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All Souls Night in Glasgow

Kate Darroch


Glesgae Vernacular

The Sight: an ability to sense the paranormal. A sixth sense. Someone who has the Sight (second sight, the gift, a gift) is believed to see things which are not there physically, but which everyone believes are there “really”. For example, ghosts or lost objects.

Also visions, which everyone knows are not there, but which are believed to be glimpses of the future. Like most prophecies, the visions Sighted can be difficult to interpret correctly.

The Catholic Church condemns the Sight as superstition and/or fortune telling, and forbids its members to practice fortune telling in any form, including using the Sight.

The Scots and the Irish pay no attention to that prohibition, regarding it in the light of a foolish suggestion rather than a command.

kens: all variants of “ken” relate to knowing something or someone. For example, a professor of anthropology might be described as “s/he kens auld bones”. A gossip who always knows the latest news might be described as “s/he kens what’s up”. kens fine: knows well, ken thon: knows that, knows it.

gangly: tall and thin “all arms and legs” and moves clumsily.

Halloweening: can be a treat, but usually refers to the Scots custom of children going around the neighbourhoods in costume to entertain households with songs, poems, etc and get given treats.

-ie suffix: as in Niall, Niallie: in Glasgow we often add -ie to almost any word, not just proper names. Between family members, when used of each other’s names, -ie is a term of affection, tribal affiliation, or scorn; you can only tell which from the context.

tray of tablet: a confection similar to fudge, but much drier and not chewy. Made by pouring a hot mixture of butter, sugar, and water into a shallow tray and leaving it to set. Good tablet looks rock hard in the tray, but it melts instantly when you put a piece in your mouth.

bobbing for aipples: a traditional Halloween game. A tub is nearly filled with water, and placed on the floor. Apples float in the water. Children kneel and dip their heads over the water, attempting to grab an apple with their teeth. Using hands is not allowed. Helping a bobber is not allowed, but everyone always does help and pretends that they didn’t.

wean (pronounced “wain” as in the English term for waggon): child.

wee: literally “small”. Multiple meanings, often a term of affection, as in “ma wee niece”. The niece might be six foot tall in her stocking feet; you are saying that you’re fond of her.

bairn: a young child.

wean (pronounced “wain” as in the English term for waggon): child.

youse: you, plural

braw: beautiful, fine.

"Pure dead brilliant!": universally used to express pleasure mixed with satisfaction. Always exclamatory.

shillelagh: a type of wooden walking stick which is very heavy and sometimes used as a cudgel

craic: conversation, gossip, catchup, blether

yin: one, said of people


totie:small and delicate

poliss: policeman, policemen, constable, constabulary, police detective

geas: a magic spell of compulsion

chips: a plate or “poke” of chips, in Glasgow, is very similar to what Americans call Home Fries.

The snack called “chips” in America is called “crisps” in the UK.

poke: a paper bag, or paper food-cone

dreep doon: a very fast sliding, a kind of dropping in fits and starts, controlled fall/bending over

eejit: an idiot

choochtie: a gormless eejit

gormless: a person who lacks a social sense, who never seems to know the right thing to do

haddie: a shiftless person incapable of taking appropriate action

scunner: an unpleasant person whose behaviour is inappropriate

argy-bargy: any dispute from a mild domestic disagreement all the way up to a knife fight. Here, an intense verbal argument

trying it on:

sarkie: sarcastic

doing [a person] in: killing someone

awfie: very

keep schtumm: saying nothing about something you know, especially something that others might be interested in finding out about

keel over: a sudden, hard, fall or faint

Auntie/Uncle: a term of respectful affection used by a child when speaking to or of a close friend of an adult family member. Neil calls Lianna “auntie” because she is Màiri’s best friend.

puir: can be used with a number of meanings, depending on context. Here, unfortunate

Would you like a bonus story about Màiri when she’s at home in Glasgow for free? Then click here


“The Sight can lead you astray, Màiri," Granny mutters, just before she vanishes from the big round mirror in our sitting room. “That’s why the Church is agin it. Father Damien kens fine that the Sight is no’ an evil thing. But you can still go the wrong way, working with the Sight, even when you’re trying to help folk."

If she hadn’t vanished right then, I’d’ve reminded her of the catastrophe she’d created in Vermont last Fall when we were all visiting mum for the holidays - her and her walking stick and her Sight.

Just like Major Peverel, Granny doesn’t (didn’t, I reminded myself sadly, didn’t) need a stick, it’s just a prop for play-acting the part of a sick old woman. And maybe she’d been sicker than we’d thought, at that, she was gone to her reward now, wasn’t she?

Was she? Then why’s she stalking me from the mirror? It would be just like Granny to wait until we’d all cried our eyes out at her passing, and then come back as a Guardian Angel or something.

Kat bustles in, her cheeks whipped pink by the freezing wind outside, shopping bags over her arms, her gloved hands full of red and yellow leaves which she spills onto the table to drift artistically around the Jack O’Lantern I’d made for our Halloween display.

Her long auburn hair falls forward, her curls nearly going in the candle flame. I put out my hand to pull her hair away from the Jack O’Lantern, and my own hair falls forward - but not into the flame. Just the same, for a minute you can’t see where Kat’s hair leaves off and mine begins.

People always say that the four Maguire girls are so alike you can’t tell one from t’other, but that’s not true. Morag is a good three inches shorter than Kat and me; and Brenda’s eyes are hazel, not green like mum’s and Morag’s and Kat’s and mine. But we all have the same thick auburn curls, and the white, white skin, and the plump wee bodies so typical of the folk of Galway - and people are so unobservant. You can see why they say it’s impossible to tell us apart.

“Gran was here.”

“Ah weeell, it is All Souls Night. When else would she come? What did she want?”

Before I can tell her, a clattering from the hall tells us that Niall’s back from school, long and gangly and clumsy. It’s just beyond belief how clumsy that boy is, with his black hair always falling into his eyes. He hirples in, rubbing his knee and clutching Granny’s old stick.

“It HIT me. It jumped out of the umbrella stand and smashed across my legs.”

“Aye,” says his fond mother, taking him by the ear and marching him away “sure it did. No Halloweenings for you, my lad, if there’s any more out of you.”

Seconds later Kat’s back, grinning. “He’s getting into his costume now. Quick, what did Granny want? She wasn’t warning us that Niall shouldn’t go out Halloweening, was she?”

“No, she was saying there’ll be a death tonight. She Saw it.” Watching Kat go white, I silently cursed myself for my clumsy words. “But nothing will happen to Niall. He’s fine to go Halloweening.” Kat looks doubtful. “Come on, Kat. He’s her only great-grandson. She’d’ve told us. Anyway, she says the body will be brought in here. To this very room. Niallie’s better off out in the streets.”

