? A family that would not forgive him no matter

how hard he had tried, and a wife that wouldn‘t even give him the chance to make it up with

Kate.

        He understood that Kate was at death‘s door, and he did not relish going to the dying
                                                                                                178



woman‘s house. Kate and her unfriendly husband Seamus both hated him.

       Seamus was bound to tell him to go away, but so be it, he thought, as he slammed the

front door behind him and started off toward their house.

       A light cold breeze blew onto his back as he walked along the street, unaware that he

hadn‘t even bothered to put his coat back on, and it was at least a half hour later when he

finally arrived at Kate‘s house. He was so deep in thought that it only felt like he had been

walking for a few minutes, although it had taken much longer, and he immediately

recognised Seamus smoking his pipe, as he sat on the little wooden bench on the porch at the

front of the house.



                                      *    *   *    *   *



       As he approached he said hello to Seamus, but the man ignored him. Seamus had

never forgiven him for that night and the way he had spoken to Kate on his last drunken visit,

and how he had also called Seamus himself some names, cursing him, humiliating and

frightening the non violent man. ―Have you seen Rose, Seamus?‖ James asked.

       Seamus puffed frantically on his pipe as he tapped his foot noisily on the boards, and

ignored James, which made the frustrated man angry.

       Suddenly Kate appeared at the door with a bundle of washing in her arms, and James

stepped back, startled. ―What‘s wrong with you?‖ Kate asked, ―You look as though you‘ve

seen a ghost.‖

       ―But, but, you‘re dyi, you‘re sick,‖ he corrected. The woman looked puzzled at his

remark.

       ―What is it you want here James?‖ Kate said.

       Before he had a chance to answer Seamus spoke up. ―We don‘t want any trouble
                                                                                            179



around here, so why don‘t you just go on home,‖ he said nervously, unable to disguise the

fear in his voice.

        ―Not until I‘ve spoken to Rose,‖ James replied.

        ―Rose,‖ Seamus mumbled loudly, with a laugh. ―Why Rose hasn‘t been here for over

two weeks now and…‖

        Kate gave her husband a darting look before interrupting and correcting him. ―No

Seamus, your mistaken. Rose has been here a few times this week,‖ she lied. Seamus looked

at her oddly, open mouthed, head cocked, and James thought at that moment he had never

seen anyone who looked as stupid as this man did now.

        James couldn‘t understand this. Here was Kate, standing in front of him, and in

perfectly good health, yet Rose had told him months ago that Kate was dying.

        What the hell is going on here, he thought. Rose had told him this and yet here Kate

was, bright as a button. ―What the bloody story here Kate?‖ James asked angrily.

        ―There‘s no bloody story, why I don‘t know what you‘re talking about?‖ she lied

again. It wasn‘t that Kate had wanted to lie to James, but she knew how violent he could be,

especially when drunk, and even though she did not like the man, she had tried to persuade

her sister that what she was doing was wrong. But one thing was certain. She would not

betray Rose to him. That was Rose‘s business and not hers, but Rose had obviously told lies

to James, regarding the fact that she was ill, and that she would not accept. She would have it

out with Rose as soon as she saw her.

        Rose had told her all about the priest and how in love she had become, and Kate

thought she was behaving like a love struck schoolchild. But during her marriage to James,

Rose had never really known true happiness, and on a few occasions James had beaten her,

one time badly, when drunk, although she admitted to herself that in the past couple of years

James had seemed to change for the better.
                                                                                                  180



       However, Rose was her sister; her own flesh and blood, and therefore, Kate would not

give away her secret. She also knew James would not take no for an answer, and although she

didn‘t want to, she realised she would have to be cruel to him if she wanted him to leave. ―I

don‘t know where Rose is,‖ she shouted. Now be off with you before I call the police.‖

       ―She‘s still my wife,‖ answered James, ―and don‘t you bloody forget it.‖

       ―If Rose doesn‘t want you anymore, then you‘ve got no one to blame but yourself,‖

shouted Seamus. ―Why if you were a man at all you would clear off out of her life and let her

have some happiness,‖ he ranted on, with a smirk on his face.

       ―You bastard,‖ James whispered, as he ran across to Seamus, giving him no time to

get up from his seat as he seized him by the throat. Then as Seamus tried to pull himself up,

his coat collar ripped off in James hand, his new coat that Kate had bought him for his

birthday, just the week before.

       ―Leave him alone you pig,‖ Kate yelled. ―Bloody violence,‖ she added, ―I think that‘s

the only sort of language that you understand. Go on now and get out of here, before the

police arrest you.‖

       ―That‘s right,‖ James replied mockingly, as he released Seamus and walked away,

―hide behind your wife‘s apron strings, you gutless worm.‖ In his confusion, James looked

around for his coat for a moment, before he suddenly realised he hadn‘t brought it with him,

and at that he strode away, not noticing Seamus shake his fist at him behind his back and

silently swear obscenities at him.

       As James walked back toward home his mind was reeling. What the hell is going on

here, he thought, as tried to figure out why Rose had lied to him. To lie to him was one thing,

but to lie to him that her sister was dying, and to lie so convincingly, pulled at his insides,

making him feel sick to the pit of his stomach. He quickened his pace as he strode for home,

and the explanation that he would get from Rose, one bloody way or the other, he thought.
181
                                                                                             182




                                         CHAPTER 21



       Otis boarded the plane and moved into his allocated F-13, window seat, clunked his

seat belt on with no problem, and leaned his head back on the rest. He hadn‘t noticed before,

but he had lost weight, a hell of a lot of weight, he suddenly thought. The flight from Chicago

would take some time, he knew, eight hours in fact, but at least it was in the right direction,

and his heart beat in anticipation of seeing Sarah again.

       Otis noticed the tall, thin, gangly man with the cardigan zipped tightly up to the neck

slowly make his way down the aisle toward him, stopping to talk to everyone and anyone as

he passed them. His annoying high pitched voice could break damn glass, Otis thought, and

he hoped the man would pass his row by. As the man drew level with Otis he pulled his

boarding card from his pocket and gawked at it for a moment, before looking up at the seat

numbers. Well, here we are, ―D-13, unlucky for some,‖ he joked, sounding just like Goofy in

those Disney movies.

       There were three seats in the row, D, E and F, and the man, after putting a small case

in the overhead locker, sat down on the outer seat. Otis was at least thankful that the middle

seat would be occupied by someone else, someone who would bear the brunt of this man‘s

personality, and as the man buckled up, Otis stared out of the window and avoided him.

―Marvin Pentigras,‖ Otis heard the man say rather loudly in his high pitched voice. ―Marvin

Pentigras,‖ he repeated, and Otis knew somehow that he was talking to him.

       As Otis slowly turned around the man already had his hand fully extended out, and

Otis lightly and quickly shook it.
                                                                                             183



       The man looked at Otis in a funny way as he bobbed his head up and down and Otis

realised that the man wanted an introduction. ―Sorry, uh, Martin,‖ Otis answered sluggishly

as he limply shook the man‘s hand.

       ―Marvin, it‘s Marvin,‖ the man repeated.

       ―Um, hello Marvin, I‘m Otis, Otis Tweedy,‖ he answered through a forced smile.

       Marvin smiled back, his lips curled back, his teeth bared, except for his front two

which were missing and Otis had to force himself not to laugh out loud. Anyway, he thought,

who am I to laugh at this guy, with my face the way it is.

       Otis was looking up to the front of the plane, ignoring Marvin who was still talking

away, when he spotted the fat woman waddling down the aisle of the aircraft. Please let it be

her, please be E-13, he prayed. She would block all possible ways of communication with

Marvin, and Otis sat in hope. ―What line you in?‖ Marvin asked Otis. ―Retired,‖ Otis

answered in almost a whisper.

       Otis didn‘t like to be rude to the man, but he just didn‘t want to talk to him. Besides,

he wouldn‘t be good company anyway. He was tired and cranky, and he was just too busy

thinking about Sarah. The fat woman stopped in front of them both and smiled. ―E-13,‖ she

said to herself, as she looked up at the row numbers.

       ―Strike,‖ Otis cried loudly, and then felt foolish as the pair stared around at him with

puzzled expressions on their faces.

       ―Hello, I‘m Marvin, and this is our good friend, Otis Tweedy,‖ Marvin said to the fat

woman.

       ―Hello Marvin; hello Otis,‖ the woman politely answered, ―I‘m Rebecca Benson, but

my friends call me Becca.‖ The woman then knelt down and whispered something to Marvin,

and Otis watched as he nodded his head approvingly.

       ―Why certainly Miss Benson, sorry, I mean Becca,‖ he said apologetically. Then to
                                                                                               184



Otis‘s surprise, Marvin unbuckled his seatbelt, stood up and moved into the middle seat,

letting the fat woman sit in the outside seat he had just vacated.

        Otis looked at the pair and felt angry. He wondered if it was the injury to his face that

put her off sitting beside him, or maybe it due to the fact that he was black.

        ―Becca says she wants the aisle seat due to the fact she goes to the powder room a

lot,‖ Marvin whispered to Otis apologetically, and Otis felt that Marvin was already talking

as if the woman were his best and only goddamn friend in the world, even though he had only

known her for just about ten fucking seconds. Otis was getting annoyed and almost looking

for the puke bag, and now he had decided to ignore the guy.

        Marvin had started to speak again but Otis blocked him off. ―Look, I‘m sorry fella,‖

he said, ―But I‘m tired, and I just feel like being left alone for a while.‖

        Marvin looked hurt, and he turned slowly away without saying a word.

        ―How dare you be rude to that man, apologise right now,‖ Otis heard Sarah‘s voice in

his head say, and of course she was right. His problems were not other people‘s problems,

and after all, wasn‘t he the one who complained to Sarah about how people where less kind to

each other these days. So the man was overly friendly, beats being a damn heel, he thought.

        ―I‘m sorry,‖ Otis almost whispered to Marvin, ―I‘m kinda under pressure.‖

        ―That‘s all right,‖ Marvin answered, but Otis knew that the man had been hurt by his

stupid remarks and wouldn‘t talk to him again, and now he felt bad for talking to him that

way.

        It stayed like this for most of the flight, with Otis staring out of the window, until he

became tired and he laid his head on the small pillow allocated to him earlier, which he

propped against the edge of the interior of the aircraft and the seat.
                                                                                               185



                                       *   *    *   *    *



       It was an uncomfortable experience, but the sleep that followed was most welcoming.

Otis hadn‘t dreamt like this in a long time.

