Mark your diary, because every Monday and Thursday, I will post two chapters of my exciting historical paranormal romance novel, Return to Rhonan (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, the reader will find much to enjoy on this mysterious well researched journey.
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:
Return to Rhonan: Chapters 13 & 14
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Father O’Reilly narrowed his rheumy eyes at Douglas then took a quick swig from the whiskey bottle. ‘No, but ye’ll need to be purified man. To be sure you’re no saint –blaspheming the sacred rites.’
Shedding his shabby black jacket, the priest unclipped the battered leather suitcase taking out a black tunic, white surplice, and alb enriched with gold and purple stripes. Placing a cloth over the small table, he picked up two sturdy candlesticks, into which he put candles previously blessed on the church altar. As he donned the white alb, the rich gold and purple stripes contrasting with his black tunic, he conceded. ‘It’s only a mild form of exorcism. To be sure, ghosts infest the place. Think of what has happened here over the centuries –famine – suicides.’
‘With respect Father –superstition.’
The priest kissed the maniple, embroidered with ancient Christian symbols of the fish, and the Great Shepherd. ‘Your disbelief may hinder the exorcism. Keep your blasphemous comments to yourself. If you want to open this hotel, you’d best be pleasing the villagers.’ As he crossed the maniple over his chest, he muttered, ‘There’s no way they’ll set foot in the place until it’s cleansed.’
Douglas sighed – impurity – demons – ghostly attacks, what next?
Father O’Reilly placed the exorcised sacraments on the low mahogany table before holding up a large silver crucifix. ‘We must venerate the cross. Keep your eyes on this crucifix at all times. Do not be distracted. Now let us pray. Through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, we defeat Satan. Demons and devils cannot hurt us. We fear not the bite of the serpent.’
Picking up a Rosary of amber beads, he kissed it, placing it with the crucifix. As he turned, Douglas felt quite shocked, as the priest seemed to change in stature and deportment, becoming a dignified clergyman. His hunched back straightened, his chin lifted, his rheumy eyes glittered like pale sapphires.
He nodded to them, holding up his hand, palm forward as if bestowing a blessing. ‘So now, Douglas – Nathan stand as I bless these sacred sacraments.’
Feeling rather foolish, Douglas stood crossing his hands in front of him while Nathan duly closed his eyes, lifting his hands in prayer.
Gone were the jarring gravel tones, as the Father boomed out the sacred blessings and purifications rites in a rich, mellifluous voice. He took out a small bottle of oil. Holding it up, he directed his gaze to Douglas. ‘The evil spirits hate this one. We use this in the very beginning; each room we go in, we throw a few drops of oil across the threshold.
I shall say the rites first in Latin and then in English. You will repeat the English after me. The evil spirits hate this one. Holding both hands over the bottle, he said, ‘Exorcizo te, creatura olei” (“I exorcise, creature oil”). “Omis virtus adversarii, om.’
Feeling rather foolish, Douglas stumbled over the words. ‘I don’t speak Latin. I can’t remember it.’
‘Then repeat the English words, man.’
Picking up another bottle, the priest held it up. ‘Holy Water. This drives out demons and defends us against attacks. It cleanses the rooms of their evil impurity. Then we have the salt, which adds to the power. Beatus lux lucis of Deus fulsi continuo super illa sacramentum purgatio totus pro lemma. Exorczose Diabolus quod everto.’
Turning to them, he repeated it in English. ‘May the blessed light of God shine forth upon these sacraments cleansing all before them. May they exorcise devils and demons.’
He paused as he said to Nathan, ‘You’ll best be off now. I don’t want to leave you here on your own. There’s no telling what will happen.’
Douglas raised his eyebrows, grinning sarcastically at Nathan.
The priest caught the glance muttering, ‘This is no laughing matter, be it ghosts or demons, ye could come back to find your brother spirited, or worse still lying there with his throat cut.’
Nathan’s face blanched. ‘Well, it’s the Mariner’s Arms for me then.’
Douglas watched him go, anger simmering, what a waste of time, he now had to spend the next few hours chasing non-existent ghosts.
The priest turned to him, his eyes glinting, face solemn. ‘We should begin with the attics. Nathan tells me a couple of the workmen left, refusing to return.’
