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St patricks gargoyle, p.20
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       St. Patrick's Gargoyle, p.20

           Katherine Kurtz
 
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"Well done, Francis," Paddy said, touching his shoulder. "Just one last thing. You needn't get out of the car, but I do need you to open the sunroof for me. I've got to put Brother Richard back."

  Just how the gargoyle planned to get the crusader mummy's body out through the sunroof remained to be seen, but Templeton lifted a hand that felt like lead and slowly cranked the sunroof open. Maeve helped him, her hand on his, and slipped her arms around him as his hand fell back heavily into his lap.

  "So cold," he whispered, turning his face into her shoulder. "Hold me, Maeve."

  "My dearest love, I will always hold you," she said.

  Vaguely he was aware of her lips against his cheek, of the comforting softness of the tartan rug being laid around his shoulders and tucked around him. He felt the buffet of Paddy's wings as the gargoyle surged upward through the sunroof, taking Brother Richard back to his resting place.

  And then, quite inexplicably, he was standing hand in hand with Maeve beside the car, watching the wind lift her flaming hair against the glare of a streetlight.

  "Dear God, you are so beautiful," he whispered. "If you knew how I've missed you..."

  "I know," she replied. "But that's past now. Look."

  Jutting her little pointed chin, she indicated the shiny black door of the old Rolls Royce, polished like a mirror. It reflected Maeve herself, the breeze lifting her glorious red hair and molding a flowered summer frock to her slender figure, but it also reflected a young and dapper Francis Templeton, dark-haired and handsome, wearing the scarlet dress tunic of his knighthood.

  And even as Templeton gaped, Paddy's angelic form appeared behind them, looking over their shoulders - a dark, winged prince in rainbow-glinting armor, with a filet of stars bound across his brow. At Templeton's awed look of inquiry, Paddy inclined his noble head.

  "All is well," he said quietly, "and now it's time for you to go Home. You're a true knight, Francis Templeton, and it's been a pleasure and a privilege to work with you."

  "But - am I dead?" Templeton asked.

  For answer, Paddy gestured toward the driver's seat of the old Rolls Royce. There, with the tartan rag wrapped close around his shoulders like a shawl, the spent form of the old man's human shell sat slumped peacefully behind the wheel, the little cat snuggled close beside his thigh.

  Astonished, Templeton glanced back at his wife in wondering question as she slipped her arm through his.

  "Darling, shall we go?" she said, her adoring gaze upturned to him.

  Even from where they stood, outside the car, he could hear the little cat purring in the predawn stillness, singing him Home.....

  Chapter 22

  Paddy lingered after the two of them had gone. C.C. and the other gargoyles had seen that the crusader mummy got safely back where it belonged, in its vault beneath St. Michan's, and soon dispersed to their various assignments, via the passage under the Liffey. Paddy knew that he should return to St. Patrick's as well, but he wanted to make certain that nothing went amiss when Templeton's body was discovered. He had grown fond of the old man in the three days of their acquaintance.

  Ascending to a vantage point behind the parapet in the church's bell tower, where another gargoyle once had kept guard over this part of Dublin, he watched the waking city come alive. In light of what had happened here, and the convenience of the connection from the vaults below to the passages that crisscrossed beneath the rest of the city, he decided he would recommend permanent reinstatement of a gargoyle post at the ancient church. In the interim, maybe a part-time gargoyle would even be sufficient. He thought the Phoenix Park gargoyle might be persuaded to divide his time between the two locations, since he occasionally grumbled that little of real interest ever happened in the park.

  Meanwhile, the bell tower was an ideal place from which to keep watch over the old Rolls Royce. Through the open sunroof, Paddy could see the bright swath of tartan around Templeton's shoulders, the black beret on his bowed head. The little cat stayed beside him until the first pedestrians started passing on the sidewalk outside the church wall, well before the sun actually rose, curled up in the sheepskin hat the old man had left on the passenger seat. Paddy watched the cat trot off through the graveyard, leaving little cat paw-prints in the snow, her striped tail carried like a question mark.

