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The Finding of Gabriel’s Heart

This year's Christmas story features a man who is desperate for a break so he can feel worthy of his wife's love. A larger-than-life blind man hijacks his night and steers him on a path towards victory. But is he all that he seems? And what does his one-eyed cat have to do with proceedings?

The Finding of Gabriel’s Heart

“Are you the one with the Eskimo wife?”

His face didn’t betray his irritation.

“Finnish.”

“Sorry?”

“She’s Finnish. From Finland.”

His eyes tried to communicate to leave it alone, to leave it at that. They tried to communicate that he really wasn’t interested in extending that line of enquiry.

“Marvin said she was an Eskimo. Said she was beautiful.”

He raised an eyebrow slightly but otherwise maintained his gaze.

“Marvin should know better. He knows my wife. And he knows she isn’t an Eskimo.”

“So what is she then?”

“Finnish.”

“No, no. Marvin said she’s a native. You know, ethnic.”

He sighed.

“Aren’t we all, you know, ‘ethnic’?”

His questioner was nonplussed.

“What?”

“Aren’t you ethnically Irish? Amn’t I?”

“Come on, you know what I mean.”

He knew, but he didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, with his big leery head, and his power collar, and his obnoxious aftershave to go with his obnoxious personality.

“She’s from Finland, what can I tell you.”

He paused.

“Do you want to buy the paintings or not?”

A huge, satisfied grin broke out on the face of the man opposite him. It gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his gut.

“Marvin said you were touchy.”

His name was Richard and the restaurant he was co-owner of was having a moment. He drank from his glass wine that was so deep and dark and red, it may as well have been blood.

He casually turned his attention to the paintings, his fat fingers assessing what he had no feel for, handling them like slabs of meat. He made a performance out of his disregard for the work, as if he knew the difference between good and bad.

“These are good, no doubt. They have, ehm, artistry in them. They’re quite classy.”

He took another drink and continued before his glass was back on the table.

“But I don’t think they’re us.”

He’d done this dance before and knew there was no point in trying to negotiate or persuade the client of the merit of his work. He stood up to leave.

“Thanks for your time.”

He put the paintings back in their holder and made to leave.

Richard held up a hand.

“Hold on, hold on, don’t go rushing off. It’s Christmas, so let me throw you a bone. Leave the paintings here and I’ll make sure Neil sees them. Even if he shares my opinion, he’s well connected, he could get them up somewhere else maybe. Maybe take a little commission, who knows what could happen.”

He knew he had no other options, but he stood there as if he was mulling things over with real deliberation.

Richard smirked at him, seeing through his charade.

“You know it’s a good offer. If you’re smart, you’ll take it. And one other thing.”

Alarm bells started screaming in his head. Walk away. Walk away. Walk, now.

“Yeah?”

“I can see you need the money. Marvin told me things are pretty tight at home.” He drank his blood again.

“I have five hundred cash for you right now. Your Eskimo wife. Marvin said there were nudes…”

The next thing he realised, he was being manhandled through the restaurant and shoved out onto the street. His eyes were wild and he was shouting at whoever had just escorted him off the premises. His paintings were still inside. He couldn’t decide whether to go back to have another swipe at Richard, or to find Marvin and kill him. Marvin’s pep talk rang in his ears:

“They’re minted, absolutely minted, but make sure you talk to Neil, not Richard. Neil is a straight shooter, but Richard likes to play games, and he likes to throw his weight around. He’ll try and get a rise out of you. And make sure you ask for a proper price. Don’t sell down, sell up.”

He couldn’t believe Marvin had told them about his paintings of Girste. Or maybe he could. He probably thought he was helping him. It didn’t matter, he still wanted to kill him. He’d just blown his one shot at saving Christmas. He had planned on selling up, he was going to ask for five grand. Five hundred apiece. They were good. He knew they were good.

He had a gift. Of that he was sure. At least, he used to be. His grandmother had held him in the air as a five-year-old and proclaimed it so. His mother had told him her mother was never wrong about these things. Or had she said rarely? He knew he had felt surer of it in the past. There’s only so long you can trade on potential. And he knew for a fact that once a certain age was reached, or the appearance of a certain age, potential was no longer potential – it was failure. The question that could be seen in people’s eyes was clear as day. Unfulfilled, or never had it in the first place? He had reached that age and appearance longer ago than he cared to remember.

