Returning from the Storm. No21 in the Jack Burke series.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
No 21 in the Jack Burke series of Paranormal Detective stories. Part of the collection "Tales from Beyond the Shadows".

Submitted: August 30, 2017

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Submitted: August 30, 2017



Leaning heavily on the ornate walking cane, the man made his way slowly from the bedroom to the small kitchen. The chill of the early morning making his damaged hip ache like a burn, once he had started the coffee brewing he followed his usual routine. Actually it was more of a ritual than a routine; stooping with difficulty he removed the bottle from the cupboard beneath the sink. A black line of indelible ink near the top of the bottled marked the contents level of the bottle; the contents had not fallen below that line in almost six months now. He carefully removed the bottle cap, holding the open neck of the whisky bottle beneath his nostrils. Jack Burke inhaled deeply; the soft odour of the Crested Ten Irish whisky filled his head. It filled his head with a heavenly aroma and the promise of blissful oblivion; he inhaled the aroma one more time before carefully replacing the cap and returning the bottle to the cupboard.

Later as he sat at the kitchen table, a mug of strong sweet black coffee before him. Jack Burke allowed his mind to dwell on the ever present question, would the time come, when he would be unable to return the whisky untouched. Why he had become obsessed with this ritual of self-torture? He could not say, yet every morning and last thing at night he opened that bottle and dared himself not to drink. Perhaps he felt it strengthened his resolve, but a small voice constantly sounded in the recesses of his mind. That little voice told him, that it was just a matter of time, a matter of time before the level of amber liquid left that black line far behind. The doubts had been growing stronger lately. Jack had begun to wonder, was drinking himself to death a better option, than a slow lingering death from boredom. Ever since he had left the collectors office that day, he had become a practical recluse.

The first four weeks had passed in oblivion, a haze of alcoholic sedation. Why he had even bothered to stop drinking he could not really say, he really had not much left to live for. The betrayal by his mentor had caused his world to imploded, but deep down the thought of Mabel being left alone had been the catalyst. Jack had to admit that the collector would have done right by her, but he had always felt she was his responsibility. Then why had he made no effort to go and see her? The truth was that he had made no effort at anything for a long time now. He rose abruptly from the kitchen table; all this self-recrimination would only drive him towards the cupboard containing the whisky bottle. Leaving the unfinished coffee, Jack made his way to the shower. He stood beneath the hot water until he felt his skin would peel, then turning it to cold; he remained there until he was numb. It was a short lived respite from the self-doubts. Once he had dried himself and dressed, his mind once again went into over drive. He needed to get outside before he drove himself crazy, or at least even more crazy then he already was.

The walk to the cliff top was an arduous affair, muscles that had been left idle for so long now screamed in protest at having to deal with exercise they had become unused to. He had not been back to the cliff top since the morning he had awoken from a bender there; somehow it felt strange standing here now. Like a ghost who had returned to his former life, only to find nothing was familiar anymore. The skies were a leaden grey when he had left the cottage, now as he stood high above the wild Atlantic. The winds were getting stronger and the skies above the waves were the colour of a purple bruise. Looking out at the savage beauty of the north Atlantic, a half remembered saying about raging against the storm played somewhere in the back of his mind. Perhaps that is what had consumed him of late, the futile exercise of raging against the storm. The fact that he had turned his back against the collector, and the life that had been associated with their relationship. Had done nothing to ease the turmoil of his mind, the anger had merely fuelled the feeling of hopelessness and despair. Perhaps this was what they meant when they spoke of raging against the storm.

The winds blowing inland had grown in strength and continued to build, the lone figure on the cliff top leaned heavily on the cane in his right hand. His left hand hung by his side holding the fedora he could no longer keep on his head. Narrowing his eyes against the biting wind and now driving rain, he stared out into the rising tempest. It was still only early afternoon but the light was fading in the face of the coming storm. A particularly strong gust of wind rocked him back on his feet, threatening to dash him to the sodden grass beneath his feet. A saner person would have urgently begun their decent from this exposed place, but he planted his feet wider and faced the rising storm. The driving rain had quickly soaked through his overcoat; the strengthening winds now propelled the wet lapels of his coat hard against his cheeks. The flapping motion of the wet material against his face stung, just like the slap from an angry lover. Where this thought had come from, he could not say, it had been quite a while since he had any lover.