  One of the ladies who ran the gift shop in the church foyer was the first person to take more than casual notice of the old car and its occupant, when she came to open up for the day - and called Emergency Services. The streetlights were just going off when the ambulance arrived, its flashing lights casting blue glints against the grey of the building and the snow all around. A garda car arrived a few minutes later, and stayed when the ambulance had gone.

  Very shortly after that, a small red Honda pulled in behind the garda car and the old Rolls Royce. It was Templeton's godson who got out. The garda sergeant who walked back to meet him inclined his head sympathetically as the two shook hands.

  "Sony to be the bearer of bad news so close to Christmas, Marcus," he said. "If it's any consolation, he probably went very peacefully. He looked like he'd just gone to sleep. Paramedics said it was his heart."

  Marcus continued past him to the old car, trailing a gloved hand along a rear fender.

  "I’m not exactly surprised," he said. "We'd known for months that he had a dodgy heart. I didn't expect it so soon, though. I saw him only yesterday, and he was in grand form."

  "I guess you never know, do you?" the sergeant said.

  "I guess you don't. Still, I suppose it's as well it happened this way. He lived with his youngest daughter and her family, and lately they'd been pressuring him to give up driving. Seems he'd begun talking to himself while he drove around, apparently chattering like a magpie. At least that's what she said. In my opinion, he was as sharp as ever; just getting a little lame. But he was afraid he wouldn't be allowed to drive anymore. That would have killed him just as surely as his heart. He loved this old car."

  "Well, it's good that he wasn't driving when it happened," the sergeant said. "But I wonder what he was doing out so early? And what made him stop here at St. Michan's? It can't have been easy to maneuver through that narrow gate. It would've been much easier to just pull to the curb."

  "I dunno," Marcus replied. He bent to look through the passenger window, gloved hands resting on the windowsill. "Did you guys open the sunroof?"

  The sergeant shook his head. "Nope. Wouldn't know how. The ambulance guys said it was open when they got here. But I don't suppose it can have been open for long, because there wasn't any snow in the car. I suppose he wanted a breath of fresh air."

  "Yeah, I suppose so."

  "One other odd thing, though," the sergeant said, as Marcus opened the passenger door and stretched inside to close the sunroof, reaching across the passenger seat, where the tartan rug lay neatly folded beside Templeton's sheepskin hat. "He was wearing a black boiler suit under his overcoat, and a black beret - though I don't suppose those were the accouterments of a cat burglar, at his age."

  Marcus managed a grin as he cranked at the sunroof. "Not bloody likely. He was a Knight of Malta. They wear those as an undress uniform when they go on pilgrimage to Lourdes. Can't imagine why he would have been wearing it here, and in the middle of the night - or so early in the morning," he added, as he finished with the sunroof and extricated himself from the open doorway. "He did go to a Malta affair yesterday, though. I drove him and a couple of other old duffers over to the Nuncio's, yesterday afternoon - but that was in full dress kit: red tunic, sword, spurs on the boots - the whole lot."

  "A sword, you say?" the sergeant said. "That explains the one we found in the front seat. Almost forgot to tell you about that."

  "You're joking!"

  "Nope. See for yourself. We put it in the boot for safekeeping. It's a pretty thing, probably worth a few bob. Boot's unlocked," he added, gesturing in that direction.

  Somewhat bemusedly he watched as Marcus went back to open the boot lid and peer inside, b
row furrowing as he propped it open on its stops and lifted out the sheathed sword with belt wound round.

  "That is odd. He always kept this in a soft leather case...."

  "Actually, it was leaning against the passenger seat when he was found," the sergeant said, as Marcus turned the sheathed sword in his hands, looking puzzled. "Looked like he might have been wearing it, and took it off in a hurry. Any idea what he might have been up to?"

  "I have no idea..."

  "Beats me, then." The sergeant shook his head as Marcus put the sword back in the boot and closed the lid. "Ah! Just remembered one more thing that you might find interesting, since we're talking about strange things. You see that tartan rug, up in the front seat?"