“Aye, right enough.” But there’s a world of anxiety in her voice.

The doorbell rings. It’s Morag juggling a huge pumpkin pie, a tray of tablet, and a big glass jug of Shuggie’s home-brewed cider, all spiced up in honour of the occasion. She puts them down alongside my Jack O’Lantern, pulls off her coat and scarf, and pulls out her Polaroid camera.

“Mind, now, I’m wantin’ a photie of Niall enjoying my pie. And the tablet. And another of him in costume with his pals before they’re offski. Are they bobbing for aipples first?”

Kat heads for the kitchen. “I’ll put the kettle on.”

The doorbell rings. It’s three of Niall’s pals, clutching Devil costumes.

“We came early, Miss Maguire,” they chorus, trying not to stare too hard at Morag’s soft, crumbly, mouth-watering tablet, “to gie ye a hand wi’ the decorating. Is there bobbing for aipples? We’ll get the tin bath out for you. Hello, Mrs Ferguson.”

"Are all of youse goin’ as devils?" asks Morag. They nod. "Very appropriate! Niall, too?"

Niall walks in, a long forked tail hooked over his arm and trailing on the carpet.

"You’re no’ goin’ out in that!" Morag is up in arms. "You’ll stand on it and trip over and strangle yourself!"

Kat backs in through the kitchen door carrying a tray with the teapot and some cups on it, going white as she hears "strangle yourself". Morag doesn’t see it. A loving sister and a fine cook, our Morag, but perceptive? Not so’s you’d notice.

"I’m no’ a wee bairn, auntie!"

The tea tray goes down on the table fast and Kat’s instantly by Niall’s side. "It’s a grand costume, Niall. You’ll not be wanting your Halloweening sack to twist itself around in front of that braw tail, hiding it." She produces from nowhere a needle threaded with scarlet darning wool, whips the long tail up securely in a double loop around his arm, and with swift stitches pulls more loops onto one side of the sack, curled all around it, well off the floor. It looks stunning.

"Pure dead brilliant!" Niall glowers triumphantly at his pals, who are consumed with envy of his forked tail standing proud on sackcloth. Their own Halloweening sacks are just flaccid cloth shopping bags.

The doorbell rings. It’s our parish priest, Father Damien, and he has Aloysius McLaughlin along with him. Aloysius is the Headmaster at Kelvinside Academy, the girls’ school where I used to teach before I went off to be the Head of English Studies at the Istanbul Nautical High School.

“A fine evening, Màiri, Morag, Katriona.” Father Damien nods at us benignly. The wind must have gone down. Only half an hour ago a shrieking tempest was blowing autumnal leaves all over the place. Perfect Halloween weather.

Aloysius looks over at the boys, all trying hard to appear virtuous.

“The Unholy Quintet,” he grins.

Kat is smothering laughter. “Come in, Father, sit yourself down,” she murmurs demurely “Morag, a glass of your tasty cider for our guests. Won’t you sit by the fire, Father?”

She turns to Aloysius, all butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth. “You too, Mr McLaughlin.” She’s mindful of his dignity in front of the boys, but ready to enjoy his joke, whatever it might be.

She looks away from him, over at Niallie’s pals - they’re still clustered just inside the room - and at her son drifting over to join them.

“Altar boys, the four of them, ye ken thon fine.” She turns to our Morag. “A piece of pie for the headmaster.” Looking back over her shoulder at Aloysius, her eyes brimful of laughter “And why d’ye say five?”

“Their familiar. The cat.”

We all turn to look at a sleek black cat curled at the feet of Niall’s school friends. Where did she come from? What’s that she’s swallowing?

There’s a tail sticking out of her mouth... but the cat swallows again before Morag turns toward the boys. Just as well. Morag’s terrified of mice.

Granny appears in the mirror again, clutching a bigger, gnarlier version of her old walking stick.

“Well met by moonlight, Father Damien,” she intones, “I see you’ve come to give the Last Rites. But I don’t think you’ll be needing any fancy coffin.” She winks at the cat, and turning her head, says to me, “You might be needing this though, Màiri, later tonight.” Her gnarly stick whirls out of the mirror and catches me on the legs.

She winks at me, laughing, just before she vanishes again.

Granny always did enjoy a good joke.

Niall is killing himself laughing. “See! See!” he blurts out “Now the stick is hitting Auntie Màiri. I told you it hit me!”

I look over at Father Damien and Aloysius. Did they see Granny, or was she only visible to Morag and Kat and me? I know Niall can’t see her. Odd, that. But then he takes after his dad. And his dad never comes back for a bit of a craic. I’ve never Seen Iain once, not since he died in that awful mining disaster.

And Kat says she doesn’t See Iain either. I can’t tell if she’s sad or glad about that. Myself, I think she’s mourned him long enough and should be courting a living man now. But she never notices anyone who’s after her, it’s always Iain she’s thinking of, her whole thought is of him and of her fears that Niall’s too adventurous and will meet with a disastrous accident someday, just like his dad.

They must be able to see the stick, though, because it’s a real stick - not a spirit-stick, whatever a spirit-stick looks like. This stick is a heavy piece of wood like a smoothed-down branch from a tree in a fairy tale forest, a true black thorn shillelagh. Fleetingly I wonder what use Gran thinks I could have for it, tonight or any night.

Just where is Gran? All the family took it for granted she’s in Heaven, what with all the Masses and prayers said for the rest of her soul, but maybe she’s still in Purgatory. She used to cuss quite a bit when she was alive, after all; it always embarrassed mum something shocking. Perhaps she’ll be years in Purgatory.

Purgatory’s not a real place like Glasgow or Heaven. It can be anywhere, anything. It’s just an idea, really, the idea of waiting to be with God and His saints and angels. Maybe for Granny, Purgatory is a fairy tale wood, who knows?

I whisper the Requiescat quickly to myself:

“Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she, Your faithful servant, rest in peace. Amen.”

November, the month of the Holy Souls, begins tomorrow. I promise myself I’ll go to Mass every day to pray for Granny. I whisper a prayer to St Anthony right now, asking him to find our Granny a nice cosy place to sit in Our Father’s Mansions.

Then I turn my attention to Morag’s pie – no-one can bake like Morag – and enjoy a yummy piece with a nice cup of tea from the pot Kat made. Was it really only a few minutes ago that Morag put her goodies down on our Halloween table? It feels longer.

I wonder whether anyone will notice if I take another piece of pie. Better not, perhaps. Lots of company tonight. They’ll all be wanting to sample Morag’s baking. I mustn’t be greedy.

Jimmie and Dermott and Fionn, Niall’s school chums, have dragged out the old tin bath. It sits in front of the fire and they’re filling it to the brim with cold water, which is bound to overflow the minute the apples go in.