The winds from the Atlantic had reached a level now that made it difficult for him to remain upright, yet with a resolve born of desperation he remained facing the inclement weather front. Had he finally lost all reason? A part of his mind wondered, but then he realised just why he standing here on the cliff top. Straining his ears he listen to the wind as it sighed and moaned through the ragged cliff face, he so badly wanted to hear just a whisper of her voice through the ghostly sounds. When he could no longer fight the fatigue, born of his efforts to withstand the storm. Jack burke made his way slowly down the now treacherous path that led to his cottage. His heart felt impossibly heavy in his chest, he had come to the cliff top in the hope that her voice would redeem him. He had expected her guidance, but in truth he did not deserve it. When he had walked away from Anna and the collector that night, he had by default walked away on Mabel also. The past number of months he had wallowed in self-pity and anger, not once had he made an effort to go and see her. So why should she take pity on him now, perhaps the answer lay in the bottom of the whisky bottle in his cupboard.

By the time he reached the cottage the storm was in full flight, he was totally exhausted now and unsteady on his feet. His eyes streamed from the biting winds making the world look blurry; he passed the car parked near the cottage completely oblivious to its presence. Inside he did not even have the energy to lock the door behind him; he collapsed on the old couch in total exhaustion. Before long the fatigue overwhelmed him and he drifted off to sleep, in a dream state he felt the hands of a woman undress him. He could even smell her expensive perfume, he called out to Mabel in his dream but she did not answer. How long he had been asleep he could not say, but he woke to a warm glow and the sound of firewood crackling softly in the grate. He was on the old couch and covered by a blanket, his mind was still dulled by sleep and he could not remember how he came to be here. The last thing he remembered was standing on the cliff top in a rising storm, the wind howled outside the cottage. A dream he thought, I dreamed I was on the cliff top and Mabel had come here to the cottage. Now that he was awake, he still fancied he could smell her perfume.

It was dark outside and the only illumination in the room was the glow from the fire, he had no recollection of setting that fire. When the soft heavily accented voice sounded in the shadows his heart jumped. “Hello Jack, I have missed you” he immediately recognised the voice. A soft clicking sound as she pressed the switch on the standing lamp, the soft light illuminated the beautiful woman with the strange emerald eyes sitting on the fireside chair. The light from the lamp looked like a halo surrounding her raven locks, the expected surge of rage and anger, never really materialised in Jack. Instead to his surprise he found a mixture of emotions rising to the surface, a certain sadness that it was not Mabel sitting there and yet he felt relief that he was no longer alone. Jack sat up on the couch and quickly wrapped the blanket around him when he discovered he was naked, Anna could not hide the smile at his embarrassment. “I took the liberty of removing your wet clothes; I did not want you catching your death”. Jack watched her emerald eyes as they sparkled with amusement.

Anna brought him fresh clothes before making her way to the kitchen, by the time he had dressed the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafted around the small cottage. As they sat at opposite ends of the kitchen table, Jack noticed all signs of amusement had left her green eyes. Jack sat in silence as Anna delivered the news; the collector had suffered a stroke and now lay in coma. The prognosis was not good; Jack refrained from passing any comment. Even after she cut to the chase on the reason for her visit, Jack remained silent. The girl with the green eyes had come to him to ask him to help her continue the collectors work. Later as he watched her brave the storm to return to her car, he felt sadness at her departure. He wanted to call her back and apologise for his silence, he had not spoken a single word in all the time she had been there. As he watched her drive into the stormy night he felt more alone than he ever had felt. The wind did its utmost to prevent him closing the door it howled and raged against him. It was then he heard her whisper on the wind. “You must go back and help Jack, otherwise all will be lost, I will be lost” Mabel’s voice whispered to him in the storm.

© Copyright 2018 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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