Resigned to the task, Douglas nodded. ‘As you wish.’
The attics covered a vast area, divided up into three parts with doors through to each partition. The air seemed colder, with a sense of dampness. That shouldn’t be, as they had laid damp proofing throughout. Douglas hid his irritation as Father O’Reilly began to pray from the 54th Psalm, his voice quivering,
‘O God, by your name, save us. By your strength, defend our cause.
O God, hear my prayer. Listen to the words of my mouth…
Turn back the evil upon my foes; in your faithfulness, destroy
As he followed the priest’s crooked form, shuffling through the hanging sheets of plastic, stumbling over tools and bags of cement, Douglas ignored the shadows dense and dark against the walls.
Father O’Reilly stopped, holding up his hand, listening to sounds of scratching and scuttling. ‘Hail Mary Mother of Grace…begone oh ye foul spirits…get thee hence…’
Douglas smiled his lip lifting in a slight sneer as the priest declared the first two attics clear of infestation – the only infestation to his mind was rats.
The door to the last attic was so tiny they had to duck almost double to get through. The room was small, a mere twelve feet by fifteen feet. Straightening up, the priest said, ‘D’you hear that?’
Douglas groaned inwardly – rats again – for God ’s sake, that’s all it was – rats. Irritated, his eyes lit upon what looked like a regency writing desk with matching chair, both wrapped in plastic. Frowning, he walked over, unaware of a mist rising from the floor, sneaking around his heels. He must have missed this when they cleared the attics, but how was that possible? It looked to be a fine piece of antique furniture.
As he began unwrapping the desk, the priest shouted, making him jump back.
‘Look at the wall, man – would ye look at that now.’
Douglas raised his head to see a slime the color of mucous dripping down the wood, the smell of rotting eggs brought bile to his throat.
O’Reilly ripping off the plastic, lifted the lid of the desk, his small eyes widened in horror. He leaped back, shouting, ‘In the name of the Christ in all his purity, I abjure thee, get thee hence. Leave this place and harm us no more.’
Douglas muttered, ‘For God’s sake, they’re only maggots.
O’Reilly whispered, ‘Tis, the sign of infestation – the devil. Some of the hauntings is to do with this desk. We must take it out of here, bring it into the light. Come, there is more to do.’
‘Yes, Father, I’ll see to it tomorrow.’
So far, the second and first floors proved to be clear of any more ghostly signs. Yet, the priest insisted on carrying out a purification act and blessing of each room. Douglas sighed, just a couple of more rooms, and they were done. He found the whole thing frustrating and banal. They were living in the twenty-first century for God’s sake, and here he was participating in medieval rites.
As they opened the door to the Mermaid Suite, Douglas said, ‘Well Father two more rooms to─’ A fierce wind cut off his words, punching him from the room, sleet stinging his face. The priest fought back, struggling into the room, croaking, ‘O Lord deliver us from every tempest, from every lightning.’
Douglas, his body, straining against what seemed to be a force nine gale, pushed his way to the balcony windows battling to shut them. To his confusion, the night was calm outside the room, the trees unmoving, the moon scudding across a cloudless sky.
The priest’s voice grated out the words, ‘Sancti Spiritus, audi nos – audi nos. ‘Our Father deliver us from evil, let Christ’s angels hover over us…let the archangels…’ The room quieted as if something was listening. Father O’Reilly whispered, ‘Can you… smell that?
Douglas stopped abruptly as he saw the priest glance into the corner of the room the candlelight diffused with swirling dust motes sparkling in the moonlight, circling, forming a shape. He strained his ears to catch something – singing – surely not. He caught the words, “Bye, Baby….”
Lifting the candlestick high, the little priest advanced towards it, whispering, ‘Spiritus Sancti… exaudi nos… exaudi nos… Go back, go back. Begone.’
Despite himself, Douglas found the skin on his arms crawling, the back of his neck becoming rigid, as he watched O’Reilly lay the consecrated host on the floor before it.
Slowly stepping back, he gestured for Douglas to leave the room as he incanted, Vos vostum ut redo hic. Vos es defaeco Deus. Gentius quod hi icentia is locus tarsus quod plenu of venia. May angelus rector vos ut lux lucis. You are purified in the eyes of God. Begone – leave this place clean and full of grace. May the angels guide you to the light.’