Yes, Kat’s coming out from the kitchen now, her hands full of at least a dozen Mac Reds, the kind with the teeny-weeny stalks, and they go Splash! into the water just as dramatically as anyone could wish for! The waves are flooding in every direction and water’s pouring over the sides of the old tin tub like it was the Trevi Fountain.

They’ll have a time bobbing for those! It’ll be whole-face-underwater and bite deep, if they’re to have any hope of getting an apple. No chance of latching on tightly enough to those skinny wee Mac Red stalks.

Shuggie’s arrived now, his work done at last. Where’s the point in a man being a master tradesman if he works harder than his apprentices? And for longer hours too. Shuggie’s aye working. But he looks happy enough for once, his arm around Morag.

Everyone’s laughing, even Aloysius, who has forgotten his dignity as the headmaster of a top-rated school and is busy tying the boys’ hands behind their backs as he pushes them onto their knees around the tub. He’s positioning them so that they can egg each other on with the bobbing - even holding each other’s apples trapped against the side of the tub with their chins if they stretch hard enough - but without making it too obvious that he’s helping them to cheat like that.

Of course, whoever is doing the prep always makes it easy for the wee yins to cheat, but those boys are twelve now, they’re not wee yins anymore. Next year they probably won’t even want to bob.

I’m glad that they’re not wearing their costumes and that Niall’s taken his off, ’coz they’re going to get soaked to the skin bobbing, and it’s a cold night, they’ll need plenty of warm dry clothes on them when they go out Halloweening.

Mum says that in Canada they call Halloweening Trick or Treat, and nobody does their Halloween piece or anything, they just get loads of “candy” (the Canadian name for sweeties and chocolate) all shoved into their bags fast, and some people are afraid of the Tricks, because some kids are rotten and let the air out of car tyres and stuff like that and call that Tricks.

What are their mothers thinking of, letting that happen? What a way to behave at a time when we should be thinking of our departed loved ones in heaven.

It’s not like that in Scotland. Here the kids sing songs, or recite poems, or do magic tricks, or tell jokes, maybe even do a wee skit, whatever their Halloween piece happens to be.

And they get given hot drinks and nuts-in-shell or liquorice or maybe a wee stick of barley sugar, or sometimes even a bit of silver money if the auld grannies enjoyed their turn enough. The grannies hoard their silver thruppennies for the Christmas pudding but occasionally they’ll part with one, or sometimes even a silver sixpence (there’s a lot of those about and they’re not traditional for the pudding like the thruppennies) so every now and then a lucky child gets given a sixpence.

But they all have to do a turn before they get given their Halloweening, and they lap up the attention and praise. I sometimes think they like being the centre of attention even better than the sweeties.

The auld grannies all love Halloween! Sometimes they’re bedridden with no grandchildren and Halloween and Christmas are the only times that the bairns come around and try to entertain them.

There’s big parties at Hogmanay, of course, but that’s different. At the turn of the year their families carry their beds into the sitting room, and they take a wee dram and join in the party fun the same as all the rest of us. And the wee yins are running around like mad things, trying to get a sup of beer. They talk to the grannies, of course, and they do their party pieces when asked, but it’s not the same.

At Halloween it’s more about getting games and laughter delivered to the auld yins’ bedsides, right wherever they’re lying. The party comes to them.

Sometimes a small group of older children like Niall and his pals will even do a scene from a play. Everybody has loads of fun. Where’s the fun in letting down someone’s tyres? It’s weird...

Now that I’m thinking of scenes from a play, I look around for Lianna. The group of amateur actors she spends her evenings with three times a week are putting on the Scottish play and she’s been type-cast as the Third Witch of Endor. She’s far and away the most beautiful woman in their group, who else could they have chosen?

For those who don’t know their Shakespeare, actors call Macbeth the Scottish play, and they won’t let anyone say the word “Macbeth” in their hearing - it’s supposed to be bad luck. So I’ve been practicing only saying “The Scottish Play” because I don’t want to accidentally say That Word when Lianna is there and upset her - she’s very superstitious.

Anyway, the Scottish play has three witches who talk to -- let’s call him the King-to-be -- and two of them are old crones, but the Third Witch is young and glamorous.

The play’s opening tonight at eight thirty, so Lianna can only pop in on our wee party for a few minutes and I have to leave early too, because I’ve promised to go along to the church hall (that’s where they’re putting on the performance) to help Lianna keep up her spirits. But she’s not here, and there’s only about ten minutes left before it’s time for us to go to the church hall - where is she? The boys are already changing into their devil costumes, she’ll miss them if she doesn’t come soon.

There’s loud knocking at the door, and someone must have answered it because now Lianna rushes in. She’s in costume, wearing a flowing robe that clings to her shapely figure, her long black hair cascading down her back, and she’s got heavy stage makeup on - her big blue eyes look twice as big as usual.

I think the greasepaint spoils her beautiful face, but obviously I’m in a minority of one, because in a heartbeat the whole room goes silent, yearningly drinking in Lianna’s loveliness.

She holds out her wee totie hand to me (although I’m not near enough to be able to take it) and gasps out “Màiri, you must come at once. Ewan has a dagger in him, he’s dead.”

Well, of course Ewan has a dagger in him, he’s playing the Old King. And naturally he’s dead, that’s what the Scottish Play is all about, the King-to-be kills the Old King so’s to become the King.

I don’t quite understand why Lianna is acting out her play in our sitting room, but of course I applaud. I’m the only one. I’m looking around at the shocked faces as I slowly realise that Lianna isn’t acting.

Ewan is dead for real.

Why has Lianna come to me with the news? It must be that she wants to use our phone to call the poliss. But there’s a phone in the church hall. Oh, well, maybe it’s out of order. And we arethe nearest house. I give up the mystery and start to move towards our hallway, where the phone is. “OK, I’ll ring the poliss station.”

But Lianna hasn’t moved, except for putting her hand on my sleeve to halt my progress towards our hall door behind her. “The poliss are there now, Màiri. You don’t understand, they think our Andrew did it.”

“Andy? That’s daft! What could Andy have against Ewan?”

Nobody much likes Ewan, ’cos he’s easily irritated and sarkie with it, but nobody wants him dead either, especially not the players and their families. Ewan’s good in the old man roles. The players coddle him and indulge him; and when he snaps at them, they tell each other he doesn’t mean anything by it.

“What a Prospero!” they sigh. “You’d be cross, too, if you were as good as that and working on the counter at the butcher’s, all your real work and your genius unrecognised.” And whoever’s had the rough edge of Ewan’s tongue nods sagely and goes off to find the tin of chocolate biscuits. Ewan does like - did like - his choccie bickies.

“I’ll get my coat.”

Lianna comes out into the hall behind me, followed by Father Damien, of course. And Aloysius. I look up at him inquiringly.

