Patrick poured his story out.
I could have written poured his heart out but as Mungo held Patrick’s heart that would have been difficult. His was a story dominated by loneliness. Traumatised by war-time experiences so terrible that he couldn’t voice them even now. The fleeting, gossamer dance of pain across his face gave the merest hint of them while his years of mental torment went unnamed and he learned to carry across his shoulders, a burden of memories, like a bundle of blanketing shrouds wrapped in an impenetrable mesh of barbed wire. Years of sketching and painting and exhibiting and listing in catalogues of living artists had made his art work collectable. His pictures hung in small galleries and offices across the capital and in many foreign cities. But they were too disturbing to grace the walls of many homes. Recently, however, his loneliness had led him to start people watching. Sitting at the edge of the society that packed the streets. Seeing the myriad of lives hurrying past. A man on a chair, with a cold coffee, filling his sketch book with the faces of strangers. And of children – which is what had got him into so much trouble.
As the two men talked into the deepening dusk, Paternoster hovered in the air, listening. It was going well; as planned. Not that he had planned anything exactly. His plans were more hopes; wished for things. A dream perhaps that the two men would connect and that good things would result from that connection.
What Paternoster didn’t plan was for Patrick to notice something about the way the judge sat. About the turn of his head and where his eyes darted repeatedly and lingered. And for him to ask the judge calmly, “You see them too, don’t you?”
And for the judge to cup his hand round his eye, blocking his view of Paternoster and whisper “Yes.”
It wasn’t as if Paternoster didn’t know that the two men could see him, it was more that people in his experience didn’t usually admit to seeing waifs. That way lay madness. Or so people thought. Seeing faces in windows and now Paternoster floating in the air near their table – surely these were hallucinations? Or not.
Patrick looked at Paternoster who smiled and then whistled. And Mungo sat up and wagged his tail. And looked up at Paternoster. So the dog was hallucinating too?