“He has something, this one. He has something special. I don’t know what it is, but it will reveal itself in time. Mark me. It’s there.” Those were his grandmother’s words. At the time of her death nine years later, she still hadn’t seen whatever made him so special. Although it had been some time since she’d seen anything, having been legally blind for the last two decades of her life. He and his sister had referred to her as Blind Nana to distinguish her from their other grandmother, who was simply Nan.

If she could see him now, he thought, what would she make of him. Late forties, three children, a wife from the northern tip of Scandinavia, barely two coins to rub together, and Christmas a day away.

Sell up. His paintings were of street scenes from different parts of the city where the landmarks were easily recognizable, but in each one, the sky and buildings loomed in a disproportionately dominant way, and the figures in the paintings reflected a sense of oppression, of being overwhelmed. Girste said people wouldn’t like them. She thought they would ‘stress people up.’  ‘Stress people out’ he corrected her, but he persevered. There was something real in them. Deep down he knew it was own anguish he was depicting, his own fear.

Getting that angry distracted him from his predicament. As he calmed down, the dread hollowed out his stomach again. He’d turned down work, he was so sure he’d shift the paintings. He hadn’t told Girste. He knew exactly what was owing, what bills were coming, what expenses they had put off, what was in arrears, even money that was due back to a couple of friends who had quietly bailed him out. To people who had it, five grand wasn’t a lot, but to them, it would have made a massive difference. Got them back to scratch and allowed them a nice Christmas where they weren’t scrimping and scrawning. It would have been a reprieve, and a most welcome one.

So now, as he walked off his indignation, he also tried to ignore the feeling that a loose thread was about to be unravelled that would allow every passing stranger see the depths of his failure. He needed a drink to steel himself before going home to face Girste. The fact that she wouldn’t give him a hard time made it worse. She had an unstinting ability to breathe into a crisis, and an even greater ability to forgive in him what wasn’t present in her. Most of the time he loved her for it, but there were times he wanted her to be as messy and compromised as he was.

He knew his account was empty. He also knew he had enough cash on him for two drinks and a lottery ticket. And the reason he knew is because that was his contingency plan. He knew before going to the restaurant that things might not go the way he hoped. The little money he had was too small an amount to make a difference to anything, so he may as well blow it on booze and a gamble, rather than insult his family with their poverty of options. There was a masochism to this selfishness, and a desperate self-pity too. Catching a glimpse of himself in the reflection of a festive shop window had him cast in red light. His eyes looked dark. Demonic, he thought, I’m going to hell. But first, a drink.

He turned the corner to go to the nearest bar he knew. As he got closer, he could see an argument playing out between a large bouncer and a man in a wheelchair. The doorman was apologizing and appeared to be doing his best to appease the affronted party, which was the man in the wheelchair, who between insults was screaming words like ‘outrage’ and ‘disgrace’. He also assured the doorman that he would be hearing from his solicitor. He was now close enough to see that the wheelchair man was wearing a green Santa suit with a matching hat. He also wore sunglasses. And if that didn’t make a striking enough impression, sitting on his lap was a scruffy looking tabby cat with an eye-patch.

The bouncer now looked at him and rolled his eyes.

The wheelchair man was on it like a flash. He turned his sunglasses to him and asked indignantly:

“Did this yahoo just roll his eyes at me? Did he have the audacity to roll his gorilla eyes at me? Imagine! The sheer idiocy of someone rolling their eyes at a blind man! Who else but a muscled-up doorman would be capable of such depthless stupidity!”

Before he could reply, the wheelchair man reached out and grabbed his forearm.

“Will you explain to this Mogadon the futility of facial gestures directed at a person without sight? I suggest you use small words, maybe even illustrations, otherwise your missile may land some way short of its mark. Go ahead man, speak. I nominate you as my seeing-eye representative.”

He turned to the bouncer.

“Ehm, he can’t see. So there’s no point in making faces.”

The wheelchair man beamed triumphantly.

“Well said, sir!”

The bouncer wasn’t impressed.

“Both of yis can feck off, we’re suddenly full.”

The cat in the wheelchair man’s lap hissed as they spun away from the doorway and proceeded along the path. His owner held aloft a middle finger as his own parting gesture. Backing away from the bouncer’s glare, he chased after the bizarre couple. The wheelchair was motorized and moved along at speed, its occupant calling out intermittently to warn of their approach. As he caught up to them, he was astounded to see the cat tap his paw on the wheelchair man’s leg when they had to come to a stop. The cat’s right eye was the one with the patch and so it turned its head to that side to bring the left eye to the centre of its field of vision. When the way was clear again, the cat tapped once more and on they went.