As the priest slammed the door behind him, the figure sighed, floating back to the bed. But it was not the magnificent four-poster bed newly installed. Instead, it was a smaller older one, with roses carved around the aged posts. Weeping, the transparent form nursed the tiny baby, ‘Bye Baby Bunting, Daddy’s gone a-hunting….’ O’Reilly stopped by the door his eyes wild. He beckoned to Douglas to join him. “Can ye not hear it? Tis Murial – to be sure it is her – that song … a lullaby.’
Douglas felt his stomach clench. No, it couldn’t be right, couldn’t. ‘It must be the wind, Father. It was blowing a gale in there.’
“Well, whether ye believe your own ears or not ye cannot be putting anyone in there. Tis not safe.’
‘I thought you said Murial was not a threat.’
‘She isn’t, to be sure she’s only a poor sweet girl lost in limbo. But she’s a portal ye mind, a portal for darker forces.’
Douglas’s heart thudded. That was abnormal – paranormal – if that’s what they called it. Striding through corridors, Father O’Reilly’s words rose above the wind groaning against mullioned windows, whistling through holes in aged doors. ‘Every unclean spirit…I abjure thee, depart from this house of God’s servants….’
As they walked down the corridor towards the grand central staircase, the flickering candles cast pools of light on stairs and banister. Douglas saw the mist gathering in pools, swirling up across the landing, climbing up the wainscoting.
When the priest shook oil on the mist, Douglas, as instructed, sprinkled holy water. To his consternation, he saw a black cat forming as the mist hissed, clearing a path before them. ‘Father, can you see it? – the cat?’
The priest shook his head, ‘Ignore it – just ignore it. Follow me, keep close.’
Douglas felt the wrath ripple through the priest’s body, his language changing from somber incantation to anger with a tinge of fear. The rising mist was becoming denser, the utter silence ominous, as they descended the staircase. Candle flames spluttered when a disembodied face with skin the color of a skull, loomed from an ancient painting. Douglas’s face was ashen as he tried to ignore the black cat slinking before them.
He jumped as Father O’Reilly roared, ‘Spiritus Sanctus – get ye hence – get ye hence.’ A deep thud from the wainscoting mocked him, followed by another and another.
‘What the hell is that?’
‘Anger.’ O’Reilly splashed a few drops of oil followed by holy water on the stairs, the thuds quickened, the oak panels of the staircase bulging outwards.
Then silence, a terrible waiting silence.
The candles flickered and died. Douglas could taste the sulfurous mist like rancid meat. ‘We’ve got to get out of here. Come on.’ He ran almost falling over the fleshy body of the cat. So, it wasn’t a ghost, but where in the hell did it come from?
The priest caught his arm; he could hear the arthritic fingers cracking in the silence. ‘Wait – listen. It’s waning, the strength is waning. We’ve beaten them for the time being.’
Douglas’s brain raced. It could not have happened; it was against everything he believed in. His heart leapt into his throat as the cat yowled, baring fangs drooling, unsheathing its claws, before disappearing into a mist before him.
Speechless, he watched the priest cross the vast hall back to the living area, Disrobing he held gnarled hands over the flames, his shock of white hair wild about his head. He rubbed the pockmarked nose and purple-veined cheeks, ‘I’ll be telling ye again, ye’ll have to board that room up.’
‘The Mermaid Suite? That’s impossible. An American woman has booked it for three months, paid thousands for it.
‘Ye have no choice.’
‘I’m running a business here, Father. I’ve only allowed this damn exorcism to get staff from the local district. For God’s sake, what more can I do? And by the way, what was that? That cat?’
‘Ah, it comes and goes – but it aims to protect – but coming back to the subject ye have to close the Mermaid Suite.’
‘I can’t Father, and that’s final – it would ruin us before we start. Surely there’s something else we can do?’
The priest looked at him, ‘I’ve already told you.’ The priest’s yellowed eyes bloodshot with fatigue gazed at him, ‘As long as you do not trust the word of God then they will haunt you man – I’ve done my best, but I’m not strong enough to clear them all. Aye, there are ghosts here, but there is also a darker evil. Get a trained exorcist and close the bloody Suite.’