“My car’s outside. I brought Father Damien.”

Well, that explains why the Father had said it was a fine night. It’s warm and cosy in Aloysius McLaughlin’s car, right enough. The church hall is just around the corner but being driven there all toasty warm in Aloysius’ car is a treat just the same.

I reach up for my coat, and the black cat slithers around my legs, meowing. Where has she come from?

Kat follows us out into our hallway. When I’ve pulled on my coat, she silently hands me Granny’s shillelagh. Aloysius is opening the front door and the cat rushes out and prowls around the garden. We all troop over to the car.

As we’re settling ourselves in the deep seat cushions Niall rushes out our open front door, dressed in his costume, and pushes in beside me, the sharp tip of his forked tail catching my leg in the spot where the shillelagh had hit me.

“Back home! Now!” I say, pointing.

But Niall shakes his head. “You need me to protect you!” he cries fiercely. “That stick might start hitting you again.” He slams the car door shut, almost on the cat’s tail. She’s slithered into the car and is winding herself around me.

I’m so gobsmacked by the idea of a twelve-year-old dressed up as a devil protecting me from a cudgel with some kind of a geas on it that Aloysius has started the car before I can say a word, and so Niall comes along with us.

I’m a bit surprised that Aloysius is allowing him to - surely a crime scene with a dead body lying there isn’t a fit sight for an impressionable young boy. But Father Damien doesn’t forbid Niall either; and Kat hadn’t made any move to drag him back into the house when he ran to us, so maybe I’m being a bit over-protective.

The car stops. We’re at the hall already. We got here so fast no-one’s had time to say a word to each other yet. It’s very quiet outside. No crowds gawking. You’d never know that anyone was lying dead inside the hall.

I say another quick Requiescat under my breath (for Ewan’s soul this time) and quietly begin to sing the loveliest of the November hymns, because I feel that extra respect for Ewan’s suffering soul is needful here, what with a bunch of poliss clocking around, and a murder scene and all...

“For the soul by all forgotten, even its own

By its nearest and its dearest, left all alone..”

Niall begins to sing along with me

“.. whisper a De Profoundis, or gently lay..”

Lianna is singing too

“.. alms in some poor beggar’s palm.

Good Christian, pray.”

Now everyone’s singing the refrain

“Requiescant in pace, requiescant in pace.”

Feeling that the decencies have been observed, I go to get out of the car. As I’m clambering out I find that I’m still clutching the gnarly old stick, so I lay it on the seat. I try to, that is. It doesn’t want to be laid down. I can’t let go of the wretched thing. There’s a geas on it all right.

For a soul that’s not even on this earth anymore, Granny can certainly make her presence felt.


Well, here we are inside the hall. It’s still surprisingly quiet. The players are milling about aimlessly, hardly talking at all, some of them bundled up in sweaters and scarves, and everything’s set out as usual for one of the theatre group’s plays: rows of folding seats, a couple of big urns with a lassie by them ready to draw hot drinks for the crowd, and a young lad standing by the entranceway for all the world as if he’s about to take playgoers’ tickets.

But he’s not, of course. There’s no crowd of playgoers. No-one is coming into the hall except us. The lad - it’s young Séamus, I see – gapes at us vacantly. I’m gaping at the other end of the hall where the stage is set up. What on earth is going on?

There’s Andy Stuart arguing fiercely with three big poliss who’re trying to hold him back from jumping up onto the stage.

All the Stuart boys are fine figures of men, over six foot tall and champions at the caber tossing. Andy is the biggest. He’s a giant of a man, but gentle as a lamb. You’d never see him fighting with anyone. And now he’s trying to throw off three poliss to get up onto the stage? Whatever for?

I put my thinking cap on.

From where I stand, I can see Ewan’s corpse lying face down near the front of the stage, in the middle of a giant puddle of blood, a dagger sticking out of his back, buried hilt-deep. Why would Andy want to get closer to a horrible killing like that?

Father Damien isn’t at my side anymore, he’d bent to murmur briefly to Niall and now he’s walking towards the stage, taking out his stole and kissing it as he walks.

Niall’s racing for the sacristy. Of course, Father Damien will have sent him for the holy oils. I’d like to see any number of poliss try to hold our Father Damien back from giving Ewan’s body Extreme Unction (the Sacrament of the Sick, I must remember to call it).

I drift away from the door, following our priest but lagging a couple of steps behind to show respect.

Aloysius stays with Lianna, who’s standing frozen just inside the doorway, putting a protective arm around her. Her eyes are riveted on her brother’s argy-bargy with the poliss, but she leans in towards Aloysius a little, grateful for his emotional support.

Why are the poliss daft enough to think that Andy’d ever kill anybody, anyway? He works as an ambulance driver, for heaven’s sake. He’s never hurt a soul in his entire life, not even in the kindergarten playground.

Niall rushes back and breathlessly hands Father Damien the oils. I catch at Niall’s sleeve with my free hand (I’m not wanting him anywhere near a corpse) and pull some money out of my coat pocket. “Here,” pushing it at him. “Get everyone a hot drink, please, Niall. I’m a bit shaky.”

That was absolutely the right thing to say. He hugs me fiercely, just for a sec. Then he breaks away, going over to the lassie at the urns. He’s such a good boy.

We reach the stage. In front of it, the three poliss are still struggling with Andy.

I see without surprise - Merrylea’s a small parish - that I know two of them. I know most of the poliss hereabouts. These two, their sisters were in my class a few years back. I wrack my brains. What are their names? Oh, yes. “Happy Halloween, Hector, Davie.” I nod at the third poliss. He’s huge.

“Happy Halloween, Miss Maguire,” they echo a bit sheepishly. Their colleague, the man I don’t know, is startled. “Good evening, miss,” he says politely, but he doesn’t let go of Andy. The stranger poliss man seems shaken and angry.

Father Damien nods to all three and slips his stole around his neck. Without a word he mounts the first of the steps at the left-hand side of the stage, heading for Ewan’s body.

The big poliss man lets go of Andy. He moves fast to seize Father Damien’s arm roughly. Father looks down, astonished, at the huge red hand on his arm.

The man’s so big that Father Damien has to look up into his face even from his vantage of two steps above the hall floor. I can see right away that this poliss isn’t a Catholic, maybe he’s even an atheist. For sure, a man who has no respect for a priest’s person.

“Constable, let go, please.”

The man’s mouth tightens, and his face goes as black-red as a beetroot.

But he’s bit abashed and takes his hand away. Father climbs the next step.

“Come oan!” the big poliss man roars, “Ye cannae go there. Yon’s a crime scene.”

I glare at the man, my nostrils widening. Then I stop, astonished, and sniff hard. Now I’m forced to appreciate Granny’s second joke of the evening. Oh, she’s a one, is our granny!