He called after them.

“Wait! Could I speak to you for a moment?”

The wheelchair stopped.

“I sir, am in urgent need of libation, and I do not mean cranberry juice. If a word is what you want, I insist it is had over a beverage of my choosing. If you can lead the way to a favourable tavern, we shall advance post haste!”

He didn’t hesitate to reply.

“I know just the place.”

*

He turned from the bar with two whiskeys and sought out his new companions. The cat, off-duty it seemed, had curled up for a nap. The wheelchair man extended his right hand to which he presented one of the drinks. The hand was sharply withdrawn.

“That hand was to receive yours. I will receive my whiskey in my left hand. Let’s try again.”

The hand was proffered once more.

“Tiresias O’Connell. Occasionally given the sobriquet Tick-Tock because of my initials. You may call me Terry if you wish.”

“I’m Gabriel Quinn,” he said, shaking his hand.

“A pleasure, sir. The one-eyed wonder keeping my crotch warm is Cyclops. I know, we’re a sight, and we have only one good eye between us. As for the classical names. Mine I can attribute to academic parents, classics scholars no less, and his – well, what else do you call a one-eyed cat? And now the whiskey, Gabriel, thank you.”

They cheersed.

“To fallen comrades and conquered lovers.”

Having no more money to buy a second round, he was relieved to see the larger-than-life character sip his whiskey slowly.

“So, Mr. Gabriel Quinn, what was this word you wanted to have with me?”

“How did you know the bouncer rolled his eyes at you?”

“Good man, straight to the point! Ah yes, you were of invaluable service back there. How? A lot of instinct, a little bit of luck. I felt the energy change. I read people and situations quickly. And I indulge a certain impulsivity. I am unafraid to apologise if I am wrong. But, like honest politicians, that is a rare occurrence.”

“And are you fully blind? I only ask because one of my grandmothers was legally blind for the last part of her life. She could still tell between light and dark and make out colours and shapes.”

“Hardly what you would call blind, Gabriel. No sir, no such luck for me, I am in perpetual darkness.”

Tiresias O’Connell removed his sunglasses gently to reveal two sunken and scarred eye sockets.

“Oh. I see.”

“And I do not, Gabriel,” he replied, replacing the glasses. “And poor old Cyclops is lucky to have what he does. Some blackguards would have finished the job had I not rescued him from their cruelty. We two are veterans of different but no less vicious conflicts. I will not bore you with war stories, however. Tell me, Gabriel, what war do you now find yourself in? Because I can tell you are embattled. You have spirit Mr. Quinn, but it is at a low ebb tonight. How goes this Christmas in your trench?”

He looked at the man with no eyes. He looked at his half-blind cat. He looked at his wheelchair and his green Santa suit. He looked at the remains of his whiskey. And he thought, why not?

“Well Terry,” he said, “It’s going shit.”

He laid it all out, sparing no detail, and the sole member of his audience listened intently throughout. When he finished, Tiresias downed the last of his own whiskey, cleared his throat, and turned his sightless eyes towards him.

“Two things. One – if your wife is not an Eskimo, can you confirm that she is in fact, one of the Sami people of sub-Arctic Finland?”

“I can. She is.”

“Ha! I will enquire further about your wife, the mysterious Girste, in due course. But to our second order of business. We need to purchase a lottery ticket. The question is, on which purveyor of the game of chance should we roll your final die?”

He shrugged.

“One place is as good as another, I suppose.”

Tiresias clapped his hands in delight.

“A fatalistic approach! I can work with that, Gabriel, I can work with that.”

He tapped the cat awake.

“Cyclops, arise! We’re on the move.”

The cat stirred itself and assumed its position at the prow of their vessel. He held the door for them as they exited into the cold night air.

They weren’t long finding a little newsagent’s that had what they wanted. He went to walk in when for the second time that night, Tiresias stopped him by grabbing his forearm.

“Gabriel, you may believe this is a nothing moment, no more significant than a scratch of one’s nose, or the telling of the hour of the day, but I assure you it is of far more importance than that. This is a moment of the gravest severity and you are not to sidestep its potential impact by casualising it. You must own your strategy, for it is your chosen response to circumstances beyond your control. This is how battles are lost and won!”

“Terry, I don’t think I can handle this intensity. It’s stressing me out.”