Hearing the front doors burst open, Douglas stood to his feet, relieved to find it was only Nathan.
‘Hi there, so how did it go, see any ghosties or wee legged beasties?’
Douglas scowled. “Next time you do it.’
‘Looks like you two need a drink, what’ll it be?’
Father O’Reilly’s eyes lit up. ‘Hah, now you’re talking – the usual.’
Grinning, Nathan went to the drinks cabinet bringing out tumblers and whiskey. Filling a glass, he handed it to the priest ‘So Father?’
‘I might have given ye some time, but it will start up again. This is beyond a parish priest. You’ll have to contact the Bishop, or I will. You need a trained exorcist, One trained by the Jesuits would be best.’
Nathan frowned, ‘Didn’t George say the American woman was a medium? Maybe she could help.’
‘Yeah, the one who’s afraid of ghosts. We daren’t let her know anything is going on. She’d cancel in a minute.’
‘So did you see or hear anything?’
Douglas sitting down, shrugged, looking into the flames of the fire. ‘Maggots, seaweed, and a bloody black cat. It must have been a feral one that got in. Now I’m back here thinking it over, I’m not sure. When you look at it rationally, the candles, shadows, the rituals, even the host agitated the imagination, exacerbated the whole thing. There’s a lot of building work still going on up there, the maggots are explainable, maybe the builders left some food up there, then the warmth, the flies. It’s possible.’
O’Reilly almost choked on his whiskey, ‘You fool, you’ll rue the day if you dismiss what went on here tonight. What about the smell, the mist, eh? What about the Mermaid Suite and the cat?’
‘The cat was real, I felt it.’
‘Ghosts can take on flesh. Ye have no idea, man, no idea. What about the seaweed, the storm?’
‘ Father with respect it is a damp night, but it’s also warm, just the right conditions for mist. Maggots do stink, doesn’t mean it has to be a ghost. As for the Mermaid Suite, a freak wind, candlelight creating shadows. It’s an old building full of damp and mildew. What with that and the renovations – paint – turpentine, concrete, it’s bound to create strange smells.’
‘Well, ye seemed shocked enough at the time.’
‘Wouldn’t anyone? What with the incantations, talk of devils and spirits, evil and death? I admit I got carried away.’
Nathan knelt beside the priest, putting his hand on the frail shoulder. ‘Father, we’re grateful for what you’ve done tonight. I, for one, believe you. Too many people have seen things here. Douglas’s just being bull-headed as usual.’
O’Reilly nodded as Nathan refilled his glass. ‘Tis alright talking about it here in the light, but ye should have seen his face in that room. It was Murial – and he knows it.”
‘So Father, what’s this about Murial?’
‘I’m not sure, but tis well known that she and Lord Duncan were in love. Now no one knows what happened to her, but the young Lord committed suicide in the lake a year later.
Nathan’s eyes narrowed. ‘Perhaps it is Duncan who’s doing the haunting?”
‘No, according to the myths he stays by the lake. But, maybe the soul of Murial has returned. Maybe something is keeping her prisoner here.’
‘Douglas rose to refill the glasses. ‘Interesting Father but you must admit it’s all folk tales and supposition. Anyway, I’ve got to take Victor for a walk. The poor dog’s been shut in the office all evening.’
That night Douglas paid no heed to the priest’s warning. He was not going to give in to their superstitious nonsense. He’d just spend the night in the Mermaid Suite. Yet, however much he would not openly admit it to himself, something was definitely wrong. That’s why he had Victor sleeping on the bed. As he lay between crisp starched sheets, the moon threw shafts of light shifting upon the satin brocade walls, adding luster to the gold motifs. The wind moaned softly outside the windows, open to the warmth of the night.
Stroking the dog’s head, he thought, it was just a silly episode, just a gust of wind and the imaginings of an old priest in his cups. He had to get some sleep. He had a full day ahead of him tomorrow with more interviews, instructions to builders, and oh yes, he must rescue the writing desk and chair from the attic.
As the moon sunk towards dawn, Victor raised his head, whimpering. His master slept ignorant of a transparent figure sitting beside him on the bed, humming the lullaby.
No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: