Sloan, Ula and I left the office of Rolingson without any further information. My sister-in-law was still angry about the blonde buffoon that tried to seduce me in front of them. Leaving the office, we found the woman ranting and raving outside the door.
“Look what you have done to my shoes.” The woman blustered holding out one of her shoes with a broken heel. “I’m going to sue you for damages…you have not heard the end of this.”
I kept a wide berth from her, Sloane still chuckling under his breath. Ula dug an elbow into the woman’s side as she passed causing her to fall landing hard on the floor on her butt. Even I had to hold back a laugh, Ula was not a person to displease, a temper like a wild cat. We made a hasty retreat to the alley to return to their kitchen a few minutes later.
Sloane let out a guffaw, his laughter filling the room. “That woman took a right liking to ye bràthair.” I snorted at him, eejit.
Ula was still seething. “I should have gut punched her.”
I took no notice still clinging to the magazine. “We ken where she went, I have to find her.” Not bothering to look up. My eyes refused to leave the picture which was looking damaged with all the gripping of it I had been doing.
Ula filled the kettle and put it on the stove to heat. “Conall first we have a cuppa then we can sit and talk about how we are going to do this.”
“Ula, I need to go I cannae wait any longer.” I just wanted to travel right now, I didn’t want to wait, nor did I want to sit and have a damned cup of tea.
Sloan patted my shoulder and pushed me down into a chair. “Conall we need to find out a wee bit more about yon time that Morgan went to. Even Rolingson and his guard were no sure of when the painting was done.
“Sloane’s right Conall let’s just have a cuppa and then I’ll see what I can find out on the computer.”
I knew they were right, of course, but I just wanted my wife back. “Alright but ye look as soon as ye have had ye tea Ula. I’ll wait no a minute longer.” Ula nodded and set about making a pot of tea.
She put the pot and three cups on the table. Sloan pulled a small bottle of scotch from a pocket and poured some into my cup, to a wide-eyed look on Ula’s face.
“Do ye want a wee dram lass?”
“Aye I do.” She said with a raised cynical eyebrow.
“Conall from what I do know of the painting of the Unknown Woman by da Vinci it was painted in Milan. Morgan doesn’t speak Italian, as far as I know.” Ula said.
“If twas painted in Milan then they would have spoken a mix of Milanese and Latin during the time that da Vinci was there. I don ken how Morgan is handling a language she dosnae speak.” I surprised myself that I had after all learned something from all the history lessons, I had at Castle Sutherland.
Just as I drank the last drop of my tea a figure suddenly appeared in the doorway, I flew out of my chair.
“Andrew why are ye here?” Sloane an Ula got to their feet as well.
He made his way to the table to the stunned expressions on everyone’s faces. “Oh aye, Conall, there ye be. Is that tea ye have.”
“Andrew.” I warned.
Andrew sat at the table waiting as Ula grabbed another cup and poured him a tea waiting to see what had brought him here. We all knew Andrew was the messenger of the Cailleach. We also knew that he hardly ever came with good tidings, it was usually the opposite.
Sloane and I sat glaring suspiciously as Andrew took a sip as if it was a simple Sunday afternoon visit, then set the cup down crossing his hands on the table.
“Conall the Cailleach want’s tae see ye.”
I jumped out of my seat. “Nay, I have tae find my wife. I have nay time tae go see her now.”
Andrew pressed his lips together before he spoke. “Aye I did hear, I’m sorry fer ye troubles lad. But she insists ye go right away. Oh, and ye need tae bring Dougall with ye.” Picking up his cup he slurped at the hot tea.
“Well I will nay go!” I yelled. Sloane patted my shoulder again.
“Bràthair if the Cailleach needs ye, ye have no choice. Dinna worry about the lass, if’n ye find her when she first got there no time for her will have passed. Ula will find the right year by the time ye get back.”
I didn’t want to go see the Cailleach not now we were so close to finding her. I understood what Sloane was saying about Morgan not missing too much time, but it was the time that it would take me to go find Dougall and then go to the Cailleach. I was sure this wasn’t going to be a quick visit. No something else was going on.