       This dream was so real that he did not feel he was dreaming. In the dream, Otis

journeyed way back to when he had just been released from hospital, and Sarah and he were

walking around arm in arm in the busy park. Sarah was hugging him, and telling him how

happy she was. ―Not as happy as I am,‖ Otis answered back, and they kissed passionately.

       Otis walked back to their car and collected the picnic basket from the trunk. They

strolled to a clearing and sat down on the newly cut grass. The sun‘s rays shone through the

trees at the edge of the park, sending down little spiralling beams of light all around, and

although Otis had lost his sense of smell, in the dream he could smell the freshly cut grass all

around them, and it made him feel good.

       Sarah opened the basket, removing the freshly made sandwiches and transferred them

out onto the paper plates, while Otis opened the bottle of golden seal orange juice.

       ―I‘ll pour,‖ he said.

       ―Okay, then I‘ll serve,‖ Sarah answered.

       ―I‘ve got a big surprise for you,‖ she said. Sarah then called out to a lady with a pram

who was standing about twenty feet away from them and who was watching them rather

intently Otis noticed. The lady came over to them smiling and when she licked her lips

seductively at him, he felt uneasy. She removed the small baby from inside the pram and

handed it to Sarah. ―Meet your son Otis, our baby,‖ Sarah stated, enthusiastically.

       ―What is this Sarah? You can‘t have children,‖ Otis replied.

       ―Yes Otis, I can. I had the baby when you were in the hospital and I kept it a secret

until now. Isn‘t it just wonderful?‖
                                                                                               186



       Otis picked the baby up and stared, smiling in amazement and wondered how Sarah

could have kept this from him, and only God would know the reason she would have wanted

to, he thought. Because as far as Otis was concerned, it would have been the best medicine he

could ever have received, as he lay in goddamn agony those last few months in the hospital.

Perhaps Sarah felt he just wasn‘t ready for it, he believed, or perhaps she thought he was

wallowing too much in his own self pity and had no time for their baby.

       Anyway, the baby was here now and that‘s all that mattered, the baby Sarah had

craved for, and a baby they would love and cherish forever. ―Smile for daddy,‖ Sarah said,

and the baby turned its eyes sharply toward her, eyeballs turning in unison, head unmoving,

and Otis pushed the baby away to arms length. Something was wrong here. A fear rushed

through him now as he stared at the baby‘s unnatural behaviour, even though Sarah didn‘t

seem to notice it. The way the baby was looking at its mother. Why it was looking at her like

some sort of goddamn adult, he thought, as Sarah‘s voice broke in again.

       ―Smile for daddy,‖ she softly repeated, and this time the baby responded by

grotesquely moving its lips far up each side of its face, like two great worms, until they met

with its eye sockets. Then the baby pulled at Otis‘s arms with amazing strength as it fought to

get close to him.

       ―Jesus Christ,‖ Otis cried loudly as Sarah spoke again.

       ―Kiss daddy,‖ she said quickly, her voice no longer soft, but hard and deep, and

immediately the baby opened its enormous, shark-like mouth; revealing row upon row of

black, pointed, decaying teeth.

       Suddenly a large, green tongue protruded out from between the rotting teeth, and it

licked at Otis‘s face, sticky and wet. Otis threw the baby out of his arms with difficulty and as

it fell onto the grass with a thud he stumbled back, horrified. Otis watched in terror as it

crawled off, a high pitched scream emulating from its mouth, as Sarah yelled at him.
                                                                                              187



       ―You bastard!‖ she shouted, her voice changing. Now she was sounding just like

Goofy. ―This was my surprise, my fucking surprise,‖ she shouted. Suddenly Goofy was

cussing and swearing at him. But there was something different about the Disney character‘s

voice. Almost the same voice as Goofy, but not quite. Marvin, this was Marvin‘s voice, not

Goofy‘s, not Sarah‘s.

       ―Surprise, it‘s a surprise,‖ Otis heard Marvin shout to him, and he felt Marvin elbow

him hard in the side. ―Surprise for you,‖ Marvin shouted again, and Otis felt as though his

ribs had been broken.

       In reflex, Otis, now out of the dream, flicked his seatbelt open, jumped up and swung

around, confronting Marvin. ―What do you think you‘re fucking doing?‖ Otis raged at

Marvin as he raised his fist, ready to strike. Marvin stayed absolutely rigid, eyes front, and

did not respond.

       Even the fat woman sat and stared in front without flinching, and then Otis heard the

cries. Women and children were whimpering and crying in front and behind him as a man‘s

voice quickly recited the Lord‘s Prayer. Marvin turned to face Otis, his face no longer

friendly, but dark and twisted. White foam ran from between his lips and Otis thought back to

when as a young officer. He and some fellow cops had cornered a small rabid dog, which was

snarling and snapping at everyone. The canine had to be shot five times before it would go

down, biting two officers in the process. Now he felt as though he was looking at that mad

dog, and he backed up to the window, as far as he could.

       ―Where‘s fucking Sarah,‖ Marvin shouted at Otis, the high pitched voice now gone,

replaced by a deep growl. Marvin then raised his arm and pointed forward and Otis

instinctively looked around.

       ―Dear God,‖ he groaned, as he now understood what was frightening these people.

Otis, from where he was positioned couldn‘t see the hooded figure levitate off the floor,
                                                                                              188



which made it look even taller, as it almost touched the ceiling of the fuselage, but he felt the

beads of sweat run down his forehead and his heart pounding in his chest as he fumbled for

the old Indian‘s piece of paper.

       Then in a flash it was down the aisle and upon him, leaning across Marvin and the fat

woman. As it stared into Otis‘s face, its obscene mouth began opening and closing, but it said

nothing. Otis fumbled with the piece of crumpled paper as he tried to straighten it out, but as

he pulled his reading glasses from their case he clumsily dropped them down onto the floor of

the aircraft. ―Damn it,‖ he said aloud.

       Peter had written the words in large letters though, and when he looked at the sheet,

he found he could read them.

       ―Wakinyan Wakatanka Hunka Topaki Ni,‖ Otis had started to read when the demon

wailed so loud into his face that he couldn‘t hear himself talk. He had heard this sound

before, and he remembered back to Ireland and the sound of the car screeching and skidding

across his bedroom on the night he had found Sarah laying on the floor. It flung its long bony

arm at him, but he quickly threw his head back and it only managed to lightly cut his cheek.

The awesome power and momentum of the beast‘s sweeping motion though, sent its hand

powerfully and speedily into Marvin‘s face with a bang, and Otis watched in terror as a large

lump of what used to be Marvin‘s jaw flew across the aisle. Marvin‘s limp body fell on top of

the screaming fat woman, covering her in his blood as it pumped profusely from what was

left of his mouth. Otis remembered the old medicine man‘s words: ―You must give her the

hug of the bear.‖ The old medicine man had shown him this. But how could he do it? There

was just no room for the manoeuvre here.

       Otis was struggling to fight his way out of the seat, but Marvin and the fat woman

weren‘t for budging, and Otis yelled at the woman to move. The captain had left the cockpit

now and came running down the aisle, and as he placed his hand on the beast‘s hood, he
                                                                                                189



pulled on it and the hood fell down the creature‘s back. He stepped back in horror, the blood

rapidly draining from his face as he stared at the nightmare in front of him, and it slowly

turned around to face him.

       Otis thought the captain had fainted at first when he fell to the floor, but as the

creature slowly raised its long arm, it had hold of the captain‘s head, bloodied and torn,

which it then flung viciously over its shoulder, sending it bouncing into the midst of some

screaming passengers. Its head was as hideous as its grey face. The creature had long narrow

eyes and a twisted mouth. It was mainly bald, but with large clumps of hair that seemed to

have grown out at odd angles, and in some places it reached down around the beast‘s waist.

       Otis was still chanting the old Indian‘s words at the beast as it moved toward him. Its

long and spindly fingers were about to touch his face, when he felt a gentle shake. As he

opened his eyes, Marvin and the fat women, as well as the passengers in the row in front of

him, were all staring around at him.

       ―Are you all right friend?‖ Marvin asked softly, ―You seemed to be having a real bad

dream there, well, going by the sound of it that is, you were kinda talking funny, well

shouting and...‖

       ―Talking like an Indian, sort of chanting,‖ interrupted the fat woman.

       Otis pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped away the sweat that had

saturated his brow. His seat belt was still firmly in place and he knew it had all been a bad

dream. He watched Marvin stand up, remove a small Bible from his pocket, unzip his

cardigan and fold it neatly onto his lap, placing the Bible on top. Otis stared for a moment at

Marvin‘s black shirt and snow white collar, and he felt deeply ashamed, but somehow

comforted. ―I‘m real sorry Father,‖ he said to Marvin, as the priest smiled back at him, and

the captain announced they were beginning their decent.
                                                                                            190




                                        CHAPTER 22



       Rose was sitting quietly in the chair when James entered. ―What‘s going on here

Rose?‖ James asked with almost a whisper. ―I‘ve been up to see Kate, she‘s not sick, and

Seamus says you haven‘t been up there in over three weeks,‖ he exaggerated. Rose stared at

the floor, unflinching.

       The game was up, she knew, and now it had to come to this. No more lying, no more

deceit or hiding, she thought. James may kill her now, she knew. But anything was better

than living like this. ―Please tell me what is going on Rose?‖

       Rose stared at the floor for a full minute before answering him. ―I‘m sorry James, but

it just happened,‖ she stammered nervously.

       ―Happened, what happened?‖ James asked, confused.

       ―I, I‘ve met someone, James,‖ she answered, sobbing. Rose could not believe her own

words; but she had said it, finally, and now to hell with the consequences. There was simply

no other way. If Frank and she were to be together, then she would have to leave James

immediately, and hope that Frank would come to his senses and see reason.

       She knew that there was also a good chance that James would kill Frank, kill them

both perhaps, but this was a chance she would have to take; besides, without Frank, life

wouldn‘t be worth living anyway.

       Rose no longer had feelings for James, not in any sexual or romantic way, but she had

not wanted to hurt him like this either, even though he had not been so good to her in the past.

But she had thought about this, and she knew it had to come to a conclusion sometime. James
                                                                                             191



collapsed into the chair and put his hands to his head.

       ―Who is he?‖ he groaned.

       After a moment‘s silence, she spoke.

       ―It‘s, it‘s, Frank Quinn,‖ she sobbed.