Shifting Granny’s shillelagh into my armpit, I open my handbag and start rummaging.

“Hector, let us pass, please,” I ask, pulling out my powder compact and snapping it open.

“Can’t do that, Miss.” He’s politer than his huge colleague but just as stubborn.

“Then let Father Damien through alone.”

“Can’t do that, either.” He turns to Father Damien and speaks politely. “You can give him the Last Rites down at the station, Father, if you like. Although I don’t think Ewan was a Catholic.”

“Well, Catholic or not, he’ll not be needing Sacraments,” I say calmly, and use the moment of astonishment as everyone draws back, appalled by my bad manners, to duck under Hector’s arm – and instantly I’m running toward the other side of the stage to mount the steps there.

The mirror in my open compact glitters, reflecting the stage lights, blinding everyone near me.

Hector and Davie both drop their hold on Andy and come after me.

But Andy grabs hold of Hector’s shoulders, pulling him back.

At Hector’s roar, Davie is momentarily confused. Should he keep on chasing me or go back to help Hector? Davie’s confusion only lasts a moment, but a moment’s all I need.

I jump up on the steps and gain the stage. As I do, the big poliss man grabs Andy, imprisoning him in a bear hug.

Seeing Hector freed from Andy’s grip, Davie chases after me. He’s a lot faster than I am and he reaches me before I’ve quite reached Ewan’s body.

Davie has no compunction about grabbing me and holding on tight. Really, today’s youth have no respect for their elders.

Hector races up level with Father Damien, who is again mounting the stage steps, and dances around him, pleading. “Father, Father, you’re in my road. You’ll need to be moving now, Father. Do you not see that, Father? Father? I need you to move aside now, Father. Down the steps, Father, please. Move aside!” Hector doesn’t want to lay his hands on Father Damien, who’s his parish priest too, but any second now he’ll overcome that reluctance and grab him.

Niall dashes up, managing three paper cups of tea as if he’s in the last leg of an Egg & Spoon Race.

He fires a scalding stream of tea straight at the chests of two of the unsuspecting minions of the law; and then at Davie’s back (because Davie’s chest is close to my own back, and naturally Niall doesn’t want hot tea anywhere near me.)

“You’re not to hurt my auntie!” Niall shrieks at the screaming poliss, who are clawing desperately at their uniform jackets, trying to stop the boiling liquid from soaking in deep enough to burn them and scald their skin.

They’re all shouting words I’ll not repeat. (A lady never admits to hearing anything she shouldn’t have heard.)

Andy’s shouting too, telling them to get into the Men’s Room and pour cold water on each other before they try to take off their uniform jackets.

“Hurry!” he shouts. “Hurry! You’ll not get scalded at all, not a bit of it, if you’re quick.”

The stranger poliss man goes on pulling at his wet jacket. Hot tea is beginning to soak through the thick uniform cloth.

“You eejit!” Andy shouts. “First you don’t let me help Ewan, and now you won’t let me help you!” He gets behind the man and pushes him the half dozen steps to the Men’s Room door, and through it.

Davie’s in worse trouble than the other two, with the back of his jacket soaked in boiling tea.

“Quick, Davie!” I cry. “Do what Andy says, you know that’s best!”

Davie does know it. He lets go of me, whimpering now, and rushes for the Men’s Room.

As soon as Davie lets go, I cover the space between me and Ewan’s prone body in a single stride, turn him over, and stick my compact mirror in front of his nose. It clouds up.

I glance up, waving the clouded mirror at the minions of the law. At least I would have, but they’re all in the Men’s Room, getting thoroughly soaked in cold water by Andy.

“Ewan’s still breathing, you great big choochtie! That’s what Andy was trying to tell the three of youse! Get an ambulance!” I shout to the room at large.

Young Séamus dashes to the payphone on the wall and dials 999. “Ambulance! Fast! At the church hall. It’s a matter of life and death!” Well, he is an actor. They will have their dramatic moments.

The third poliss man, him whose name I don’t know, emerges from the Men’s Room soaked right through. I wave the mirror at him, but he’s having none of it. He jumps up onto the stage and grabs my shoulder, swinging me around. I let him pull me round, using the momentum to shove the clouded mirror straight into his face, so that he can’t miss seeing the breath on it.

“Ewan’s still breathing, you great big choochtie! Get on your radio now for an ambulance! That’s what Andy was trying to tell the three of youse, you load of gormless wonders.”

He plucks his radio from his belt and for a heart-stopping moment I wonder if all that water has stopped it working. But it’s in a waterproof casing and works just fine. He asks for an ambulance.

Then I bend down and pick up Granny’s shillelagh. Not that I want to. But I can’t help myself. I tuck the blackthorn stick under my arm.

Father Damien has reached us and gently begins the Sacrament of the Sick, whispering the words and making the sign of the cross on Ewan’s forehead with the blessed oil. Niall comes up and gingerly pulls off Ewan’s boots for his feet to be anointed.

The big poliss man obviously wants to interfere but he pulls back instead. I can tell that it’s because he’s beginning to be worried. He should have sent for an ambulance for Ewan ten or fifteen minutes ago now, and he knows it.

Instead, Leanna had to come for me for help; critical time was wasted; he’s beaten up first aiders and kept them away from the victim; and who knows if Ewan will live through it?

So he glowers at Father Damien and Niall as the Sacrament of the Sick is given, whilst I pray silently to St Anthony to find Ewan enough breath to stay alive, if that’s Our Heavenly Father’s will, but he doesn’t dare interfere.


The ambulance comes pretty quickly and takes Ewan off to the Victoria Infirmary.

The poliss want us all down at the station, but they’re not in a position to insist, and I’m not ready to leave the hall yet. I want to know where Granny’s joke is headed.

I’m pretty sure Ewan will be OK, because Granny Saw his body in our sitting room, where it can only come if he recovers and brings his own body there himself, with his living brain still in it.

That big scunner doesn’t take well to being in the wrong. No apology, no attempt to smooth things over. Not him! He just gets more belligerent. When I won’t go with him to the station he starts trying it on about Niall “assaulting the poliss in the execution of their duty”.

“Oh, yes?” I say, drawing myself up to my full five foot three inches and glaring down my nose at him. That’s not easy to do, mind, because even with me above him on the stage he’s towering over me, six foot six if he’s an inch, and built like a brick outhouse. But I’m not a teacher for nothing. I’ve quelled worse than him with a word before now, and a good teacher could look down her nose at a dinosaur. “It’s your duty to nearly kill honest citizens in need of medical attention, is it? It’s your duty to attack first aiders trying to give professional assistance, is it? It’s your duty to lay violent hands on helpless women, is that what you’re telling me?”

He slouches off, muttering that I’m about as helpless as a regimental tank.

