When Peggy Powler stood in the calming-light of the window in Father Mulligan’s private
quarters of the St. Barnabus Chapel, the warm-tranquil atmosphere was not really conducive with her feelings. In fact, the Witch’s warning-system prickled enough to cause her breathing to to be offered as small hissing-sounds.
The same kind of respiration she’d displayed just before she’d killed the Vampyre.
The priest and the travelling Fortune Teller had taken the tour of the church and Peggy had
even climbed the steep ladder up to the tiny compartment in the spire. The view was splendid
for both parties as Peggy could see far off towards the cliff-hugging community of Toole and
for the lowly-preacher, he enjoyed the vista from the bottom of the ladder.
You see, Peggy never sported underwear.
“Will a sandwich be okay…?” Father Mulligan asked over his shoulder, the priest was busying
himself with makings of the snack. “…I do like a nibble at noon” he added and grinned down at
the small slices of bread and meats on the ledge that doubled as a kitchen table.
He had brought women here before and usually, the simple-minded milkmaid or Farmer’s
daughter would surrender to his persuasion that ‘physical payment’ would absolve the guilty
thoughts that the gullible-girls struggled with.
And with the coming of Summer, Father Mulligan was looking forward to a good season
of his own particular brand of religion.
The grey-metal plate of boiled-beef and buttered-bread was placed on the window sill by the
portly preacher and with a slight wink towards the woman in the grubby-poncho, he peered
out at the rolling farmland of Bogul County.
Two years ago, Father Mulligan had visited the village that Peggy had been looking at
earlier. Toole was abit of a puzzle in regards of it’s religious beliefs and with assistance
of a borrowed cart from the Bracken family across the meadow, the man of God went
forth to save more souls.
“That gun, that’s quite a dangerous tool to have for such a small woman” Father Mulligan
stated as he eyed the leather-pouched shotgun propped near the door. The priest had
shown mild surprise that the heathen had removed it from her shoulders and placed it
in a safe position. It also put him more at-ease… which is what Peggy wanted.
The town of Toole lay along a stone-carved trackway that at times, hinted at sudden-death
to any vehicle-pulling animal that let it’s thoughts stray. Father Mulligan wanted the chance
to have a church inside the mysterious village and as he listened to the occasional rock
fall away to the ground hundreds of feet down, one would wonder if his faith was with
him along that precipitous path.
There had been rumours for years that Toole was a mining town and due to it’s location,
it wouldn’t take a scholar to rationalise that the cliff was the main source of excavation.
The red-shingled rooftops of houses could be glimpsed through the trailing mist that
fell from the plateau high above him and Father Mulligan began to plot his speech on
how to indoctrinate himself -and his religion into the families of the lofty colony.
Families… with wives and daughters.
“Yes, I would think that such a weapon would be too-much in such delicate hands” he
purred and offered his best smile.
Peggy forced her breathing to become soft-sighs as she scanned the room for possibilities
of escape, the big ordnance was five feet away and closer to the fat pervert than herself.
The Priest had never seen such an eerie place like the hamlet that peered out across the
countryside. All the houses had their curtains closed as he quietly clucked the horse along
the square-stoned high-street and yet, it was late-morning when he had arrived.
Toole boasted a market place and structure that -to the priest, may be a Town Hall or Council
Rooms. Mulligan smacked his flabby lips and and aimed the weary drayhorse towards the
serious-looking buildings. That was where the power lived -he thought to himself.
The tall-narrow houses were made of the same aggregate that the town clung to and on the
occasional domicile, a poorly-painted cross had been daubed on the rough wall beside the
All the graffiti was in red paint.
“Do yer’ take confession, Preacher…?” the Witch muttered and forced her face not to show
her disdain. With an subtle arch of her back, she pushed herself forward.
“…Ah’ mean, ah’ve something ah’ wish to get off me-chest” she cooed and was surprised by
her amateur-acting ability.
Father Mulligan nearly choked on the crust of his sandwich and smearing butter across his
greasy lips, he pointed towards at the door that led outside to the rear of the church.
The woman was old and yet, some would say ‘experienced’ Also, beggars-can’t-be-choosers
was a credo Father Mulligan held great store in.
“I …er, my parishioners tend to relate their woes out here” the cleric blurted after clearing
his throat and as Peggy stepped out into the shadowed-area that looked out onto ploughed
fields and clumps of swaying alders, she promised herself that if there was a chopping-block
and hatchet near-to-hand, she’d leave at once.
“Everyone’s gone to the moon” sang the old man in the straw coolie-hat. The slight-shadow under
flimsy headwear failed to hide the craziness of the only resident of Toole.
Father Mulligan had discovered the mad-coot after spending nearly an hour banging on the skinny
doors of the houses and shouting along the many winding alleys that seemed to lead to the plateau
The babbling decrepit fossil in the strange hat and urine-smelling shawl had been laying under the
water-trough that the horse had ambled over to during the priest’s inspection of the ghost-town and
now, after being pulled out of the water-manger -and his slumber, the old dolt was smiling manically up at the confused clergyman and singing happily.
“The cave is the way to the new world…” Silas Mutch crooned in his scratchy-voice. “… And the door
denies nobody” he croaked and searched for his half-filled bottle of liquor under the trough.
Father Mulligan scanned the forgotten homes again and considered the red crosses on the walls
of some of them.
Was it a disease…? Was it a malady of madness that had struck the town and caused the inhabitants
of Toole to hurl themselves from their eagle-nest residence? Was this drunken-sot the only survivor?
There was one more question that the preacher wondered about and it was this query that caused
him to run to the cart and rein the snickering horse back down the trackway with gusto.
If it is a sickness, is it contagious?
“Well, there’s a question ah’ve been wonderin’ about…” Peggy began and silently counted
the fifteen neatly-kept graves in the nearby cemetary. Rotating her large hat in her hands,
she offered the impression that she was lost in her thoughts.
“…It’s about yer’ big-fella forgivin’ sins” she enquired dreamily.
Father Mulligan placed his hands together across his large stomach and showed a serious
face, “There are many ways of obtaining absolution for your faults, my-child…” he answered
with low tones. “… and together, I believe we can find a way” he added and slowly lifting his
cassock, he stepped closer.
The hint of Spring was in the air as Peggy Powler set off along the road away from the
bethel known as St. Barnabus and as the hat-wearing Witch adjusted the heavy shotgun
on her back, she saw that Bogul County was shrugging off her thread-bare coat that
had protected her from the cold season before.
“Well, the world turns and we move on” Peggy whispered to the ear-wiggling hare that
watched her from the meadow across from the church. The hare declined a response
and trotted off towards it’s own future.
Her life was not improving and this pilgrimage along Caulder’s Way seemed to throw-up
more and more problems than it solved. Even though twenty years had passed since Peggy
had left the Carnival in search of finding herself, the Witch of Underhill never thought for
one moment was that she’d discover she was a pathological serial-killer.
‘No… ah’ ain’t a bad person’ -she mused as she followed her own unique yellow-brick-road.
The encounters had involved others and all she had done was protect herself and the
innocent. Still, Peggy’s spirits felt a-little low as she began her trek to the town called Toole.
The future would surely hold better-days -or even a better world.
The sun shining on the sixteen graves bore witness to the fluctuating-guilt of the receding
figure of the one called Peggy Powler.