“Good God, Mr. Quinn! Are you a man, or a child! Seek not the shadows to cosy up to your shame – you need light to illuminate your soul’s preferred course of action. If this is to be your action, own it! Do not shilly-shally like a blushing schoolgirl! Do not waver like it is your first time in a cat house! Attack, man, attack!”

With that, he pulled him closer and spoke quietly.

“We must wait. We are attempting to purchase a winning ticket. Timing is key. Tell me, how many people are at the till?”

Looking in the doorway, he saw five customers in line.

“Describe them. Quickly.”

He looked again.

“Ehm, a young mother first. She’s got a buggy. Two teenage boys behind her. Coming from football training or something. An older man. Cardigan. A grandfather type. A guy in his twenties. With a broken nose.”

“Yes, him. Jump in front of the broken nose. You don’t want him to get your ticket. If he has a problem with that, send him out to me.”

Reluctantly, he entered the shop and walked straight over to the queue. He stood beside the broken nose guy and stared ahead at the till. As the queue moved, he moved with it, walking beside the broken nose guy. The broken nose guy looked at him and he could feel him getting annoyed. He could feel his own heart rate rising and trickles of sweat started running down his sides. Finally, they both reached the till. Before the broken nose guy could say anything, he asked for a lottery ticket.

“Ooh, cutting it fine,” said the shop worker.

“Yeah, I know,” he laughed.

He knew the broken nose guy had moved closer and was now standing so close behind him he could feel his breath on the back of his neck.  He didn’t dare turn round. He handed over the last of his cash and said thank you when he was given the ticket. As he walked quickly back to Terry and Cyclops, he could hear behind him the broken nose guy roaring in disgust at the shop worker for not serving him first. He yelled at him that he had sold his ticket to someone else, who he referred to as ‘that ponce’, and threatened to come back and burn the place to the ground if he didn’t win. They didn’t wait to see how things got resolved but chose instead to move on to their next destination.

“I was sure he was going to deck me.”

“I did not share your conviction,” came the reply. “My instincts are almost never wrong, Mr. Quinn. And now you have in your possession what is known as a sure thing. We must adjourn to a watering hole where you can see your numbers being revealed.”

“Terry, I have no more money. If I miss the last bus, I’ll be walking home tonight.”

“Well, I owe you at least one whiskey. Cyclops, check the stores!”

The piratical cat jumped off the lap of Tiresias and stuck his head under the flap of a satchel that hung at the side of the wheelchair. He reemerged and miaowed cheerfully, before returning to his previous post.

“According to my First Lieutenant, we’re in luck. Gabriel, I will not be importuned if you would care to rummage in my satchel – that is not a euphemism – and procure one of the drinking vessels therein.”

Doing as he was told, he saw in the satchel four hip flasks lined up like soldiers.

“Which should I choose?”

“The pewter is Scottish, the silver Irish, the brass is Cognac, and the leather is Japanese.  I think the occasion calls for something from the Orient, don’t you? Grab the leather and we’ll find somewhere to suit our needs.”

They came across a little pedestrianized street that was lit up beautifully with Christmas lights and outdoor heaters. It was colourful and cheery and groups of people stood drinking and eating and making merry. A trio of musicians played jazzy Christmas songs with arrangements that allowed them to sing intricate harmonies. As they wove through the revellers they drew amused looks and festive greetings. A couple of people commented on the green Santa suit, to which Tiresias replied that he was blind so how could he have known. They stopped outside a pub where there was a clear view of a large TV screen. The bouncing balls of the lottery were selecting themselves and being called out by a beaming presenter. He looked at his new friends.

“Alright lads, this is it.”

“Remember this feeling Mr. Quinn, for your world is about to change forever.”

He looked at his ticket to review his numbers and then back up at the screen, where the winning balls were displayed like shining stars. It took only seconds for him to realise his ticket was a dud. The balls kept coming. He didn’t have a single number. He kept staring through the window. He didn’t think he was in shock, but he felt very unwell. He was dizzy as if he’d been struck on the back of the head.

“You gave me hope,’ he said. “You made me believe I was going to win. I believed you. I actually believed you. Oh Christ, I am an idiot.”

“For taking gambling advice from a blind man who allows a cat to dictate how he drives? Yes, probably.”

“You told me to get that ticket. You told me to jump the queue!”

“I was trying to raise the stakes. I didn’t feel you were invested. Anyway, it’s done now. Here, have some of this.”

He took the leatherbound hip flask that was being offered and drank. He took it with no intention of enjoying it. It was just something to do with his body and brain while he bought time.

Tiresias interrupted his thoughts.