I smile a sarkie smile, bending down to pick up Granny’s shillelagh. Not that I want to. But I can’t stop myself. I tuck the blackthorn stick under my arm. But I’m worried.

Why am I going to need that shillelagh tonight? Why is there a geas on it? Who hurt Ewan and why? Why has Granny sent me here to figure out this murder attempt, instead of leaving it to the poliss, or giving them a clue if she feels like helping?

I can’t make sense of it at all. So I let it go for now. I’m hungry. There’s fast food to be had here, and I intend it eat it up whilst the going’s good.


“How did you know?” Davie begs, as I’m wolfing down a hot dog slathered in mustard and tomato sauce, with a big plate of chips practically drowned in malt vinegar. He plops himself down at my table without so much as asking my permission.

Ask and ye shall receive. So I tell him. “It’s as plain as the nose on your face.”

He’s not amused, so I say it a bit plainer. “It’s just exactly that obvious, Davie. Here’s Ewan, lying on the floor in a giant puddle of blood, looks stone dead, a dagger buried in his back up to the hilt. And a not a hint of blood smell anywhere.

“The smell should have been overwhelming, everywhere, so strong it makes you sick. And here’s a church hall full of people - and none of them smell it. I’m within two feet of the so-called corpse, and sniffing as deep as I can, yet there’s not a hint of blood smell.

“So it had to be fake blood, stage blood for tonight’s performance of Mac -- sorry, the Scottish play. ‘Who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him?’ And then I thought – if it’s stage blood, probably it’s a stage dagger too. And it was. Just the rubber hilt and a retractable rubber blade, that couldn’t possibly have harmed him. Wouldn’t even leave a bruise.” I eat a chip.

It’s a real nuisance, having to wait on Davie’s slow thought processes when I want to put my mind to finding out why Granny’s brought me here.

Andy comes up just then, and pulls out a chair on the opposite of the table, his stiff manner making it clear that he hasn’t forgiven Davie. He moves the chair a bit before he sits down and turns to me, ostentatiously pantomiming that he’s not with Davie. He hasn’t forgiven Davie and isn’t about to. I’d better smooth things over before a feud develops.

“What got into you, Davie?” I ask gently. “What possessed you to suspect Andy of doing Ewan in, when ye ken fine he’s the gentlest giant in Glasgow?”

Davie mutters something nearly inaudible about “assisting a fellow constable”.

“So that’s it,” I say sharply. “Thon numbskull said Andy did it, and you went along with that? Against Andy – whom you’ve known all your life?”

“Said, nothing!” Andy explodes. “Assault, that’s what it was.” He turns to me, riled despite his placid nature. Andy takes his work seriously. He’s had more in-depth on-the-scene medical assistance training than any two other drivers at the Infirmary put together. “Something fell out of the rafters and hit Ewan on the head. I saw him keeling over when it happened, so I rushed over there and I was trying to get a look at his head when this eejit’s (he glares at Davie, who looks sheepish) Attila the Hun impersonator of a colleague (oh, it’s awful the sarcasm he puts into sayingcolleague”) launches himself at me from the other side of the stage. He cannons right into me and sends me slithering to the edge of the stage - and off of it. Where I caught myself a right crack on the head. Then this nincompoop” he waves at Davie “jumps on top of me and so does his pal. I should file an assault charge right now.” He rubs his head gingerly. “A terrible crack it was, I might have a concussion.”

I look over at Davie. “He’s right, Davie. It’s a serious matter, and we’ve only God to thank that it wasn’t more serious. You owe Andy an apology. And you’d better go down to the station with him and help him to file an assault charge against thon big choochtie. Whole-hearted help, mind, Davie. Ye ken fine I’ll hear about if you start back-pedalling.” Davie nods, sheepishly. “Alright! Off youse go then!”

Andy’s still glowering, but he gets up. So does Davie.

“You’ve been lucky, Davie,” I add. “It can’t have done Ewan any good lying in a puddle of fake blood for so long. It’s lucky he fell with his face a little to the side. Or he’d have breathed it in and drowned. Remember that.” Davie nods again, very seriously this time.

So I decide to let him save face. He’s the law here in Merrylea, after all. I’m no’ wantin’ any hooligans jeering at him about this. And when Andy cools down, he won’t want that either.

“But you were right to suspect foul play, Davie. Someone hit Ewan awfie hard. What you need to do now is figure out who. And apologise to Andy.”

Davie gets up, shame-faced, and nods to Andy. “She’s right. I’m sorry, Andy.”

Andy softens a bit at that. Davie turns back to me. “You think they’ll try again?”

“Why for no?”

“Why for no, right enough.”

Davie’s shaken. Time to get back to normal.

“Come round to ours for the party when you’re done.” I say that to both of them, so that Davie will know he’s been forgiven, at least by me.

They go off together. Thank goodness. I can get on with the job now.

“All right, Granny,” I petition the empty air, “This is your gig. What do I do now?”

Her voice wafts over to me, pure and high and sweet, faint like tinkling bells.

“You’re so lucky, Màiri,” she says mournfully; and I’m eaten up with guilt that I haven’t prayed hard enough for her.

I’ve prayed the knees off myself, but obviously that wasn’t enough, or she’d be in Heaven right now, not floating about in the ambient air playing practical jokes on me. Poor old Granny, locked out of Heaven for who knows how long, and feeling all the unbearable pain of separation from God’s love, pain too great for any human alive to know how terrible it is.

“So lucky...” she sighs in a whisper, and my heart breaks for her. “What wouldn’t I give to be able to taste a hot dog.”

Then she remembers her role as a tragic prophetess. “The Sight can lead you astray, Màiri,” Granny intones, and vanishes.

If she hadn’t already gone I’d’ve hit her with own shillelagh. But she has gone. No point in sighing for lost opportunity. The black cat is brushing against my ankles again. What does she want?

“I don’t know why you’re asking Granny,” Niall says, munching on his third hot dog. The dear boy swears he won’t leave my side until ‘that stick’ is gone.

Truth to tell, I’m not keen to let him out of my sight. He did attack three poliss with a ton of boiling water, and at least one of them is vindictive. No, Niallie is safer with me, even if I am stuck in the middle of my dear departed granny’s idea of a good joke.

“Don’t try to change the subject. You shouldn’t have thrown hot tea at the poliss, and you know it!”

“It wasn’t that hot,” he grumbles through a mouthful of chips. “I’d put some cold water in. They were just scared stiff at the idea of being hit by boiling tea.”

I grin. That’s what Granny would have done. Maximum terror, minimum harm. Niall’s a chip off the old block. But Ewan nearly died. He probably would have died if our granny hadn’t taken a hand in his fate. I’m definitely not wanting Niallie to keel over, too. I’d miss him something dreadful and Kat would never forgive me.