       James sat upright in the chair and stared hard at Rose. ―Frank Quinn! You mean

Father Frank Quinn, the priest?‖ He asked; now feeling more confused. ―This must be some

kind of sick joke Ro…‖

       ―No!‖ Rose shouted. ―It‘s no sick joke. It‘s as real a love that could ever happen

between two people.‖

       ―You are having an affair with a fucking priest?‖ James asked again.

       ―Yes,‖ she sobbed.

       ―Have you been sleeping together?‖ he asked in an almost whisper, praying that she

would say no.

       ―Yes, but it‘s not what you think,‖ she whispered.

       ―Not what I think?‖ he cried. ―What am I supposed to fucking think?‖ James asked

loudly. ―How long has this been going on?‖ he asked again, as he shook his head nervously

from side to side; unable to believe this confession that was unfolding in front of him.

       ―More than five months,‖ she sobbed.

       ―Do you love him?‖ he asked softly, tears rolling down his cheeks.

       ―Yes, more than anything, and Frank loves me,‖ she answered, as she tried to justify

it. ―I‘m sorry James,‖ she said, ―I, we didn‘t mean for anyone to get hurt,‖ Rose corrected, ―It

just happened.

       ―It just happened,‖ James echoed. ―You know Rose,‖ he said, his face a twisted mask.

―The tide comes in every day, and the tide goes out. The sun rises in the morning and the sun

sets at night,‖ he said, making Rose feel frightened. ―Those things, they happen Rose,‖ he
                                                                                                 192



said. Those things are meant to happen, because those things are nature, God‘s nature. But

what you have done here, these things just don‘t happen Rose. They are made to happen, by

lustful people who want them to happen, and this goes against God and his nature. And

maybe he can forgive you for it Rose, because I can‘t,‖ he said. ―I can‘t ever.‖



                                        *   *    *   *    *



         James hadn‘t reacted the way she had thought he would, and this surprised her. She

had expected him to go berserk and strike her, maybe break up some furniture, but he simply

stood up from the chair, picked up his coat and walked out to the rear of the house. Rose

didn‘t see him enter the shed and pull an old wheelbarrow to one side, lift a large metal box

from the corner, and set it on the small workbench. It had been a long time since he had

opened it; three years ago in fact, but it seemed just like yesterday. He stared hard at it for a

moment, and then he quickly reached up and ran his fingers along the top shelf of an old

wooden cabinet, ignoring the cobwebs, until he felt the keys, unmoved since he had left them

there.

         As he tried to unlock the bench drawer his hand shook uncontrollably and he had to

take a couple of deep breaths before he proceeded.

         Inside the drawer a red cardboard box stared out at him and James tore at it until it

was almost unrecognisable as a box. He removed a handful of shells that had scattered across

the drawer and stuffed them into his pockets, spilling some of the shells down across the shed

floor. On opening the large metal box, he removed the long object and slowly unwound the

wrapping, pausing only for a moment as the smell of gun oil filled his nostrils. He cracked

open the barrels and quickly loaded two of the shells into the breach, then placed the gun

inside his coat and walked out through the back gate, stopping for a moment to look back
                                                                                              193



sadly at the house that he would now never find true happiness in. Wiping the tears from his

eyes, he threw up over the ground, and then hurriedly and with menace, walked quickly

away.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



        Otis boarded the small plane at Heathrow for his short flight back to Ireland and

Sarah. There was no way he was going to even rest his head or shut his eyes for a moment

during this flight. He remembered the old medicine man‘s note concealed in his pocket and

he removed it, stared at it for a moment, and then decided to memorise the words, just in case

he thought.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



        ―C-can I have a word with you, Sarah?‖ Father Quinn stuttered, as he stood outside

her door and lightly knocked.

        Sarah had calmed down by now, but she didn‘t really want to talk with the priest. She

had been brought into something here that she didn‘t care to be involved in, and rightly or

wrongly, she thought, the blame lay squarely on the priest‟s shoulders, and only his. God

knows she was having enough problems of her own without creating any more, but it wasn‘t

up to her to judge, she felt and she had to admit to herself that the priest had been very kind to

her since she arrived at the church.

        She decided she would listen to him. At least she believed she owed him that much.

She opened the door slowly and stepped out into the corridor. ―Over there,‖ she said, unable

to conceal her disappointment in all this, as she pointed to a small table with two chairs. She
                                                                                              194



wished Otis where here to talk to this priest, in fact she wished Otis where here to talk to her,

because the last time they had been apart was all those many years ago, when Otis had been

shot with the flare gun and was hospitalised for a couple of months, but even then Sarah had

never missed one single visit to him and well, now she missed his strength and that certain

kind of wisdom that he possessed. She yearned for him. Anyway, he had to go to America,

this was something only Otis could do, she believed, as she sat down.

       ―I don‘t know where to start with this,‖ said Father Quinn, as he squeezed his hands

together to stop them shaking.

       ―Well, my grandmother used to say it‘s always good to start at the beginning,‖ Sarah

answered.

       ―Yes, well, ok then,‖ he began, nervously. ―About a year ago Rose came to speak to

me about her marriage, and the problems she was having with her husband, James. I tried to

advise her as best I could, but things for her just seemed to get worse by the day. We would

walk in the park and talk for hours, and soon I noticed that she no longer wanted to talk about

her husband anymore, not in any friendly or loving sense that is.

       ―Then Rose told me one day that she thought she was in love with me. I tried not to

see her again, but I realised that I too, was having feelings, wrong feelings I know, but strong

feelings toward her as well. I prayed for strength but it was no good, I was like some insane

wretch concerning Rose, a Devil‘s disciple who just couldn‘t control himself. Well, it all just

happened, started about five or six months ago,‖

       ―Why did you finally break it off then?‖ Sarah replied, suspiciously.

       ―I finally couldn‘t live with my guilt any more. Besides, James‘s friend Mick found

out, as someone was bound to, and this brought me back to my senses. I knew then it had to

end,‖ said Father Quinn softly, his voice full of remorse.

       ―In any event, Father Doran is going to put in a report to the church about the incident
                                                                                                195



between you and Rose, so I know I‘m going to be defrocked very soon, which is no less than

I deserve. Anyway, I am going to go and visit James — try and explain to him, and pray that

he‘ll forgive me, not that I deserve that either. Then I intend to move very far away from

Cappawhite.‖

        Sarah could understand why this woman had fallen for the priest, with his boyish

good looks, and his smooth, relaxing voice, but he had a higher calling and should have

known better from the start, before things got out of control. However, apart from that, he

was a great and understanding priest, and Sarah was sorry that Father Doran, a man who

couldn‘t lace Father Quinn‘s boots, was going to have him thrown out of the priesthood.

        ―Anyway, I‘m so very sorry that you were put through this,‖ he said to Sarah. ―You

didn‘t deserve to be attacked by Rose like that.‖

        ―Not to worry Father,‖ she said. ―Truth be told, we all have our secrets, none of us are

perfect. It‘s just like the Bible says, ‗first stone‘ and all that,‖ she said smiling. ―Don‘t worry,

things will turn out all right in the end,‖ she added. ―Although it may not be such a great idea

to go and confess to the woman‘s husband,‖ she added, with a wicked smile on her face.

        They held hands for a few seconds, which made him feel happy, and for a moment he

felt almost vindicated by her kindness.

        ―Thank you Sarah, thank you so very much.‖

        Sarah noticed his hands had stopped shaking and he looked as though a massive

weight had been removed from his shoulders.

        ―I‘ll just go to the kitchen and make us a nice cup of tea,‖ said Sarah.

        Father Quinn jumped up from the seat first and waved his hand at Sarah as he ran

toward the kitchen, beating her to it.

        ―No, this cup of tea will be my treat,‖ he shouted, and disappeared quickly through

the door.
196
                                                                                               197




                                          CHAPTER 23



       Old Mick rapped on the door, and in a few seconds Rose answered it, and he noticed

she had been crying. ―Would your husband be at home?‖ Mick asked.

       Rose didn‘t like Mick. As far as she was concerned he was a drunken layabout and a

waste of humanity.

       He was also what she believed to be the exact model of what her husband would be

like in the not too distant future, but she tried to be civil to him. ―He‘s out back,‖ was all she

said. She held the door open for him to enter, but she kept her head bowed and avoided eye

contact with him.

       Old Mick walked quickly through the spotlessly clean house and out to the back

garden. The back gate hung open, as did the garden shed door, and Mick cautiously

approached the shed first.

       On the table sat the empty shotgun box with the loose wrappings all around it, and

when he looked into the drawer which was left open, he saw the shotgun shells scattered

around inside it and also shells on the floor, and he froze.

       ―Rose,‖ he called loudly, ―Rose, come quickly,‖ he repeated.

       Rose came running out of the house to the shed. ―It‘s James,‖ he barked loudly, and

Rose was alarmed at the panic in his voice.

       ―He‘s gone, and his shotgun, he‘s taken it.‖ Rose looked at the empty shotgun box on

the table, and recoiled in horror. She had forgotten about James owning a shotgun. ―What

have you said to him?‖ Mick shouted loudly into her face, as the woman, realising what
                                                                                             198



James may be going to do, started to turn hysterical.

        ―Calm down woman,‖ old Mick said. ―Have you told James of this affair you‘ve been

having with Father Quinn?‖ Mick asked angrily.

        Rose stared at old Mick for a moment. She didn‘t take kindly to him talking to her

like this; as if she was a loose woman, and she hated him even more now.

        ―Have you told James about the priest?‖ Mick asked her again, loudly, as he held her

arms and gave her a hard shake.

        Rose pushed Mick‘s hands off her and walked away from him, stopped and turned

around to look at him, before nodding in the affirmative, and Mick threw his hands up to his

head.

        ―Jesus Christ, woman,‖ he shouted. ―What the hell have you bloody done?‖

        Old Mick ran out of the house, and Rose followed him. ―The church,‖ he shouted.

―And just pray that we‘re not too late.‖



                                       *   *    *   *    *



        James was striding purposefully toward the church now, but stopped and threw up

again. His stomach heaved as he thought about Rose and the priest being intimate together.

He knew Rose had not loved him the way she should have done for a long time now, but he

felt things were getting better this last year or so between them.

        He admitted to himself that he had not been good to Rose in the past either, had taken

her for granted, drinking too much and being disrespectful toward her. But that was all water

under the bridge as far as he was concerned. He had changed now, and he believed that given

time Rose would have grown to love him again. Lately, Rose had, on rare occasions; been

kind toward him, but now he knew that this was only because of the guilt she was hiding.
                                                                                              199



        Well, she was his wife, and a wife whom he still loved, more now he thought than

ever before, and this man, this evil bastard that she had let into her life, and who had stolen

her from him, had warped her mind with his fancy smooth talk, slept with her, ruined her.