“Conall son, ye canna say no tae the Cailleach, ye ken if she needs ye then ye must go.” Andrew said setting his cup down again and getting to his feet. “I’ll let her ken ye are on ye way then.” As soon as Andrew spoke the words he was gone not waiting for my reply.
“Fuck!” I went to punch the wall only to hit Sloane’s shoulder. Sloane pulled me into a hug. “If anything happens tae her…I can’t live without her.” I whispered the later, my throat burning just thinking how more time I have to wait.
“I ken lad, she will be alright. Trust me, ye will find her. The lass is safe fer the time being. The sooner ye go see the Cailleach the sooner ye will be back and can go and get ye wife.”
Ula wrapped her arms around both of us. “You will find her love, never doubt that.”
Calming myself, knowing there was nothing I could do, there was no way I could get out of going to see the Cailleach. I said a strained goodbye to my bràthair and Ula and tapping my pendant, said the words to transport me to my da’s den at Sutherland castle.
When I appeared, I was standing behind him with two pretty hands wrapped around his neck. I coughed.
Haig spun around one arm around the female. “Almighty Christ lad, ye frightened the shite oot o’ me. Ye are just like ye bràthair, always sneaking upon a man.”
Folding my arms over my chest I eyed the young female clutched by my da at his side. I felt annoyed, at whom I wasn’t sure, my da, the young female or at myself. I shouldn’t be irritated that I had just caught my him in an uncomfortable position, it is just I have never seen anyone of the opposite sex with him since the death of my mother.
“Da, I’m looking fer Dougall.”
“Lad do ye think I’m is keeper. I dinna ken where he be.” Haig’s voice softened a worried look crossing his face. “Conall have ye any word on the lass.”
“Aye da, we ken where she may be.”
Haig’s forehead shot up, then he whispered to the lass before she flitted out the room giving me a wink as she left. I shook my head, another wee lass that thinks to up her position within the castle.
“Conall why are ye not oot there looking fer her instead of here looking fer ye bràthair?”
“Because da, the Cailleach has summoned me and Dougall.” I agreed with him that’s exactly where I should be, looking for my wife, not traipsing around the fucking country side looking for Dougall and having a meeting with the Cailleach. The whole situation irked me to no end.
Haig put his arm around me having lost two wives he knew what I was going through, except in this case Morgan was lost in another time. His own two wives had died, one of them being my mother.
“He could be in the Iron Arms in Glasgow, though I canna say if’n he’ll be in his own mind, he’ll be no doubt drunk, that’s if’n ye find him. The lass’s disappearance has been hard on him too.”
“I will go and see da, but I canna spend time looking fer him. I need tae find my wife.”
“Aye son ye do, but if’n the Cailleach called ye then go ye must.” I took hold of my pendant ready to leave. “Conall, as I told ye bràthair, use the God damned door.” I gave him a half smile said the words and left.
I arrived in the back room of the inn hoping no one was back here. Breathing a sigh of relief to find I was alone. Then tutted and shook my head hearing Dougall in the tavern singing up a riot.
God’s blood, Dougall the show pony is at it again. Walking into the tavern to find indeed my bràthair singing up a storm, standing on a table a tankard in each hand.
When Dougall saw me with arms crossed forehead furrowed, pinning him with a glowered look he grinned at me.
“Bràthair come and sing with me.” Dougall shouted wobbling on the table his arms wind milling around with the tankards slopping their contents over anyone sitting too close. The table looking ready to collapse from his staggering drunkenness. Just what I needed, not.
Striding over I took the tankards out of Dougall’s hands and then tossed him over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes, while he yelled at me to put him down. I made my way out the doors of the inn and down to where I knew an alley would be dark enough to travel from.
In the alley I threw Dougall down only to have him sink to the ground laughing before becoming serious and sneering at me.
“Why ye drag me away like that. I was having, hiccup, a good time.” Dougall drawled in a drunken slur.
Leaning down over him, sorry that I did. “Ye smell like a brewery, ye seem tae have forgotten about Morgan.”
Dougall tried to stand up and ended up leaning his back against the wall his face now red with anger. “Don’t ye dare talk like I dinnae care about her, hiccup. Ye are the only one with a travel hiccup pendant.” Dougall yelled. “I cannae fucking sleep with worry.”