But although I’m keeping Niallie under my eye, I know how much he was looking forward to going Halloweening with his pals, and that is one fab costume, it’s a real shame to waste it. So I don’t really hear what he’s saying when he goes on talking. My mind is going around in circles. Then I do a double take and ask him to repeat.

“Look,” he says patiently “you’re asking Granny for advice, and she’s the last person you should be asking. She hit you with that big heavy stick, and she laughs at you, and makes you do stuff you don’t want to do. Like carrying that stick around. And getting you into trouble with the poliss. You were all upset about seeing that man’s body lying there, don’t pretend you weren’t. Auntie Lianna is crying over there in the corner, all by herself. And we’re missing a good party at home. So who cares what Granny wants? Let’s find out what the stick wants, and do that and send the stick home happy, and go home ourselves.”

There’s a lot of sense in that, except how do you find out what a shillelagh that’s under a geas has been spelled to do? Doesn’t matter what it wants, it has to obey its geas. If only I knew what geas, that would be a big help...

“Niall,” I say slowly, “that’s a good idea. But how do we find out what’s important to a bit of wood?”

He crams the last of his hot dog into his mouth and stands up. “It’s something in this hall. It wouldn’t let you leave it behind in the car, remember? Let’s look around.”

He’s the only one who’d seen that the shillelagh was under a geas which wouldn’t let me put it down – and he had the good sense to keep schtumm about that.. He’s right, he’s not a bairn anymore, he’s grown into a young man and I never even noticed...

And maybe he’s got a good idea there about checking out the hall, so I call the cast together. Most of them are still drifting quietly around the hall, pretending that they’re not waiting for something else horrible to happen; most of them are at one and the same time both horrified and pleased by seeing Ewan’s troubles – and they’re gossiping like there’s no tomorrow.

I decide I’d better be acerbic, because their director is a terrible bully and so they won’t understand that the voice of authority is speaking unless that voice’s tone is unpleasant.

“What’s the matter with you all?” I sigh, squinting down my nose at them as if I’m making a big effort and they really aren’t worth it. “Are your nostrils so full of the scents of spiced cider and pumpkins that you didn’t even notice there’s no blood smell in this hall?”

It gets their attention as I knew it would. A buzz of conversation starts at once. They hadn’t noticed, and now they’re wondering why not...

“What about the stage blood?” I ask “for when the Old King gets stabbed. Where’s that gone? Who was in charge of it?”

The buzz gets louder, whinier, and more puzzled. They don’t know a thing.

Then the stage manager pipes up.

“You’re right. I didn’t notice until afterwards that the stage blood was all gone. But when I noticed that, I also noticed something else.”

The players’ buzz grows quieter but more alert. They want to know what he noticed.

“Three things really. Our stage cat has just had a litter of kittens. Our electrician is asleep in the rafters in the hall here, dead drunk. And there’s more walking sticks and cudgels in the props room than there was last time I looked.”

Niall nudges me excitedly. Perhaps there’s a bit of the bairn left in him yet. The black cat twines itself around my ankles again.

“That cat is just like one of our cat’s kittens, only bigger,” says the stage manager now.

Ah, so the cat is a Sending. I’d thought it was, the way that cat just appeared from nowhere and kept drawing attention to itself whenever things were happening.

But you can’t be sure until you know what the Sending is about, because it’s a kind of nudge from a half-world that the Catholic Church says doesn’t exist.

And maybe that half-world doesn’t exist. Maybe all the intuitions and hunches and weird ways we get drawn to things genuinely are just subconscious integrations of a lot of buried knowledge getting pieced together in a hurry, the way the university boffins say. Maybe they really are just stuff that you knew all along without knowing that you knew it, the way the eggheads tell you.

I’m not inclined to argue, because so far as I can tell from reading all the books I could find about subconscious integration, it’s just a fancy name for that sixth sense which tells us about things, and warns us about things.

If all those professors would rather say “subconscious integration” than “sixth sense” that’s fine with me - it’s just two different names for the same thing...

A Sending is a weenie bit different from a sixth sense warning, but not all that much different. It’s more or less the same thing but just it’s kinda more in a physical form.

So instead of getting a feeling that won’t be denied which tells you, for instance, that a yellow hat is important although you don’t know why, instead you keep tripping over the same yellow hat (or different yellow hats which all look the same) everywhere you go.

Same difference, if you ask me.

The profs call that one “heightened awareness” combined with a temporal lobe stimulation which causes you to feel significance that doesn’t really exist.

They say the yellow hat was always there, but you just never noticed it before. And that it doesn’t have any true importance, you just think that it has because a nerve inside your brain moved over randomly against another nerve.

Which is a nice little theory, except if the yellow hat really is a Sending, then the moment you get what that Sending is all about then you’ll see the yellow hat’s true significance, and it’s a real significance alright.

And now I’m almost seeing it. Somewhere in the place where that stage cat littered, there is a vital clue to what this ghastly attack on Ewan is all about... that’s what this cat/kitten thing means. I’m getting a little bit excited myself now, and Niall is practically jumping up and down.

“The stick!” He grabs it off me, and to my surprise it leaves my hand easily enough and nestles in Niall’s hand comfortably. “Look everyone! This stick HIT my auntie! And it won’t leave her alone! Has anyone seen another stick like this one in the props room?”

The stage manager nods. “There are three sticks like that one,” he says “but there’s nothing odd about that. They’re called shillelaghs and there have been three of them there for donkey’s years. We use them in a play about Irish tramps. At least we did, years ago, and they’ve been there ever since.”

Niall is crestfallen. But now I get what the Sending is about.

There’s the Irish in it, I should have twigged that earlier. And trouble that’s old, old, trouble. And people who are homeless. A beating given by three sets of troublemakers. And it’s hidden inside a celebration. And there’s a sort of way in which you’re almost doing it to yourself. And you feel guilty without really knowing why.

I really should have seen it earlier, but somehow I can’t think of that kind of trouble coming to Merrylea. Not to my home, my family.

It’s the IRA at it again, curse and rot them! And yet I don’t mean that. They’re fighting for the right in their own deeply misguided way. I can’t hate them, because I know how hard they’re trying to create the kind of world I want to live in. How much they’re suffering to make Ireland a safe and happy place for Catholics. If only they didn’t think that the road to Heaven is paved with bombs.

Abruptly, I pull myself together. The important thing is to get everyone out of the hall as fast as possible, without creating a panic. A bit of subterfuge is called for.

“Well,” I say briskly to the crowd in the hall. “We’re wasting our Halloween. My home’s just around the corner. Let’s all go there right now and have some of my sister’s scrumptious baking, and a nice warm fire, and a wee dram. I think we’ve earned it.”

This suggestion meets with universal approval, and people start pouring out of the church hall, but then some of them stop to tidy up.