This bastard would pay, he thought.

        He looked up to the heavens for a moment. ―Why dear God, did you let this happen to

me? Why?‖ James asked softly, before stopping to be sick again. Then he gave an odd sort

sickly smile, pulled the gun tightly up inside his coat, and marched quickly on.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



        Otis stepped in to his old hired Ford Consul and spoke to the car as though it was

some old faithful dog that had sat patiently waiting for him at the airport. ―Hello old gal,‖ he

said.

        It would take him at least an hour to get from Shannon airport to the church, he

reckoned and he hurriedly fumbled with the ignition key. ―Now don‘t you let me down

woman,‖ he warned as he turned the key. After a few turns the engine sprang into life, and

then he was off down the small winding country roads, at times squinting to see through the

rain splattered windscreen, as he pressed hard on the accelerator.

        He could feel himself getting tired now, and he wound the window down slightly,

letting the cold air and rain blow in around him, he would sleep later. Much later.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



        Inside the church, Sarah was about to get up from the chair when she heard the man‘s

raised voice. ―Where‘s the bloody priest?‖ the loud voice demanded. ―Get him now,‖ Sarah
                                                                                            200



opened the outer hallway door and recognised James from the pub; from the night he had told

the story of his grandfather. Sister Bridget was pleading with him to leave the church as he

continued to give her abuse. ―Get me the fucking priest now,‖ James snarled at the frightened

nun.

       Sarah approached him quickly. He had found out about Rose, she guessed, and he was

very angry. No, not angry, more than angry she thought, demented, the man was demented,

and she also felt afraid. ―Hello, James, can I help you?‖ Sarah asked softly, trying to calm the

raging man down.

       ―No one can help me now, Sarah, now get me the priest,‖ he ordered loudly. ―I mean

it Sarah. Don‘t bloody mess with me.‖

       ―Which priest do you require?‖ Sarah asked nervously, trying to play for time.

       ―Quinn!‖ James answered, unable to hide the venom in his voice.

       ―Quinn,‖ he barked. ―Quinn…‖

       ―Father Quinn has gone into Tipperary town to visit with Father Graham. He left

about an hour ago, and won‘t be back again until tomorrow,‖ Sarah lied. This, she believed

would buy her some time until she could summon the police.

       James, believing her, turned around quickly, and was just about to leave when the

kitchen door opened, and Father Quinn appeared with a huge tray that had three large cups of

tea and some biscuits on it.

       ―Where‘s Bridget,‖ Father Quinn shouted, ―I‘ve made her some te...‖ Suddenly Father

Quinn spotted James and stopped dead in his tracks. ―Hello James,‖ he said softly.

       James responded by pulling the shotgun from beneath his coat as he looked at Sarah

with disgust. ―Liar,‖ he shouted at Sarah, before confronting the frightened priest. ―My wife

says she loves you, you bastard.‖ Now how do you account for that?‖ James asked, tears

streaming down his face as he aimed the shotgun at the priest.
                                                                                            201



        Father Quinn slowly approached James. ―Please let me talk to you about this,‖ he

said, but James responded by clubbing him with the shotgun butt, sending the tray with the

tea and biscuits crashing down to the floor, and burning Father Quinn‘s hands as the hot tea

splashed onto them.

        Father Quinn remained standing though, but his body swayed and his head was very

badly cut, sending a stream of blood down across his face and onto his shirt.

        ―Leave him alone,‖ Sarah screamed.

        ―Keep out of this Sarah, I‘m warning you, this is not your concern,‖ James bellowed

at her as he cocked both barrels of the old shotgun. But Sarah was angry now, and she ran for

him and tried to wrench the gun away. He was too strong for her though, but as he violently

pushed her off, she clawed at his face, leaving three deep bloody welts, which made him even

angrier.

        ―Bloody bitch,‖ he shouted, as he winced in pain.

        Sarah was really afraid now, as her mind wandered back to all those years ago when

she was shot at JJ‘s, the guy calling her a bitch then too. Sarah had almost died then and she

wondered if this situation was going to end up the same way, or maybe this crazy guy could

be reasoned with. No matter what the outcome, she knew she would die if need be to help

save this priest, afraid or not.

        ―Put the gun down,‖ Sarah spat, as she bravely walked in front of Father Quinn. ―We

can talk about this,‖

        ―Talk about his fucking funeral,‖ scowled James as he pushed the shotgun toward

them. ―Tell me what your feelings are for my whore of a wife,‖ James shouted at the priest.

        ―We have ended it James, it‘s over now, and I‘m truly sorry,‖ Father Quinn said

softly, with no show of fear in his voice, but aware of his trembling legs.

        ―You ended it alright, you ended my bloody marriage and my life,‖ James yelled.
                                                                                              202



―Now I‘m going to ask you once more,‖ he said, as he pointed the gun menacingly, waving it

from side to side. ―What are your feelings for my whore of a wife?‖

       James didn‘t see old Mick and Rose enter the church and stand behind him, and old

Mick was about to speak, but the priest beat him to it.

       ―I cannot lie to you James. I love Rose very deeply,‖ he said as he looked lovingly

across the room toward her. He knew now that he always had, from the first day he had met

her, but his faith and calling had made him fight it. Now though, she would know the truth.

Father Quinn had no doubt that James would shoot him, and perhaps this would be the only

way out of this predicament for them all, but he would not deny Rose, and he would not stand

and listen to James call the woman he loved a whore, even if he was her husband.

       ―I am sorry that I betrayed you James, but I have loved Rose from the first moment

we met. You were an animal to her James, and perhaps if you had treated her better maybe

she would have loved you in return, but you didn‘t James, you didn‘t,‖ he said defiantly.

―However, I have put an end to the affair, and I‘m leaving Cappawhite. So perhaps now you

can work through your differences together,‖ the priest said, as he held his bleeding head.

       ―Do you still love the whore?‖ James snarled.

       Father Quinn looked across at Rose, and his heart sank as their eyes met.‖

       ―Yes, I still love you, my beautiful Rose,‖ he said.

       ―Then love her when you‘re fucking burning in Hell,‖ James roared as he fired one

barrel of the shotgun.

       Sarah had been in front of Father Quinn before he fired the shot, but Father Quinn had

moved slightly to her right, as he pushed her away with his left hand. He would not let her

use herself as his shield for him. The blast of the shotgun however, had been too quick for

him, and tore into Sarah‘s side before blowing a hole in the priest‘s stomach, and the two fell

to the floor. Rose fainted as old Mick ran forward, just as James was putting the shotgun to
                                                                                              203



his mouth, and dived on him. The second blast almost deafened old Mick, but he had done

enough, as the pellets blasted harmlessly into the ceiling, sending down a hail of plaster.

        Mick was amazed at how easily he wrenched the shotgun away from James, who now

looked stunned, but he wasted no time and quickly ran outside the church, throwing the

shotgun over a small hedge, into a field, before running back inside.

        James was leaning on a pillar now, his head in his hands, crying loudly, while Rose,

who had started to come round, scrambled to her feet and ran to comfort the dying priest. A

pool of blood was forming on the floor around them, and as Sarah clutched at her side, Rose

kissed at the dying priest‘s head, begging him not to die. But he was fading fast.

        ―Mother of God, what have I done?‖ James cried, as his normal senses returned to

him, and he looked down at the badly injured pair.

        James staggered clumsily out into the outer hall, lifted the telephone and through his

tears, dialled the police station.



                                      *    *   *     *   *



        Inside the police station Sergeant Woods was sitting at his desk, enjoying the relaxing

solitude of the quiet surroundings, when Constable O‘Shea came marching in. ―Did you

make out that report yet, O‘Shea?‖

        Donald was about to answer when the station phone rang, breaking the peaceful

silence as it filled the room with its incessant clanging, and Sergeant Woods paused for a

moment before answering.

        ―This is James Flanagan,‖ the voice at the other end shouted, ―I‘ve shot someone!

Please send help quickly.‖

        ―Calm yourself man,‖ Sergeant Woods replied, ―and tell me where you are.‖
                                                                                             204



       ―I‘m at the church and, oh God, I didn‘t mean to shoot the woman, please send an

ambulance, and hurry,‖ he screamed down the phone.

       ―Which woman did you shoot?‖ Sergeant Woods questioned, thinking this was some

kind of hoax call.

       ―I‘ve shot the priest and Sarah. Send someone, quickly,‖ he cried, as he slammed the

receiver down.

       ―Jesus Christ,‖ the sergeant barked as he pointed to Constable O‘Shea, and

immediately dialled for an ambulance. Nothing like this has ever happened here in the village

before, he thought, and now in the last few weeks, it had been bloody pandemonium.

       James stumbled back inside, as old Mick was trying to help Sarah.

       ―The ambulance is coming,‖ he shouted, tears rolling down his face. Father Quinn had

said nothing since he had been shot, but lay silent, knowing that death was close at hand.

       As Rose wiped his brow he suddenly pulled himself up onto her shoulder. ―James,‖ he

called past her. ―James,‖ he weakly called again to the distraught man.

       James slowly staggered over to him, and saw that he was dying. ―Forgive me Father,‖

he begged, tears running down his cheeks, as Rose punched at him several times, hitting him

in the chest and arms.

       Father Quinn motioned with his hand for her to stop, and for James to come closer to

him, and James knelt down in the priest‘s blood. ―You must not let the ambulance take Sarah

away,‖ groaned Father Quinn. ―If she leaves the safety of this church, the beast will get her,‖

he choked.

       ―I won‘t Father,‖ James promised.

       ―Will you forgive me Father?‖ he begged.

       ―Yes, but it‘s me who should be asking for your forgiveness, James.‖ Father Quinn

coughed again, as his life‘s blood ebbed away, and he took one last look at Rose, smiled at
                                                                                              205



her, then he was no more.

       James looked down at Rose who was crying loudly, as she kissed and hugged the

dead priest, and he knew in that instant, that even in the early days of their sham of a

marriage, she had never actually really loved him at all, and he crawled away, through the

blood, sobbing.