  "Yeah?"

  "Well, when the ambulance guys found him, he was sitting slumped over the wheel, and he had it wrapped around him like a shawl, all cosy-like."

  "Did he?"

  Coming back to the open passenger door, Marcus leaned in to pull out the folded rug. As he did so, a faint scent of roses came and went. Going very still, he held the rug briefly to his face and tried to catch another whiff, but it was gone. But he was smiling faintly as he breathed out with a sigh and gathered it to his breast, one hand caressing the bright wool.

  "His wife gave him this, when they were courting," he said. "For just a moment, I thought I caught a hint of her perfume. They were married for more than fifty years, but I don't think they ever exchanged a cross word. She and my mother were best friends, so she helped raise me. When she died, a few years ago, he never really got over it."

  "Well, it looks like maybe his last thoughts were of her, then," the sergeant said.

  "I think perhaps they were," Marcus replied. He replaced the tartan rug on the seat, gently smoothing it a few times with his hand, then closed the passenger door with a decisive thunk and glanced around with a sigh, even casting his gaze up toward the battlement where Paddy watched- though, sun-dazzled, he did not see the gargoyle.

  "I think I'll take the Rolls now, and come back later to get the other car," he said.

  "I guess that's all right - seeing as it's you," the sergeant said.

  Marcus quirked him a faint smile. "Don't worry; it's mine now, anyway. Francis wrote me into his will on my twenty-first birthday. He wanted someone to have the car who would appreciate it the way he did, and his father before him." He trailed a gloved hand along the curve of the fender as he went around the front to the other side, a caress lingering on the red and white shield held by the little dragon mascot on the radiator cap.

  "If this old car could only talk," he said, as he opened the driver's door, "I expect she'd have a few fine stories to tell, over the years. Phyllida, he called her. I'd give a lot to hear the true story of what happened last night, though- not that we'll ever know."

  "I don't suppose we will," the sergeant agreed.

  As the two exchanged a few more words, Marcus glanced back at the little gargoyle. Something in his gaze made Paddy wonder whether the day might just come when he and Marcus would find themselves thrown together for a partnership not unlike the one Paddy had briefly enjoyed with Francis Templeton - though, hopefully, more in the nature of their first adventure than their second. Breaking in a new partner took so much time and effort___

  But Paddy had all the time in the world and then some, for he was, after all, an angel, and among the firstborn of God's creation. Patience was a part of his very makeup- though he had to admit that his long sojourn among humans sometimes tried that patience just a little.

  After a few minutes, Marcus got into the old car and started the engine. From up in the bell tower, Paddy watched the garda sergeant stop traffic so that Marcus could reverse the car carefully out of the driveway and then head slowly up Church Street. When it had disappeared, he made his way around to the most sheltered angle of the tower and waited until passing clouds briefly deepened the shadows before he plummeted to the snow-covered churchyard. (In fact, he gave the clouds a little nudge.) No one saw him as he streaked into the vault that connected with the passage underneath the Liffey.

  A quarter-hour later, he had briefly bent the local weather again, this time obscured by briefly flurrying snow as he launched his shadow-essence up the side of cathedral and tower to his post behind the crenellated battlements.

  Home at last. It was not the Home to which Francis Templeton had now returned, but it was the home ordained for the gargoyle known as Paddy by the will of the One Who had sent him, from which he might best serve the purpose for which he had been created. Since it was their nature, angels desired nothing more than this, and Paddy was well content.

  Under the brightening sun of a brilliant winter's day, as the light glistened on the stones of the Irish battlements of the cathedral's tower, he settled back and listened to the sweet treble voices of the boys from the Choir School lifting in pure praise, as Choral Matins wound to an end. Very shortly, the clock in the tower below began striking the hour of ten, its sound ringing reassurance and continuance all across the streets and rooftops of Dublin. He had guarded the city for a thousand years, and by the grace of God he hoped to guard it for at least another thousand.

