Paternoster Tales: Chapter 17


Sorry about all the names I’m throwing at you; Patrick, Silas, Mungo, the judge … actually, I don’t know the judge’s name, so that’s not one for your mind to juggle with. I like to keep all the names I know in the air and clutch at each in turn to examine it and find its story before throwing it back into play with the others. This time the name is Mungo; it’s his turn.

Mungo needs an intro-diddly-du’ … no – no, no he doesn’t; the diddly bit is too frivolous and Mungo is altogether too sad for diddly anythings. He needs to be plainly and solemnly introduced, as befits his solemn and faithful position. I say position because that is what he was occupying when his name first came to my attention. A very particular position. Unmoving – apart from the occasional scratch. Unflinching – except when a child’s scooter got too close and he summoned his arthritic stiffness to move out of the way. Uncomplaining. And utterly uncompromising – he even stayed in the particular position when a bowl of warm milk and bread was put down for him. And he waited for the bowl to be brought closer.

Patrick had told him to stay.

Staying was what Mungo was doing.

His staying did not go unnoticed.

The bowl of milk and bread was from the restaurant that had served the judge.

By the following morning, they had a new dog bowl and ‘dog food.’ Their chef had boiled up some bones and used the stock to make a casserole of meat scraps. To this, he had added a handful of dry dog cereal that he’d sent the kitchen boy out to purchase, from the small supermarket opposite St Paul’s. And this time, the chef took the bowl to Mungo and watched as the old dog stood, stretched and slurped down the food.

During the night, a sleeping bag and a tattered cushion had been put next to Mungo on the cold stone of Paternoster Square. And a scruffy looking young man and his back pack and his dog had sat close and kept vigil over him as he slept. I watched them all – all night – shivering, but relieved to be above ground, beneath the reassuring, unchanging, gently watchful twinkle of the stars.

Just the day before, I had been underground, in the airless tunnels of St Paul’s Station, where Silas had screamed. His waifs had fled in search of Agatha. And I fled too. The less time I spent in Silas’s company, the less likely it was that he would remind me what run you out of ‘ere meant. As if I could ever forget something branded onto the folds and loops of my brain!

You know we can flow between bricks. I told you that when I established that you don’t. I knew you didn’t … or, I thought I knew that you didn’t, partly because I had no recollection of doing that when I was alive and also, because I’ve never seen one of you doing it; you’re too … too … solid! The flowing we do between bricks extends to joins in metal plates, but only where there isn’t a welded seam closing the gap. And it includes air vents and open windows. All stuff of the childish games and chases and pranks we sometimes play. Stuff we’ve been doing since … hmm … well – since the early days, just after we died. But Silas plays a different game.

In Silas’s sadistic version, a speeding train and a dark underground tunnel and crowds of living – squelchy – people and the threat of electric sparks and being forced to Disappear, are added to the chase. I would rather spend a year looking inside myself while standing in a trough of fungating pig-swill than risk Silas’s macabre game again.

Being underground had choked me. Beneath the stars I could breathe.

I told Paternoster that one of us had to watch over Mungo.

Molly was watching Agatha’s mother, so that she could tell us immediately if Agatha was found. Lucretia had gone to Holborn Station where a small girl had been seen getting off the train and talking to a young woman – I hadn’t heard if it was the same young woman in the blue trench coat similar to Agatha’s mother’s.

Paternoster was sticking very close to the judge; why, he wouldn’t say. He was happy for me to stay above ground. Watching the Square. Watching Mungo.

I was happy to think I was well out of Silas’s reach …


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