       In the distance they could hear the sirens, and old Mick pulled the distraught James to

one side. ―It‘s the police James,‖ he said. ―Run James, before they catch you, run for your

bloody life.‖

       ―No,‖ James sobbed. ―You heard the priest. If Sarah leaves this church, she‘s a dead

woman, and I‘ve got to make sure she stays here.‖

       Sergeant Woods was the first policeman to enter the church, and he ran inside with

revolver in hand. On seeing him enter, Sister Bridget, screamed.

       ―Quiet Sister,‖ he shouted, as Constable O‘Shea followed closely behind him.

Inspector Mooney and Sergeant Cummings had been alerted, as had an ambulance, and they

would all be here soon.

       ―Oh dear God,‖ muttered Constable O‘Shea when he saw the dead priest sprawled out

on the cold tiles, in his own pool of blood.

       ―You, on the floor, now,‖ Sergeant Woods screamed at James, as he menacingly

pointed his revolver at him. ―Don‘t make me bloody use this.‖

       James lay on the floor as Constable O‘Shea performed first aid on Sarah, stemming

the flow of blood.

       ―This woman needs an ambulance, now,‖ he shouted to the Sergeant.

       ―No!‖ James yelled from across the floor. ―You can‘t let Sarah leave the church.‖

       ―Keep quiet you,‖ ordered Sergeant Woods, ―I think you‘ve done enough damage for

one day.‖
                                                                                              206



       ―He‘s right, you can‘t let Sarah leave the church, it‘ll get her for sure,‖ old Mick

proclaimed, just as Inspector Mooney came charging in through the doorway, followed by

Sergeant Cummings, who in turn was followed by young Constable McCann.

       ―You again,‖ Inspector Mooney bellowed at old Mick. ―Trouble just bloody seems to

follow you,‖ he growled.

       ―I didn‘t do anything,‖ pleaded Mick. ―I was only trying to stop James,‖ he cried.

―Arrest them both,‖ ordered the inspector, and Mick immediately protested his innocence.

       Sergeant Woods, revolver in hand, accompanied by the two Constables, forced James

and Mick into the police car, as the ambulance sped into the church grounds, bells ringing as

it screeched to a halt. ―Inside,‖ shouted Sergeant Woods, pointing, and the two ambulance

crewmen ran inside with the stretcher.

       Within two minutes the ambulance with Sarah inside was speeding out through the

gates. The warning bells once again broke the peaceful quiet of the church grounds, and Mick

and James could only watch from out of the police car window, helpless in their confinement.
                                                                                                 207




                                          CHAPTER 24



        Otis didn‘t know how he was going to tell Sarah about his trip to America being a

failure, (and a failure it was.) This demon could not be destroyed; therefore Sarah could never

leave the church. This meant that as he was not allowed to live there with his wife, they

would not have a proper marriage in any real sense of the word. No! They would just have to

bend the goddamn rules, he thought. The windscreen wipers would only work on slow speed

and Otis cursed them as he tried to keep his only eye focused on the wet road ahead, as he

sped through the worsening rain.

        As he passed the sign for Cappawhite, he felt good in the knowledge that he and

Sarah would soon be reunited, and he smiled as he pressed harder on the gas.

        He was nearing the town when suddenly his heart skipped a beat, as the ambulance

speeding toward him on the bend with the bells clanging and it almost rammed him. He lost

control of the car as it skidded to the left and to the right before hitting a large rock at the side

of the road, almost shearing the passenger wheel off.

        ―Goddamn road hog,‖ Otis shouted, as he got out and surveyed the damage.

        This car‟s going nowhere, he thought, as he looked at the mangled tyre and the split

wheel hub.

        Still, the church was only about a half mile away from here, he reckoned.

        Otis threw his bag over his shoulder and marched speedily along the rain-soaked road,

almost breaking into a trot.

        He would phone the car rental later, and have them send someone pick up the wreck
                                                                                             208



tomorrow.



                                       *    *   *    *   *



         ―He‘s dead,‖ said Inspector Mooney as he stood up from the floor.

         ―It was my husband who done this, James Flanagan,‖ Rose cried, as she continued to

caress and kiss the priest‘s head. Frank loved me after all, she thought to herself. He had told

her so in front of everyone, and now she would love his child, this child now growing inside

her. She would love it as much as she had loved him. This child that she had yet to tell Frank

about, afraid of his reaction, but she knew in her heart that God would tell him as he led him

into his kingdom and this gave her some comfort. This would give her something to live for;

she thought, as Sister Bridget helped her up from the floor, trembling, and led her over to the

small table.

         Otis was panting for breath now as he hurried up the hill to the church, but he could

see the church spire clearly and it spurred him on. Turning the corner he froze with shock as

he saw the two police cars. ―No!‖ Otis screamed as he dropped the bag and charged into the

church, ignoring the two policemen standing by the cars. ―Sarah,‖ he yelled, as the inspector

confronted him.

         ―Who are you?‖ asked Inspector Mooney.

         ―Where‘s my wife?‖ Otis shouted, ignoring him, as he looked at the dead priest on the

floor.

         ―Sarah‘s been in an accident,‖ said Sergeant Cummings.

         ―What sort of an accident?‖ Otis choked, hardly able to believe what was going on.

         ―She‘s been shot, son,‖ said the sergeant, ―They‘ve taken her to...‖

         ―The ambulance, I saw it,‖ cried Otis, breaking him off in mid sentence. ―But she
                                                                                             209



can‘t leave the church,‖ he stated. Otis was about to run from the church when Inspector

Mooney stood in front of him.

        ―Where do you think your going?‖ he said loudly.

        ―To save my wife,‖ answered Otis as the inspector grabbed him firmly by the arm.

        ―Take this man to the station,‖ he ordered Sergeant Cummings. ―We can sort all this

out down there,‖ he added.

        Otis pulled free from the inspectors grip as the sergeant pulled out his revolver, he had

no time to lose now, every second would count if he was to save Sarah, and going to the

police station was just not part of the plan, he knew.

        Otis spun around and punched Sergeant Cummings full on the chin, sending the man

plummeting to the floor, his revolver clattering on the tiles as it dropped from his hand. The

inspector kicked out fiercely at Otis, but Otis was too quick for him and wrenched his leg

from under him, sending him sprawling on to the top of the dead priest, and into his

thickening blood. Otis picked up the sergeant‘s revolver and ran outside. The two unarmed

Constables raised their arms in unison, as Otis ran out from the church and brandished the

weapon at them. Sergeant Woods opened his holster and was about to draw his revolver,

when Otis spotted him.

        ―Don‘t even think about it,‖ shouted Otis to the sergeant, as he aimed the gun

menacingly at him. ―Throw it over the hedge,‖ he ordered, and Sergeant Woods quickly

complied.

        This bloody mad Yank meant business, Woods thought, as he threw his revolver away.

        ―Drive to the hospital, now,‖ he shouted at the young Constable McCann who was

paralysed with fear. ―I, I can‘t dri, drive sir,‖ he stuttered.

        ―You, quickly,‖ he shouted to Constable O‘Shea, who jumped into the driver‘s seat as

Otis entered the other side, slamming the door hard as the car sped off.
                                                                                            210




                                     *    *   *    *   *



       Inside the church Inspector Mooney was having great difficulty getting Sergeant

Cummings up from the floor. The blow had almost knocked him unconscious, and he fought

to stand on his feet. Soon though, the band of policemen were chasing after them.

       As Otis looked around he was shocked to see James and Mick sitting in the back seat

of the police car. ―What are you two guys doing here?‖ he asked in astonishment.

       Mick looked at the revolver in Otis‘s hand and kicked James on the leg. He would say

nothing, for as sure as there was a cloud in the sky, the big man would shoot James if he

knew what he had done to Sarah. Maybe he would go crazy and shoot everybody, Mick

thought.

       ―We came to fetch my beautiful Rose,‖ answered James sobbing, and Mick kicked

him again as he wiped his friends runny nose with his soiled handkerchief.

       ―Rose done it,‖ Mick lied. ―She‘s been having an affair with Father Quinn, and the

priest ended it. Woman scorned don‘t you see.‖

       As Otis stared at the three prominent deep scratches on James face with the caked

blood, he was unaware that Sarah had caused them, but old Mick was taking no chances as he

quickly spoke up again, afraid that the big American may just yet put two and two together.

―Yes, that Rose has a terrible temper; did she hurt you, James?‖ Mick asked, as he once again

kicked James on the shins.

       ―Hit the gas!‖ Otis commanded angrily, and the car sped on. ―Hurry, before we are

too goddamn late,‖ he yelled at Donald O‘Shea.

       ―I‘m driving as fast as I can,‖ Donald answered loudly, ―do you want to get us all

bloody killed man?‖
                                                                                              211



        ―Look,‖ Otis replied, eye fixed on Donald. ―You know this damn thing exists. You

witnessed it and you know it‘s coming for Sarah, so you‘ve gotta help me here.‖

        ―You stole the sergeant‘s revolver, man,‖ said Donald. ―Then you stole a police car

and abducted the bloody officer. Inspector Mooney has probably contacted the whole of the

bloody Irish army by now, and believe me, this man takes no prisoners. I mean he‘ll shoot

you on bloody sight,‖ he said, as he sped on down the wet road.

        ―When we get Sarah into the car we must take her to the nearest church,‖ Otis

ordered.

        ―St Gabriel‘s,‖ shouted Mick loudly. ―I noticed it when you drove me to the hospital

to get my arm fixed, it‘s about a mile before the hospital gates.‖

        The dusk had now turned to darkness, and Donald flicked on the full beams. In the

other police car Inspector Mooney was tearing after them at high speed, while Sergeant

Woods, who had since retrieved his gun, was sitting beside him gripping the door handle

tightly. In the rear seat young Constable McCann was tending to Sergeant Cummings, who

was still dazed by the punch he received at the church.

        ―I‘ll kill that bastard,‖ said Inspector Mooney angrily, as he pulled his automatic

pistol from his coat.

        ―The Yank‘s only trying to save his wife,‖ muttered Sergeant Cummings, as he held

his jaw tightly.

        ―There it is,‖ shouted Otis, as they sped past St Gabriel‘s church.

        ―Not much further now,‖ Mick yelled. ―On your right,‖ he added as an afterthought.

James sat with his head in his hands weeping and old Mick knew that no matter what

happened now, for James there was no future, and his heart hung heavy.

        The police car sped through the hospital gates and Donald skidded to a stop. ―Please

help me here,‖ Otis pleaded as he placed his hand tightly on Donald‘s shoulder. ―I promise to
                                                                                               212



come peacefully once Sarah is inside the church.‖

        Donald looked sadly at the big American and his heart filled with pity. He glanced at

the two men in the rear seat, and then back to Otis, pausing for a moment before speaking.