“Don’t tidy up now!” I shout out. “The night’s a-wasting. The Headmaster will send around some of the school cleaners in the morning to put everything back where it should be.”

So the last of them pour out, the dear lord be praised. Lianna takes the stick from Niall and hands it to me, and then she leads the whole pack of them off to our house, holding tight to Niallie’s hand, much to his disgust.

Aloysius stays behind. Naturally he’ll be wondering what I’m up to, saying he’ll send cleaners around to the church hall when there won’t even be any cleaners at the school the next morning.

“Quick!” I say to him very quietly. “Drive round to the poliss, they’ll need to get the army out. We need bomb experts here. I think that the IRA have been in this building, or maybe in the church.”

He doesn’t waste time wondering or arguing, or asking how I know. Me and Lianna have miraculously escaped terrorist attacks three times in the last three months. Aloysius knows that. He knows the danger is real.

Everyone’s out of the church hall now, the only person who is still in danger of being blown up is the electrician in the rafters, if he’s still there. Or ever was there.

There’s no time to find out.

Or, wait! Maybe there is. Granny left me her stick because I’d need it before the night was done. She said so, repeatedly. So this stick will allow itself to be used in the ways I think best. That’s a comforting thought.

I hurl the stick up in the air as high and hard as I can, and wait for the geas to kick in.

The stick swoops around in the rafters, dancing a minuet on the air, turning and twisting and making the rafters shake. It skims low, it whirls high, it drops down onto the wooden beams like a stooping hawk. It pulls out, plunging down, rising up again, twirling around every inch of the rafters.

That’ a relief! There’s no-one hiding in those rafters. If there had been, the stick would have sniffed them out. And just as I’m thinking that, a drift of dust falls languidly through the air, and down an unconscious body drops.

If the puir man hits the floor, he’ll break bones.

And more to the point, the hall could blow up at any moment.

“Aloysius!” I yell, “Come here right now!” I’m running toward the falling shape, sweeping the cushions off the chairs as I pass them, so that they land on the floor in a heap, as close as I can get to where I think the electrician is going to fall.

Aloysius looks round, and he catches on right away, racing toward me, but the man is already falling past the rafters, plunging towards the floor. I’ve reached the plummeting body now, and it catches me square in the gut, knocking me backwards straight onto Aloysius, who has arrived right behind me. He staggers and falls onto the scattered chair cushions with me and the man from the ceiling on top of him. Fortunately, spread through three bodies like that, a lot of the momentum from the fall is dissipated. Nobody has broken bones, at least I don’t think so. I hurt like fury though.

We don’t waste any time asking each other if we’re all right -- since it’s perfectly obvious that we’re notall right, and that doesn’t matter at all, not now. The important thing is to get out of the hall.

Aloysius grabs at the man, and so do I. Together we start hauling him towards the door. It’s hard work, and we’re both hurting, but there’s no time to waste.

“How did you know he wasn’t dead?” Aloysius gasps, as under our combined efforts the body slithers across the floor. Probably the man will have internal injuries, the rough way we’re handling him, but better that than be blown to bits.

I don’t answer him. Partly because I’ve no breath for talking – it’s hard enough breathing and dragging and hurting. Mainly because I’ve no idea how I knew. I just knew.

Much later, a professor of physics gives me the answer. The way a lifeless object falls is slightly different from the way a living body falls. Something to do with friction. He explained it all to me, but I wasn’t listening properly.

Once we’re outside, we manage to bundle the flaccid body into the car’s back seat somehow. Aloysius slams his car’s door shut on the body sprawled on the back seat. “Jump in,” he invites, “We’ll go straight to the Infirmary. You might have a bleeding gut.”

I stand there shaking my head. “I’m not badly hurt, just sore. Go to the poliss station. We must get the bomb squad here. As fast as can be. The poliss can get this man whatever medical help he needs.”

“OK. But I’m dropping you at the hospital first.”

I stop for a second with my hand on the car’s door handle. “I’ll not worry Kat needlessly. I’m going home.”

Aloysius is so flabbergasted – and annoyed with me – that he just jumps in his car and races off for the bomb squad like I’d asked him to. It never even occurs to him to drop me off at home on his way, although he has to go right past our front door before he can get to the poliss station.

It starts to rain, and I’ve no umbrella.

I hirple homewards slowly, leaning on the stick. I’d walk faster if I could, but my tummy hurts like fury. It’s very cold. I’m so tired…

I’m grateful for the Sending. I’m grateful that no-one was hurt or seriously injured when so many people might have been. I’m very glad that Aloysius will deal with the bomb squad and that I don’t have to. But a tiny selfish part of me is clamouring for him to be here right now, driving me home in his lovely warm car, out of the wet.


If I could have seen into the future, the way Granny’s always claiming to, I would have known that great cause for gratitude was on its way to me.

Less than six weeks further down the road, Lianna’s play gets into the Close Theatre; and Major Ellis Peverel turns up unexpectedly.

Why is Ellis in Glasgow? He’ll be chasing gun runners, he never does anything else. As if it’s not bad enough that we nearly got bombed, now a new threat looms. But I’m glad to see Ellis anyway. I think of him as a friend.

There’s a long story attached to his arrival*, but I’m not going into that now. I’ll just say, he was here for weeks!

But all of that’s in the future.


Tonight, I’m grateful to be alive. And as a I struggle along, I know that not even the pain in my tummy and my side will spoil my Halloween.

“Thank you, St Anthony,” I breathe as I struggle around the corner to our home, knowing that Lord Jesus will always take care of me. “Please plead with Our Almighty Father for my old Granny. Find a wee corner in Heaven for her.”

When I get back to our house, the sitting room is packed to the gunnels, and the party is overflowing into our hallway, with a dozen whisky bottles in view.

Where did all those bottles come from? If there was one bottle of whisky in our house, that’s the most there was.

The doorbell rings. It’s Ewan, leaning on Dr McBride’s arm.

“Ewan’s just fine, Màiri” beams the good doctor. “Your quick thinking - and some aspirin - have saved him.”

“Come on in and join the party.” What else can I say?

Granny appears in the small oval mirror that’s in our hall.

“Told you!” she cackles at me. Then she makes a long arm out the mirror and grabs an almost full bottle of The McCallan right out of an actor’s hand, just as he’s unscrewing the cap.

“Ah, paradise!” she grins, pulling the bottle into the mirror. Of course she spills a huge dollop of whisky all over me just as she disappears.

Granny always did enjoy a drop of a good malt.


If you have enjoyed this story please consider reviewing. Reviews help new readers to find Kate’s work, and that in turn means Kate has less need to spend time telling people that the book is available and so has more time to write.


*Learn why Major Peverel arrived in Christmastide in Glasgow

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