“Gabriel, there is no buying time. There is only what happens, and what does not. Come on, I’m sure I can smell hot chocolate, whiskey is not the answer to our current dilemma.”

Sure enough, there was a vendor selling large star-patterned mugs of hot chocolate slathered in cream and chocolate flakes. He watched Tiresias ordering two mugs from the vendor, who chatted to him as if they’d known each other for years. He refused to take payment for them.

They sat down beside a brazier that blazed brightly in front of the large Christmas tree that dominated the street. The musicians sat on the other side of it playing their version of O Holy Night.

“A question for you Mr. Quinn. Do you really believe money is the thing?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean exactly what I said. Do you believe, in the deepest corner of your heart, that money is the thing?”

He frowned.

“We can’t live without it, can we?”

“Who is this ‘we’ you speak for? Speak for yourself Gabriel, you don’t know what lies in the hearts of others. If it is what you believe, say ‘Money is the thing.’”

“I don’t know if it’s the thing. It kind of is, isn’t it? I need money. I need more of it. I’m not providing for my family. I can’t buy my wife new things. We’re always worried about it.”

“And tell me Gabriel, how is your pursuit of money working out?”

“Not well.”

“And these paintings you were willing to leave in the restaurant. Are they a means to making money?”

“Yes. In theory.”

“But you chose to leave them behind. You also chose not to accept the offer of five hundred euros. Why?”

“He insulted my wife.”

“Did he actually?”

“Well maybe it was more an insult to me. He tried to put her on the table as a bargaining chip. He cheapened her.”

“Do you still plan on killing Martin?”

“Marvin. Yes. No. I don’t know. He’s such a dope. His heart is the right place. But he doesn’t see how cynical the world is. He doesn’t see the angles.”

“The right place, you said. His heart. Where is that?”

“Wherever love is generated. He’s all about the love. I don’t know how he does it.”

Cyclops suddenly turned and put his front paws on his master’s chest. He miaowed so loudly that several people noticed and laughed. Tiresias looked down at him and listened very carefully. He nodded in agreement.

“Yes Cyclops, most certainly. Cyclops tells me we’re running out of time. Places to go. Such a busy time of year. Before we part company, I need to hear more about Girste. She is the key to unlocking this puzzle. Tell me a story about her.”

“A story? What kind of story?”

“Tell me something that is unique to her, something that made you fall in love with her, if you believe in such things.”

“Ehm..I don’t know.”

“Something festive, perhaps?”

“I have one. So yeah, she’s Sami. They’re all over the Northern parts of Scandinavia and in Russia too, but she grew up in a small town in a region called Inari, way up at the top of Finland inside the Arctic Circle. It’s Lapland, basically. Anyway, when she was younger her grandmother still liked to honour the old ways and at this time of year she would set herself up in a big tent called a kota, a kind of Sami tipi, and she would provide shelter and refreshments for some of the other Sami herding reindeer. She was a bit mad, according to Girste, and she didn’t mind that some younger children thought she was a witch – she used to play up to it. Anyway, Girste would always try to go and visit her when she was in this kota because she got on with her really well, and the whole thing was so out there that she found it fascinating. This one time, when she was eighteen, she was making her way through the snowy woods that would lead to her grandmother when she came across a figure in the middle of the woods. It was a man. A big man, and he was pulling a huge canopy over a load of parcels that sat on a massive sleigh. And yes, a team of reindeer stood at the front of this sleigh. He wore a burgundy-coloured snow suit with white furry trim all around. And when he turned to face her, she was overwhelmed by the impression he made. She swore he was nine foot tall. He had a white curly beard and a face that at first glance seemed old but then seemed not to have an age on it at all. He reached out to her and shook her hand and then he got her to help him tie off the canopy. He hugged her and wished her a happy Christmas and then he moved through the woods as if they weren’t even there. She said there wasn’t enough room to move a sleigh even a third of the size of the one she had just helped secure, but he was gone before she had dropped her waving hand. She said she felt elated, transformed. And she rushed between the trees to tell her grandmother. Her grandmother’s eyes widened ever so slightly as she listened but then, at the end, she sucked on her pipe thoughtfully, before turning to Girste and saying: “Pfff, Santa Claus! Children’s stories.” But Girste knew she had believed her. She was eighteen, not eight. She has never forgotten it. She’s convinced she’s going to meet him again one day. She tells that story to our children every year and they absolutely love it.”

Tiresias grinned from ear to ear.