―All right‖ he said, ―let‘s go.‖

        The men quickly left the car and Otis tucked the revolver inside his trousers, covering

it with his coat as James sat alone in the rear seat and continued to weep.



                                        *   *   *   *    *



        As Otis, Donald, and old Mick entered the hospital, Donald moved to the reception

desk first, approaching the small thin receptionist with an heir of authority.

        ―A woman, Mrs Sarah Tweedy, has just been admitted here with a gunshot wound,‖

he stated.

        ―Yes‖ said the receptionist, ―The lady has just been taken down to the theatre, they‘re

starting the operation on her now. If you care to go into the waiting room a doctor will see

you all presently, she said smiling.‖

        As the three men slowly entered the waiting room the hallway telephone rang, which

the receptionist moved slowly across to answer. The trio used this opportunity to sneak back

out into the hallway and they hurried on down the corridor toward the theatre.

        ―Please God, let Sarah pull through this,‖ Otis prayed aloud. ―Please don‘t let her

die.‖

        Sarah was in great pain now, but she knew instinctively that this injury was not as bad

as the one she had received at JJ‘s all those years ago. However, this was not her main

concern. This damn monstrosity could come for her at any moment in time she felt, and a

trickle of sweat ran across her brow.
                                                                                            213



       The tall nurse smiled at her before adjusting her mask, as the anaesthetist, needle in

hand, stepped over to her. Suddenly the theatre doors flew open, and Otis marched in first,

followed by old Mick and the constable.

       ―Otis,‖ Sarah weakly cried as he hurried over to the operating table and embraced her.

       ―You‘re gonna be fine honey,‖ he said, a tear running down his cheek, ―I‘m here for

you now.‖

       ―What is the meaning of this?‖ said the shocked doctor who had just finished

scrubbing up.

       ―I‘ve just got no time to explain this,‖ Otis answered, ―but we‘ve got to get my wife

to the church right now. You can operate on her there. We just don‘t have any time to lose.‖

       ―He‘s right, doctor, the woman is in danger,‖ shouted Constable O‘Shea.

       ―It‘s the Banshee, it‘s coming for her,‖ old Mick added.

       ―Are you people all stark raving mad?‖ the doctor roared. ―Phone the police,‖ he

ordered loudly.

       ―I am the police,‖ said Constable O‘Shea, as he pulled at the lapels of his uniform in

an authorative manner.

       ―Help me get Sarah onto the trolley,‖ Otis instructed the doctor.

       ―I certainly will not,‖ the doctor answered angrily.

       Otis pulled the gun from his trousers and aimed it at the doctor‘s head. ―Don‘t fuck

with me on this one buddy,‖ Otis shouted.

       The doctor and the tall nurse quickly transferred Sarah onto the trolley, and Otis

slammed the gun into the wall as she screamed in pain.

       ―If this woman dies it will be entirely your fault,‖ the doctor groaned nervously, as he

pointed menacingly at Otis.

       ―Yes, and if she stays here she‘ll bloody die, and no mistake,‖ said old Mick. ―So why
                                                                                              214



don‘t you just what you‘re bloody told?‖

        ―Drop it,‖ the voice behind Otis shouted. ―Drop it now or so help me I‘ll blow your

fucking head off,‖ repeated Inspector Mooney.

        Otis was holding the revolver at his side now, and even though he had his back to the

man, he was pretty sure he could still take him out. No, he thought, he couldn‘t take the

chance. Sarah was in the guy‘s line of fire, and may get hit. Otis dropped the revolver and it

clanged hard on the tiled floor as he turned angrily to face the man.

        ―You don‘t understa…‖

        ―Thank God you came,‖ the doctor barked, interrupting Otis. ―They were trying to

take this patient out of here.‖

        Sergeant Cumming‘s picked up his revolver and holstered it. He had heard Mrs

Doyle‘s story up at the house and witnessed the others tell him what they saw, but he still

wasn‘t convinced. Besides, he was a policeman first, and had to follow his orders. Anyway,

this whole affair had all went just too far, he thought.

        Just then James appeared at the doors. ―Arrest him,‖ shouted the inspector.

        ―You must take this woman out of here now,‖ cried James, as Constable McCann held

his arm. ―She‘s in grave danger here.‖

        Inspector Mooney pulled Otis‘s arm behind his back, handcuffs at the ready, but he

had only managed to cuff one wrist when the tall nurse stepped back, tipping the instrument

trolley over, and emptying the instruments out onto the hard floor with a loud crash, and as

she put one hand to her mouth, she started to whimper.

        ―What the hell is wrong with you?‖ The doctor boomed loudly as the inspector looked

across the room, puzzled. The tall nurse raised her arm nervously and pointed high behind the

men, who all looked around as one, like a group of well trained soldiers on the parade

ground.
                                                                                            215



       ―Good God,‖ said the doctor, as old Mick crossed himself, and the anaesthetist ran

quickly out through the theatre doorway.
                                                                                              216




                                         CHAPTER 25



       High in the far corner of the operating room it lurked, like some unholy judge waiting

to pass sentence on the unfortunates below, as it moved its head slowly from side to side, and

started its descent toward them.

       Otis dropped his arms to his side, and stood almost attention like, the metal handcuffs

hanging from his left wrist, swinging like some sort of out of sync pendulum. So this was it,

he thought, as he stared up at the hooded being slowly coming toward them. This damn fiend,

he thought, the cause of all their problems. This cursed abomination that kills at random,

uncaring about the grief and destruction it leaves behind in its wake. What gave it the right to

take anyone‘s soul? Otis thought. Surely that was God‘s right, and God‘s right alone. What

the hell gave this abomination before them the power to act as judge, jury, and executioner?

Otis asked himself, and he could feel the anger inside him rise.

       Mick felt his fear return like before, but as he stared at Otis, watching as the big

American slowly moved out in front of the creature, he quickly made his mind up that this

time he would not run away. This time he would stand up, stand up and be counted. This time

he would be a man. This time he would salvage something of his worthless life, and if he

were to die, then so be it, but he would not let it take this brave man‘s wife without dying as a

man himself.

       ―I‘m with you Otis,‖ Mick shouted.

       Sergeant Woods had not really known what to believe before, but now he knew. Mrs

Doyle had been telling the truth, and so had the Constable and old Mick, they where all
                                                                                             217



witnesses to this, and still he had doubted them. Now though, there was no more doubt, he

thought, as he stared wide eyed at the creature. ―Emily,‖ he shouted at it, ―Emily,‖ he

repeated.

       The creature, which was quickly moving in jerking motions, arms outstretched,

ignored him, as it powered down toward the bed, coming for Sarah, and as it drew level with

Inspector Mooney, he suddenly and without warning, fired his automatic five times into its

body. The beast reacted by gripping the inspector by the throat, tearing a large chunk of flesh

and bone from his neck, and as he dropped dead instantly, it flung the clump of bleeding

tissue across the room. Otis acted on reflex. There would not be another chance like this one,

and he knew it.

       He also knew that it would mean certain death for him, but he couldn‘t let it take

Sarah‘s life, not after all they had been through, and so he leapt up onto its chest, wrapping

his arms around its back, and squeezing with every ounce of his strength.

       Sarah watched in horror as it tore at Otis‘s back, ripping through his clothes, and she

screamed at it. Leave him alone damn you, it‘s me you want.‖

       ―Wakinyan Wakantanka Hunka Tokapi Ni O Okodakciye,‖ he chanted loudly into its

ear.

       The creature flung its head back and shook violently, wailing, so loud that young

Constable McCann covered his ears and fell to the floor in terror.

       ―So you don‘t like those words, huh,‖ Otis said, and he chanted the words into its ear

over and over again as its face convulsed and its pointed black teeth chattered.

       The old Indian was right, Otis knew, the words from the Great Sundance were

working, and he squeezed even harder. It was rotating swiftly now, and flailing its long arms

at Otis‘s back, as Sarah tried to crawl from the trolley toward it.

       The hug of the bear the old medicine man had told him, this along with the words of
                                                                                              218



the Great Sundance will greatly weaken and confuse it, he had said, and Otis squeezed with

all his might, now trusting the old Indian‘s words completely. Otis continued to chant the

words from The Great Sundance loudly into the beast‘s ear, as it shrieked and wailed, and

shook violently. The more Otis chanted the words of The Great Sundance, the more the beast

tried to throw him off, and he felt like some rodeo rider in the Wild West, but he knew how

badly the beast was cutting him, and in many places, as he felt the pain and his blood run

down his back. Then it pulled its lips up each side of its face and opened its shark-like mouth,

tearing at the side of Otis‘s face with its rows of razor sharp rotting teeth, and he screamed in

pain as he felt it cleanly remove his ear in one almighty bite.

       Suddenly old Mick ran forward and tried to punch the beast with his good arm, but

although the beast was weakening with every second, its flailing hand almost broke Mick‘s

jaw, and the force sent him sprawling down onto the hard cold floor.

        Still Otis held on as he chanted the words and still the beast shrieked, almost

deafening the men, but Otis could feel his own warm blood run down his body now, as the

beast, even in its weakening state tore at his back and shoulders, and he knew he was hurt

bad. ―Help me,‖ he cried. Otis knew he could not hold on much longer, but he also knew that

the beast itself was getting tired; he could feel its movements becoming slower, much slower.

Where was Lewis? He thought, as his life‘s blood drained from him. Where was Eric? Where

was John Wayne? Most of all, where was his brother Michael? Why wouldn‘t anyone help

him? Please God, he prayed, I can‘t do this alone, he thought.

       Then he knew. There was no help, no cavalry to rescue him, no one to rescue Sarah.

Only he could save her, he was the hero here, and he was all she had. He was the one dying

for her, no one else. Just like his brother Michael had died in Korea, died to save others, he

now at last acknowledged to himself. This was the cards they had been dealt in life.

Michael‘s had been an ace though, and now so was his, he felt. The pair of aces, he thought,
                                                                                               219



and smiled through his dead brother‘s strength.

        Otis then quickly thought of Sarah, his brain starting to go into flashbacks, as dying,

drowning men do, and he remembered back to when Sarah and he were walking in the park

one day, many years ago, when she had spun around and handed him a small flower. It was

just after his release from the hospital, and he had been very depressed that day. ―This is for

the best husband in the world,‖ she had said, as she squeezed his hand tightly. ―I will love

you forever honey,‖ she had said as she hugged him, and he had kissed her passionately.

