Through the Fog (Chapter 44)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

I spent some time wondering how much of this Dubin knew. Was he connected to the publishing house somehow; is that why we were here? Happy coincidence seemed too much to ask. I just couldn’t remember anything specific about Cló Iar-Chonnachta or this part of County Galway to form an opinion.

I decided to have another try at being proactive instead of reactive. I’d finished my sandwich and most of the beer. I killed the light and lay there in the dark, concentrating on the questions; thinking as hard as I could about something I couldn’t remember: what was my connection to Cló Iar-Chonnachta? Could they be connected to Dubin? Why had I been to Inverin before?

As Feany tucked me in, he smiled broadly. “Shouldn’t worry so much; the Tribesmen’ll be just fine; the old maroon and white have lifted the curse before now.”

He sat on the edge of the bed, like a doctor in a TV show. “I like the secret messages in your book. They could have more pictures, though; otherwise how will I know where you put the map?”

Suddenly, his eyes narrowed. “You’re not Brendan. No you’re not! You’re not you’re not not not!” He leapt from the bed and ran out the door, shrinking as he went. By the time he slammed the door, he was so tiny it barely latched.

Siobhan pushed it open without even turning the knob. She let it swing all the way open to bang against the wall. “Shhhhh . . . don’t let them hear us. Quick; give me the map so they can’t break your book.” I tried to answer her but my mouth wasn’t in my face anymore; it was laying on the bedside table. The beer bottles and sandwich plate were covering it, and they were too heavy to move.

Rob said “They’ll never print it. You can word it however you want, they won’t print it.” He put his arms around Siobhan, kissed her on the cheek, and they walked out, hand in hand. Mossie peeked around the door jam with a finger to his lips, made a quiet ‘shush’ing noise, winked, and then disappeared.

Lochlainn’s voice came from my mouth on the table. “Brendan’s map was never found. If you find it, we’ll just lose it again. If it finds you, we’ll just lose you again. If you find yourself; ah, but if you find yourself, now; that’ll be grand. Just don’t look in the cellar; you’re not there this time.” He stuck his tongue; uh, my tongue out.

The door slammed back against the wall again. I walked in without a mouth; that makes two of us. I looked down at me and up at me. The mouth on the table said “Five nine three three oh seven except thirteen fifteen to thirteen forty five.” I liked speaking with a woman’s voice; it was a nice voice, soothing, not harsh like mine.

Lochlainn’s voice came from the table again. “Our translators are standing by to take your call. Our callers are standing by to take your book. Our books are standing by to take your money. Our money is standing by to take your translator. Five nine three three oh seven except thirteen fifteen to thirteen forty five.”

Mossie’s head came around the corner again. “Five nine three three oh seven except thirteen fifteen to thirteen forty five.” He thought it was really funny. I was starting to get tired of the numbers.

“Anyone else want a turn?” said the mouth on the table. It’s hard to talk when your mouth is on the table, but I used the beer bottle. Not the empty one; the other one.

Rob and Siobhan came in. They weren’t holding hands any more. Rob said “Five nine three three oh seven” and Siobhan said “Except thirteen fifteen to thirteen forty five.”

They glanced at each other nervously, and left, bumping into each other in the doorway like a Marx Brothers movie.

“Anyone else?”

Dubin came out of the bathroom. “I choose not to involve myself with five nine three three oh seven except thirteen fifteen to thirteen forty five.” He turned off the bathroom light and went out of the room, closing the door gently behind him. I picked up my mouth and tried to adjust it; it felt wet and wouldn’t go on straight. I tried to loosen it with the beer but too much poured out.

I woke up with the empty bottle in my hand. Fortunately I’d been leaning over the edge of the bed when I picked up the bottle, and most of it went on the floor. I put the now empty bottle back on the table and went in the bathroom to rinse my face. Brought the towel back, laid it over the spilled beer on the floor, got back into bed, and lay back down again.

Five nine three three oh seven except thirteen fifteen to thirteen forty five.

A phone number. Five nine three three oh seven. I decided to give it a shot.

The door opened quietly enough. I picked up the plate, stuck a beer bottle on each of the two middle fingers of my right hand, and stepped into the hallway.

The house was dead quiet. Will you stop using that word, Web? Okay, the house was real quiet.

I pretty much slid my feet down the stairs one at a time, and made my way in the dim light to the kitchen. Night lights? Yeah, I guess in a rented vacation home it makes sense.

I didn’t want to risk a light, but the little night lights here and there in the common areas were enough. I put the plate in the sink as quietly as I could, and left the bottles on the counter.

No phone in the kitchen; maybe that’s an American thing.

Down the hallway to what looked like a sitting room, again with a night light, but this time with a phone. I knelt by the small table by a big overstuffed chair; slid my finger under the handset to hold the button down until I got the phone to my ear. When I lifted my finger off the button, there was a dial tone, not a covert conversation about my imminent demise. Hey, a little paranoia is a good thing.

I pressed the numbers five nine three three oh seven and waited. It did that neat little gurgling so different from phones in the States. After three rings it clicked, and I could hear the tape hiss of an answering machine: “Thank you for calling Cló Iar-Chonnachta. Our offices are open from nine o’clock until five o’clock, four o’clock on Fridays, with lunch from one fifteen to one forty-five each day.” I didn’t wait for the rest of the message; pushed the switch hook down and put the handset back in the cradle.

I had a good feeling about the publishing house. I didn’t necessarily have a reason for it, but I decided to trust them if I had the chance.

I slipped back upstairs less quietly than I’d come down; if anyone caught me now, I’d just explain my tidy nature, that I was returning the dishes to the kitchen.

It was like I was in the house alone. I stopped at the top of the stairs and considered the possibility. Nah; I’m not going into Dubin’s room, or Feany’s, to see if I was alone or not. That could wait ’til morning.

The beer I hadn’t spilled drove me into the bathroom before I went back to bed. This time, if I dreamt, I don’t remember it.

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