“That is a Christmas story, my boy! Splendid! Your wife is a treasure. Please, call her for me, I want to wish her a Happy Christmas.”

Cyclops miaowed in protest.

“We have time Cyclops, I’ll be quick. Go on Gabriel, ring her.”

He laughed to himself as he called his wife. He handed the phone to Tiresias.

“Hello, is this Girste?”

He somehow wasn’t surprised when Tiresias then proceeded to have an exchange in fluent Sami that involved lots of laughter and very animated reactions. The call ended and the phone was given back.

Tiresias looked at him and asked in a very grave voice:

“Is your wife a serious woman?”

“Excuse me?”

“Do you believe her, Gabriel? Do you believe her truth?”

He felt the cat looking at him too. He was starting to sweat again. Tiresias extended his right hand.

“Take it Mr. Quinn. And feel my question in your heart. Do you believe in your wife? Do you believe in Girste? Do you see what she brings to your world?”

He clasped the hand in his own and felt himself become very emotional. His eyes burned with tears so that he was unable to see. His breath wouldn’t come as he reckoned with the depth of feeling he had for his wife and children. He thought he was going to collapse. He let go of the hand and crumpled like a slowly deflating balloon. The sounds around him receded until all was silent. He could still hear Tiresias questioning him. He wanted it to end, but Tiresias kept coming back with the same questions.

“Is money the thing, Mr. Quinn? Gabriel, do you believe your wife? Do you believe Girste? What is the thing, Mr. Quinn? Why did you leave your paintings behind? Gabriel? Gabriel?”

He tried to speak but couldn’t. But his mind was startlingly clear. Of course he believed her. And love was the thing. Love! That was where they would live. And that’s what he would put in his work. And if it wasn’t here, they’d go and live in a tent in Lapland!

He came to and realised he was being helped to his feet by the musicians. He heard Tiresias say “Your phone is ringing, Gabriel. It’s a call you should take.” Cyclops miaowed loudly.

He looked at his phone. It was Marvin. He answered. Marvin was speaking quickly.

“Gabe, don’t say a thing. I’m handing the phone to someone else.”

He heard Marvin reassuring whoever he was talking to and then a voice he didn’t know came on the phone.

“Am I talking to the guy who nearly took Richard’s head off?”

“You are.”

“Oh my God, that is priceless! I am so sorry I missed that. Fair play to you. Richard rubs people up the wrong way, but his heart is in the right place. Listen, I’m Richard’s business partner Neil and I think your paintings are perfect for another place we’re looking at. Richard said you were asking five grand for them? Hello?”

He put his hand over the phone as he looked for Tiresias.

“Ehm, yeah. Five grand. Five hundred apiece. I think that’s fair.”

“More than fair. I’m not going to lie to you; your paintings moved me. Unlike Richard, I’ve had my share of tough times, so I know where you’re coming from. Text me your bank details and I’ll transfer you six right now as a gesture of good faith and to apologise for Richard. Don’t expect to get one from him. That shirt you ruined cost five hundred euros.”

“You’re sending me six hundred?”

“No, six grand. I want to use more of your work. But maybe something more, I don’t know, from the countryside. Marvin says your wife is Finnish – do you have anything from her part of the world?”

“I can start working on something right now.”

“No, enjoy your Christmas first. I love your work Gabriel, you have a gift. I’m giving you back to Marvin. Send me those details!”

No sign of Tiresias anywhere.

“Gabe?”

“Marvin! How did you pull that off? I’ve had such a crazy night.”

“It’s all good man, it’s all love. Your work did the talking. I’ve gotta go, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

He put his phone back in his pocket and looked all around the street for Tiresias and Cyclops. There was no trace of them. He was still in a daze and was reliving the conversation he’d just had when he spotted the wheelchair parked up at the entrance to the pedestrian zone. He rushed over to it. Sitting on the seat was the hip flask satchel. Again he looked in vain for his new friends. He opened up the satchel and found it empty apart from three things. A tiny eye patch, a pair of sunglasses, and a little card. He opened the card to read a simple message.

Happy Christmas Gabriel. Follow your heart. Love, Tiresias O’Connell

And in brackets below: (Tick Tock and Cyclops)

He got his phone out, dialled home, and started talking frantically as soon as it was answered.

“Girste, I’m coming home right now. You will not believe the night I’ve had. Yes, he was real! Or maybe not, I don’t know. Girste, I sold the paintings! Girste, I love you!”

He walked and talked and walked and talked, and the closer he got to home, the closer he got to his heart.

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