Later that night they had celebrated with a bottle of champagne, and he laughed when Sarah

screwed her face up as she drank some of the bitter tasting drink.

        “Drink,” Otis thought. ―Alcohol,‖ he whispered to himself, as he remembered

Elspeth, the old dancing woman, the one he had met that night at the woods edge, and how

Elspeth had told him she had seen the dead woman in the forest. How she had spilled the

wine on her, and how the creature had reacted badly to it, running off, screaming.

        That‟s it, thought Otis, as he snapped himself back to life, and he shouted loudly, as

the creature shook and turned, and continued trying to throw him off again. ―Alcohol,‖ he

shouted loudly, ―alcohol.‖

        The doctor, who had been until that moment, standing frozen in terror, understood

him, and he ran from the theatre into a side room, returning almost at once, clutching a small

bottle of pure alcohol in his hand.

        ―Throw it,‖ Otis groaned, and the doctor ran forward removing the cap. He was just

about to throw the contents from the bottle at the creature, when it swung out its large bony

hand, and grasped his arm, sending the bottle flying across the room where it landed on top of

Sarah, who was now trying to crawl off the trolley, as she tried desperately to help her brave

and badly wounded husband. The doctor fell back to the floor, his arm bleeding profusely, as

the tall nurse ran to his aid.
                                                                                                220



        Old Mick was on his feet now, the pain in his jaw forgotten, and he ran over to Sarah,

picked up the small bottle which still contained more than half its contents of alcohol, and

bravely confronted the creature, who swiped its long arm at him again. But it was slowing

down rapidly now, and Mick easily sidestepped it, and hurled what alcohol was left in the

bottle into its face, soaking Otis in the process.

        ―Drinks are on the house,‖ Otis muttered into its ear, as the beast wailed even louder

than before, convulsing rapidly. This monster from hell is not going to kill my wife he

thought, as he felt it weaken.

        A sudden rage engulfed him now, as his fear left him, and he tightened his grip.

―Wakinyan Wakantanka Hunka Tokapi Ni O Okodakciye,‖ he cried.

        The beast wailed loudly again, as it twisted and turned, and shook even more violently

than before, as it called up the last of its remaining reserves of strength, still trying to throw

him off.

        ―You‘re not so tough,‖ Otis whispered into its ear.

        Then in his weakened state, he could hold on no more, and he heard the old medicine

man‘s voice. ―You must not release your grip on her, or she will immediately regain the

strength you have taken from her,‖ the voice said. But he could feel his arm starting to slip

down its bony back now, as he just had nothing left to give.

        ―Oh God no,‖ he said. ―Please Father in Heaven, give me strength,‖ he prayed aloud,

as his hand slipped further down the creature‘s back, and he knew he could no longer hold

on.

        Then something happened. Otis could feel someone move his arm quickly up the

creature‘s spine, and he could feel that same someone pull the cuff that was still hanging

loosely from his arm and lock it onto his free wrist. Now he was secured to the beast, and

nothing was going to make him let go now, he thought. Someone had helped him and now
                                                                                                 221



that someone was pulling at the beast‘s hood revealing its grotesque face, the same face Otis

had seen during his dream on the plane, and he wondered how this could be. Then as it

slowly turned, Otis, in his helpless condition, saw James. James had cuffed his other wrist,

James had helped him.

       The big Irishman was punching at its face from the side now, and because of its

weakened state, Otis felt sure that it could feel the strong Irishman‘s blows, as they crashed

into its leathery, bony head. Otis head butted the creature, but almost got hit by a massive

uppercut from James, that shook the creature‘s whole body from head to toe. The creature

then grabbed James by his throat, and as it squeezed, its long fingers pierced the big

Irishman‘s skin, and the blood flowed thick and fast over its bony gnarled fingers. Otis head

butted the creature twice more, but could do nothing to save James, and he felt even more

anger as James was thrown down dead to the floor, like some unwanted, discarded doll.

       Sergeant Woods calmly walked over to the now rapidly weakening pair, who almost

looked as though they were dancing, and as they performed this not so merry waltz of death,

he aimed his revolver toward its head.

       ―Emily,‖ he shouted at it, and this time it turned to look squarely at him, snarling, its

black pointed teeth bared. The sergeant emptied the full chamber of his revolver into its face,

blowing chunks of its leathery flesh around the theatre wall. But on it fought, as it tried to

catch the sergeant in its still powerful grip. He was too quick for it though, and it missed him

by a mile.

       Otis felt it moving, slowly, but yes, moving away from his hysterical wife, who had

pushed herself off the trolley and was on the floor, trying to crawl toward him, reaching for

him, as she screamed his name. The creature, rapidly weakening now, was heading toward

the theatre doors; about two feet off the ground, with Otis tightly bound to it. Sergeant

Cummings, who until this moment hadn‘t really believed there was anything supernatural at
                                                                                               222



all, was now in a prime ringside position, as he stood beside the door, and he decided to make

his move, jumping up onto Otis.

       He panted for breath as he tried to wrench the big American‘s arms away from it,

trying to release him.

       ―No, get back,‖ Otis coughed, blood spraying from his lips onto the sergeant‘s clothes

as he continued his struggle. The sergeant looked into Otis‘s face and at once he knew what

Otis had to do. ―God bless you son,‖ he said, as he released his grip and slid off the pair,

down onto the bloody floor.



                                       *   *    *   *    *



       Otis could feel himself losing consciousness now, as his life‘s blood flowed freely

from his body and formed large red pools, adding to the blood already gathering all across the

operating room floor, but he knew the beast was spent as it fought to reach the theatre doors.

The old Indian had been right. ―The blood you lose will be as her blood,‖ he had said.

       He looked around at Sarah for the last time and smiled at the still hysterical woman

and gave her his look. This look that was no longer funny to her, but she forced herself to

smile back at this brave dying husband of hers.

       He had won, even though he knew what the consequences would be for him. His wife

would live, and he had beaten it. ―Fuck you,‖ Otis croaked into its ear, ―I got you, you dumb

bastard‖ he laughed, as the blood pouring from his mouth and nose sprayed over its torn,

hideous face, and as Sarah reached out for him, calling his name, the creature slowly levitated

through the theatre doors, and into the corridor, its head convulsing, teeth chattering even

more rapidly.

       Then with a last burst of its strength, it smashed through the large corridor windows,
                                                                                            223



and outside, just as Otis died in its arms, and then it was gone. Old Mick sank slowly to his

knees, muttered a prayer, and sobbed loudly.
                                                                                            224




                                        CHAPTER 26

                                    LOS ANGELES 2003



       As the old woman left the store; she stared at her small package which she held tightly

under her arm, as she slowly, with walking stick in hand, hobbled toward home. Home was a

half empty apartment in East Los Angeles, in the little town of Monterey Park, just south of

Highway ten, where the many juggernauts, cars and buses, would carry thousands of

passengers to and fro every day, to their many different destinations. The apartments would

be coming down soon, only to be replaced by a new shopping mall, which meant being re-

housed, but what the hell, she thought; at least I‘ll have some company, and maybe make

some new friends.

       The apartment next door to her belonged to old Mr Campbell, a Scotsman who had

moved to America with his parents over seventy years ago as a small boy, and every time she

met him he would talk about Scotland frequently, playing his collection of bagpipe records

from morning until night, but who had never actually journeyed back to the country of his

birth, which everyone in the building found utterly astonishing. The apartment above

belonged to Mr and Mrs Friedman, who had supposedly survived the Nazi death camps. But

the pair were almost deaf, which made communicating with them a most strenuous ordeal,

which she preferred to avoid at all costs, and the apartment next to them had been empty for

the last six months, so things had been very quiet around here for awhile.

       There were a couple of old busybodies up the street, but their gossiping about anyone

and everyone, simply got her down, and so mainly, apart from the church and an odd visit to
                                                                                               225



the store, she really didn‘t venture too far, spending most of the time in her apartment.

        Someone else who had used highway ten frequently, also had an interest in the old

woman‘s apartment. Miguel Santos had been watching her every move for three days now,

and he had finally decided to play his trump card. Tonight he would enter her apartment, rob

her of anything valuable that he could carry, just as he had robbed so many helpless women

before her, and then perhaps, have a little fun.

        He grinned as he put a cigarette between his rotting teeth, lit it up, and started to walk

back into the bar, only to pause to look up at the sky, at the fork lightning that brightened the

far off horizon, and the thunderclap that followed, which could be faintly heard in the

distance.

        It had been thirty years since her husband had died, and as the old woman looked up

thoughtfully at his photograph on the wall, she gave it a little pat, the same pat she always did

before cooking her meal. This was her way of remembering him, and she had stuck to this

ritual faithfully since he had died.

        She had never bothered getting involved with any other men after his death, which

was an easy decision for her, feeling that the special love they had for each other, could just

not be replaced.

        It had been very lonely the last thirty years however, but she had managed on her fond

and loving memories of him, and she was thinking of him now as she opened the little parcel,

removed the portion of chicken, and prepared her small meal.

        In the distance she could hear the roaring thunderclaps approaching, and as she closed

her curtains the rain started to beat down heavily, swirling and whipping against her

windows, as she sat down in her comfortable chair.

        It was ten o‘clock when Miguel Santos grudgingly left the bar. He had met up with

two old friends, Marco Romero and his girlfriend Cecelia, and they had been drinking all
                                                                                             226



evening, drinking on Miguel‘s money that is, as they both claimed to have been cheated on a

drug deal, and had lost every dollar. Miguel had told them he would be back within the hour,

as soon as he had collected some money a friend owed him, and then they would continue

with their little party. He had just left the bar, when Marco, making sure Miguel was gone,

pulled a fifty dollar bill from his sock, and laughing, bought another two drinks.

       Overhead, the lightning forked across the sky, and Santos grinned as the thunder

crashed and the strong wind blew the stinging rain into his face. Ideal conditions, he thought.

No one would be out on a night like this, and no one would hear him enter the old woman‘s

apartment.

       Her apartment was only two hundred yards away now, and as he stealthily hurried

along he licked his cracked, salted lips in anticipation of what he would find there. He

scurried through the deserted alleyway which ran along the rear of the apartments, only

stopping momentarily to adjust his White Sox baseball hat that he had previously stolen.

       Reaching the rear window of the old woman‘s apartment, he pulled out a thin pair of

rubber gloves and stretched them over his fingers. He would be careful, he thought. He had

spent too many years in the joint, and he had no intention of going back there, but there was

no need for stealth tonight though, he knew. He would simply let the storm cover for him.

       He smashed his way through the rear window, just as a thunderclap exploded

overhead, and he thought he could hear the sound of bagpipes faintly floating in from

somewhere nearby, and he paused to listen for a moment. Another almighty crash of thunder,

a smash of glass, and he found himself inside the old woman‘s apartment. The little kitchen,

though small, was very bright, and everything in it was tastefully furnished. A half eaten

portion of chicken sat on the work top, covered only by a paper towel, and he quickly and

greedily scoffed it down.

       This old woman‘s apartment is cool, he thought, as he drifted back to his childhood,
                                                                                               227



and the squalor he and his eight brothers and sisters had been forced to live in, with their

brutal, drunken, demented father, who wouldn‘t work, and would beat them and their mother

mercilessly with anything he could get his hands on, even on the slightest whim. That is until

their older brother Pedro stabbed their father to death one night, after witnessing his mother

take yet another beating.

        His mother though had refused to forgive Pedro, slinking into depression, and the

family had been divided into different foster homes after this. Miguel thought affectionately

for a moment about Pedro and his other brothers and sisters that he hadn‘t seen for a long

time, but he suppressed his tears.

        ―Bah,‖ he said aloud, as he made his way down the hall from the kitchen, crouching

as he went, as a bolt of lightning lit up the dark sky again, turning night time to day for a few

seconds.

        Moving on he passed an open door and peered inside. A woman‘s bag sat beside a

fake Ming vase on the table, and he greedily pulled it away, knocking over the vase in his

haste, and breaking the vase around the rim. ―Pay dirt,‖ he whispered, as he rummaged inside

and pulled out the heavy purse. Inside there was a ten dollar and five dollar bill, and he tipped

the contents out in anger. He counted out about twelve dollars in small change, and cursed his

luck.

        Tearing angrily at the purse he felt something stuffed into a secret compartment at the

rear of it, and he pulled frantically at it, but stopped momentarily when another lightning bolt

filled the room, and he thought he saw a movement, as the thunder crashed in around his ears,

and for a moment he felt afraid. Bah, he thought to himself, nothing frightens Miguel Santos.

He pulled again at the purse and was angered even more when an old photograph dislodged

from it. The old woman and her husband, he thought, taken many years ago, and in his anger

he ripped her favourite photo to shreds and threw it down onto the hallway floor.
                                                                                             228



          Opening the door to the next room, he was surprised to see so many cardboard boxes,

all piled on top of one another, and he tore frantically at them.

          ―Clothes, fucking clothes,‖ he whispered, as he ripped and pulled at them. ―Fuck,‖ he

said loudly, uncaring if the old woman heard him now or not, as he scattered the boxes across

the floor.

          Feeling his anger rise, he ran out of the room and down the hall, kicking heavily on

the last door, which burst open just as another thunderclap boomed loudly overhead. The old

woman sat up in her small bed, afraid. ―You shouldn‘t be here,‖ she said nervously as she

watched him move around in the shadows.

          ―Where‘s the fucking money Mama?‖ he screamed, as he flicked open the knife.

―Don‘t make me cut you,‖ he shouted. The old woman leaned across and quickly rummaged

through a dresser drawer. ―No tricks now,‖ he ordered.

          ―It‘s all I have,‖ said the old woman, as she tossed the roll at him.

          ―Now please, take it and go, and leave me alone,‖ she sobbed.

          Santos knew instinctively that the wad contained at least two or three hundred dollars,

and as he smiled the old woman caught a glimpse of his rotting teeth, and she squirmed. He

thrust the money inside his trouser pocket and walked out into the hallway, and the old

woman thought he was about to leave, when suddenly, he changed his mind and turned back.

―I think you and I are going to have us some fun,‖ he said menacingly as he waved the knife

at her.

          ―I‘ve gave you every damn thing I have,‖ she cried.

          ―Not everything,‖ he said, as he removed his shirt and dropped it to the floor.

          Santos put one knee on the bed and waved the knife menacingly.

          ―Please, my husband will kill you if you don‘t go now,‖ the old woman said. ―Please,

you don‘t have any time,‖ she pleaded.
                                                                                               229



         ―What the hell are you talking about lady? Your husband is dead. So why don‘t you

just face that fact?‖ Santos interrupted, grinning.

         ―My husband is here.‖

         ―Yeah lady, he‘s right here,‖ Santos replied sarcastically, interrupting her again, and

laughing loudly, ―This must be the husband I‘ve seen you walk home from the store with

every night, right? The same husband for whom you cook and clean, the husband that lies

beside you in that small bed every night. Well that‘s all right, you see I got me an imaginary

friend too.

         Meet um, Harry, the invisible rabbit,‖ he said.

         Something in her mind told her he should have said Harvey, and she wondered why

she was having these thoughts at a time like this.

         ―Please get out and leave me alone,‖ she whimpered.

         ―I just gotta be the one to ask you this lady,‖ Santos answered smiling, as the thunder

outside roared even louder. ―Harry wants to know are you up for a threesome?‖ Santos

laughed loudly and almost doubled over.

         The old woman didn‘t answer, but she felt a rage building up inside her that she

hadn‘t felt for a very long time.

         ―Well, this is your lucky day Mama. Why you and me, and yeah, Harry here, well, we

are all going to have us a little sleep over party tonight,‖ he said grinning.

         ―My husband is going to fucking kill you for this,‖ she said, her voice now full of

anger.

         ―Don‘t you know you ain‘t got a husband, he‘s dead you damn crazy old bitch, I seen

the photo though, so you loved a brother once, huh?‖ He scowled at Sarah, as he quickly

unbuttoned his filth stained trousers. Suddenly a large lightning bolt filled the room, and

Sarah got her first proper look at him. A thin, small runt of a man, she thought to herself.
                                                                                                 230



       A useless junkie, who lacked any sense of decency or morals. This was a scum who

no decent woman would look at twice, but a scum who would kill his own grandmother for a

few dollars without even blinking an eye, and he had just called her a bitch.

       Sarah thought back to all those years ago when someone else had called her a bitch,

someone quite like this sad excuse for a human being, someone just the same as this no good

thieving murdering rat, who had no right to share this planet with ordinary decent hard

working people. People like these had no right to come into her home and rob, rape, and

maybe murder her, and her fear turned to hatred.

       ―Yes, it‘s true, my husband Otis, he‘s dead all right, why he‘s thirty years dead now,‖

she said calmly as she pointed a scolding finger at him. ―But a large part of him has always

stayed with me, and now, well now he‘s coming for you, and he‘s got a terrible temper you

know.‖ Her Irish accent sounded as strong as ever as she pointed behind him.

       Looking around he could see nothing in the darkened room, and now he was getting

angry again, ―Okay, so we‘ll have us a foursome. C‘mon in Otis, and join the fucking party

man,‖ he shouted sarcastically as he turned and ripped the nightdress from Sarah‘s shoulders.

Now he was waving the knife menacingly into her face and as he turned the blade from side

to side, its shiny steel edges reflected the outside street light into her eyes. The old woman

quickly dropped her head into her hands and Santos thought she was crying, when suddenly

she slowly lifted her head to him. She had an unusual smile on her face, unnatural, almost

evil looking, and Santos reeled back, afraid.

       ―Otis,‖ she whispered, pointing again behind him, and this time Santos turned around

quickly, the grin gone from his face as another bolt of lightning lit up the room.



                                       *   *    *   *    *
                                                                                                231



        The huge figure was hovering about one foot of the ground, with its hooded head

almost touching the ceiling, and as it came down slowly toward him, Santos dropped the

knife onto the floor and moved with lightning speed from off the end of the bed.

        His stained trousers fell to his ankles causing him to trip over backward, but he

quickly kicked them off and scrambled back up on to his feet again. His head was spinning

with fear as he moved slowly back toward the window.

        ―Holy mother of God,‖ he mouthed, crossing himself vigorously as the hovering

creature came down quickly upon him, and he shook with fright as he looked into the beast‘s

hideous face.

        The creature stared at him for what seemed like an eternity, and as the lightning lit up

its moving silent lips, he could have sworn it only had one eye socket. He forced a nervous

smile through his rotting teeth at the giant creature, as he tried to speak to it. No words would

come from his quivering lips. Suddenly the beast wailed loudly into his face, drowning out

the noise of the storm outside, and he didn‘t even notice the urine run down his leg and form

a small pool on the carpet, as the creature stared vacantly him.

        Then he whirled around to look at the old woman, his eyes pleading for her to help

him, but Sarah looked away.

        Santos looked back into the creature‘s face, looking for any sort of compassion, but

could see none. ―Please, ta, tak, take it easy O, Otis,‖ he managed to stutter, as he pleaded

pitifully for his life.

        The creature slowly moved its head, cocking it to one side, as if in recognition of its

name.

        Its foul breath wafted into his face, before it covered his head in its large skeletal like

hands. Its massive shoulders dwarfed him in its shadow as another lightning bolt filled the

room, and Santos had no time to scream when his warm blood rushed heavily over his chest
                                                                                                 232



and arms, as the creature tore his head away from his body and threw his shaking carcass out

into the hallway.

       His eyes still blinked in fear as his head dropped to the floor, his blood spilling out

and covering the old ripped pieces of the faded photograph he had discarded earlier.

       ―Otis,‖ Sarah called loudly to this shell of a thing, this hollow creature that once,

another lifetime ago had been Otis. This damn beast, which had loved her so much when it

was a man, she knew.

       But was here now only to torture her, the way it had done so all these sad and lonely

thirty years, as the poor pathetic creature that Otis had since become.

       This damned abomination that had now saved her life, not for the love of her, but

because it simply had no choice.

       ―Why?‖ she shouted into its face, ―Damn you Otis. Why did you have to leave me?‖

Sarah cried, the tears streaming down her face.

       The creature ignored her, as it slowly turned around, and as another bolt of lightning

lit up the room; she noticed a little red droplet run from where its eye should be, and form a

little fine stream down its bony cheek. Maybe it was just a splash of blood from the burglar,

she thought, maybe.

       ―Oh Otis, honey, I miss you so much,‖ she whispered, as she lay back on her pillow

and sobbed.

       Faintly in the distance the sound of the bagpipes could be heard wafting in through

the broken window, as the storm passed slowly away, and the creature silently and

majestically, moved back up into the corner.

				
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