  And as Paddy turned his keen and ever-vigilant gaze out over the city - his city - he decided that on a day like this, after a night like the one just past, it really was great to be a gargoyle!

  Afterword

  Alas, there are, in fact, very few gargoyles in Dublin - at least that can be seen. The Georgians are, indeed, to blame for this unfortunate state of affairs, though it must be said that, in compensation, the city of Dublin boasts some of the finest Georgian architecture to be found anywhere. As for positing that gargoyles (or at least the mystical essence dwelling within their carved stone shells) are actually former avenging angels, I make no apologies for undoubtedly shaky theology in this regard. Besides, it was fun taking a few playful pokes at some human institutions, as Paddy himself does from time to time.

  The short story from which this book was expanded, "The Gargoyle's Shadow," was triggered by an act of vandalism that occurred at St. Michan's Church several years ago, somewhat different from that described in this story. Also, since moving to Dublin some fifteen years ago, I had been hearing references to the mysterious underground passages that may or may not connect various key buildings in the older parts of the city. Some swear blind that they don't exist; others are dead certain they do - and based on what I was able to uncover, the jury is still out. And of course, readers familiar with my previous work know that I just can't leave the Knights Templar alone.

  So what has emerged in St. Patrick's Gargoyle might well be described as "Katherine at play." Historians rarely need an excuse to poke around in beautiful and historical places, and Dublin has beauty and history in ample supply: all of it fair game for exploration, with the very legitimate excuse that I was actually working. A great many wonderful Dubliners allowed themselves to be caught up in my enthusiasm, and graciously shared their knowledge and expertise. The things I got right, I owe to their generous assistance; the things I got wrong are my fault entirely.

  Following are some of the good folk of Dublin, by no means all of them, who gave me a hand and shared the craic, without whom this book could not have been written:

  Nicole Arnould, Royal Society of Antiquaries, for helping ferret out information on Clontarf Castle and its Templar connection;

  The Reverend Peter Campion, Dean's Vicar, St. Patrick's Cathedral, for clarifying how the cathedral operates, especially at Christmas time;

  Michael Casey, The Irish Georgian Society, for insights on those elusive underground passages;

  Mary Clark, Dublin City Archives, who finally identified the puzzle of St. Nicholas Without - which is (or was) without, or outside, the walls of Dublin;

  Peter Condell, guide at St. Michan's Church, who knew which of its six vaults probably connects with the tunnel under the Liffey, and showed me its entrance;

  David Griffin and Simon Lincoln, The Irish Ar
chitectural Archives, for helping point me toward additional information about Clontarf Castle;

  Chevalier Daithi P. Hanly, former Dublin City Architect and Knight of Saint Lazarus, who has the Abbey Theatre's entrance in his garden, and who carved two real gargoyles;

  Mrs. Pat Kane, chairperson of the Flower Guild, St. Patrick's Cathedral, who told me about the Christmas decorations at the cathedral; John Kealy, caretaker for Clontarf Cemetery, whose brain I picked regarding the burial vaults under its ruined church;

  Geoffrey Kennedy, son-in-law to Anne McCaffrey (yes, that Anne McCaffrey), who has actually seen the entrance to one of the underground passages (it runs from behind O'Connell Street, under the Liffey, to somewhere under Trinity College);

  Scott MacMillan, for heraldic, chivalric, and vintage car expertise above and beyond the call of duty or matrimony;

  Charlie Reed, tower-captain of the St. Patrick's Society of Change-Ringers, who let me sit in on several ringing sessions at both St. Patrick's and St. Audoen's and even ring a bell, albeit badly;

  Chevalier Patrick White and Senator Donal Lydon, K.M., both of them Knights of Malta, who unravelled the mysteries of the order's uniforms.

  To these and all the others I've inadvertently omitted, my profound thanks.

  Katherine Kurtz

  Dublin, Ireland

  May 1999

 


 

  Katherine Kurtz, St. Patrick's Gargoyle

 


 

 
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