Dougall was right we only had one travel pendant and we were the only two that could use it, although with Morgan’s disappearance through time it would seem she too was also included. Sloan nor any of my other bràthairs or da could use the pendant.
Dougall collapsed on the floor his head in his hands and then I realised he was crying. I knelt and put a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry I dinnae mean ye didn’t care. I’m just annoyed I think we have found where she is. I canna go cause the Cailleach has called you and I tae a meeting.”
Dougall looked up at me eyes red rimmed, his face wet from tears and smelling like he fell into a bath of mead. “Ye found her?”
I nodded “I think we have but just not the exact year.”
Suddenly Dougall’s face turned a sickening green before he lurched to the side and threw up. I leaned over him and pulled back his hair, his brow wet with sweat, his face with tears.
“Bràthair I don feel well.” Dougall groaned wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“I’m not surprised how many did ye have?” I hoisted him up and slung him once again over my shoulder, hoping he wasn’t going to throw up over my back. He didn’t argue so I wasn’t sure if he’d past out or if he was resigned to the fact that he no doubt couldn’t stand on his own two feet the state he was in.
Tapping my pendant and saying the words we landed in the kitchen at Sutherland castle frightening Mrs MacLeish. She jumped back throwing her floured arms up sending flour dust over both of us. I threw Dougall into a chair sitting against the wall.
When she saw the state of Dougall she rushed over and put two floured hands on his face. “He’s as drunk as a wee bear on fermented berries.” She fanned a hand in front of her face. “An he smells like he fell intae McHenry’s vat.”
“Mrs M hot coffee please an keep it coming.”
“I’d say so.” She said getting up and rushing to put the kettle on.
Several hours later and too many cups of coffee for me to remember Dougall looked like he had some color back on his face. At least he kept the coffee down.
Dougall waved away another cup that Mrs MacLeish tried to vie him with. “No more coffee, I donnae think I will ever drink it agin.”
“Can ye stand up?” I demanded to the shake of Dougall’s head.
“No, I’m just gonna fall on the floor an sleep a bit. Dougall groaned.
I strode out the back door only to return a few moments later with a bucket of cold water, emptying it over Dougall’s head.
“Shite bràthair ye don have tae drown me.”
“Can ye get up now?” I said with a stern voice to the shake of Mrs MacLeish’s head. Thinking now she would have to clean the floors again.
Dougall struggled but got to his feet just in case I decided to throw another bucket of cold water over him.
“Go and change ye clothes. I’ll wait fer ye here. We need to go see the Cailleach and get this done so as I can get back to finding my wife.” Dougall nodded and headed for the door leaving wet prints as he went.
“Connie di ye no find ye wife yet?” Mrs MacLeish asked looking painfully concerned.
“Nay Mrs M but we think we ken where she be now. It’s just that Dougall and I have been called to see the Cailleach.”
“Well I canna say much fer her timing.” She shook her head.
“Nay can I.” I threw myself into the chair that Dougall left not caring that the seat was still wet.
Mrs MacLeish came to me and patted me on the cheek. “Connie ye wi’ find her, ye two were ne’er meant tae be separated.” I took her hand and kissed the back of it. “Thank ye Mrs M. Truly”
When Dougall finally returned to the kitchen changed into clean and dry clothing we both kissed a teary Mrs M and transported to Broch Dun Dornaigil in An Srath Mòr the home of the Cailleach.
While we waited at the front of what most would think a dilapidated and half fallen in building, that many believed was built by the Pics, although some historians believed it to be much older. I looked down at the small doorway remembering the first time I brought Morgan here and her comments about the door. My heart ached for her, everything reminding me of her.
Suddenly we were standing at the desk before the Cailleach.
“Agnes.” I growled
“Oh, ye are here. I wasna sure ye would come.” She said to the raise of my forehead.
“Yeah ye did Agnes. Now what is this about?” She crooked a finger at us to sit.
“We have a situation an the only one who can help is you. Malcom II has bin taken, our sources say it was by Brollachans, ye need tae go find him.”