Even with everyone chasing her, including Billy Joe Bob on his Harley and Lady Moon Chaser on her horse, no one could catch Beith, who raced frantically from shelf to shelf picking up shoes.
As had been the case so many times before, it was Night Hawk who saved the day.
While most everyone else was trying to catch Beith, the little bird had been looking around and had spied a row of shelves that no one else had seen. A sign above these shelves read “Tree Shoes.” Here, Night Hawk saw many styles, all inspired by various species of trees. She finally found exactly what she was looking for, a pair with the characteristic white and black markings of a birch tree, complete with artificial leaves that seemed to grow out of the stiletto heels.
Grasping these shoes in her powerful little beak, Night Hawk flew toward Beith and hovered there, eventually drawing the Irish girl’s attention. Beith, already with an armload of at least 20 pairs, stared at the birch shoes, a look of longing in her eyes. Finally she dropped all the shoes she was carrying and shrieked, “Oooooh, give them to me!” But Night Hawk continued to hover just out of reach, and so she led Beith -- who was frantically running and jumping in her efforts to grab the shoes -- across the floor and straight to Lady Moon Chaser, who was ready with her lariat.
Beith was soon firmly secured, and she wept bitterly until Night Hawk, taking pity on her, gave her the birch shoes, which calmed her like a baby with a pacifier.
Everyone now gathered around the prone figure of their fallen friend.
Crow wrote in his notebook.
Stillpoint muttered to herself, “How did I get mixed up with these people?”
“What do we do now?” asked Jeb.
“This is going to make one helluva poem,” said Carragh.
“Selene will figure something out, won’t you Selene?” asked Craig.
“Hate to break it to you, but the laptop’s battery is dead,” said Selene.
But then Kat Lady, who had been trying to get Crow’s and Selene’s attention, again sidled up, smiling like a Cheshire cat, and rubbed against Selene’s leg.
“Kat Lady, stop that!” said Selene, but then feeling something about the Kat’s collar, she took a closer look. “What’s this?” asked Selene. “Why look everybody,” she said, pulling out the object that had been hidden behind the collar. “It’s one of those special battery-powered dog collars that are used with invisible fences. Where did you get this, Kat Lady?”
“That’s Storm’s collar!” shouted Lady Moon Chaser. “Now I know how he got out of the yard and was lost last week! Kat Lady, I oughta …”
But Craig broke up what could have become an ugly scene when he asked, “Can the battery from the dog collar be adapted to fit the laptop?” No one was sure, but eventually, after a lot of work, and by using two of Carragh’s hairpins for a bridge, the laptop came suddenly back to life.
They were back in business.
“You know dearies,” said Carragh, “it’s become clear to me that my kinswoman there has a real problem. Smile. I had believed that her fascination with shoes was just a charming little oddity, but from what I’ve observed the last couple of days, I’m beginning to think there might be more going on here than meets the eye.”
“I was thinking the same thing,” said Moon Cloud. “Selene, can you find anything?”
Everyone rested for the next half hour while Selene hammered at the laptop. Finally, just as everyone was beginning to get restless, she said, “This is interesting. It says right here at http://www.ancientirishlegendsthatmoste ... gotten.com
that the man who first introduced shoes to Ireland was one Seamus MacLoafer , and …”
At the mention of this name, Beith’s demeanor changed completely. She writhed on the floor, straining at her ropes. She thrashed about madly, mooed like a cow and then barked like a dog, and, perhaps most alarmingly, her head began to spin around 360 degrees while a maniacal grin spread across what once had been a lovely face.
Stillpoint again said to herself, “How did I get mixed up with these people?”
Beith finally quieted, but her head continued to spin, and the room temperature plunged until everyone was shivering and their breath frosted.
Jeb finally voiced what everyone was thinking: “She’s possessed.”
Crow wrote in his notebook.
Rancid and Storm slunk away with their tails between their legs. Moon neighed.
“Selene, what will we do?” Lady Moon Chaser and Moon Cloud asked together.
Selene had not been idle.
“It says right here at http://www.gaelicexorcism.com
that the only way to cast out an ancient Irish spirit is to do it on Tara Hill at midnight under a full moon.”
“I can perform the exorcism, sweetie,” said Carragh. “Smile. I have this ancient knowledge.”
“But we’re stuck in this shoe factory!” said Craig, stating the obvious. “You said we need to do it at Tara. How can we get there?”
Encouraged by her recent success, Night Hawk again took charge. “It seems to me that we already possess a means to end this nightmare,” she squeaked. “We have been letting the Portobello mushrooms dictate what happens to us. But we should be able to use them to do what we want.”
“What do you mean, Night Hawk?” asked Kat Lady.
“Just this,” said the little bird. “If someone with a firm resolve and a clear mind eats a mushroom, he or she should be able to make it to take us straight to Tara a few minutes before midnight, and then Carragh can perform the exorcism. And not only that, we’ll be close to where Beith’s moving, and we can get this whole thing over with.”
Everyone just nodded their heads and looked admiringly at Night Hawk, wondering why none of them had thought of it.
“But who can we get with a clear mind and a firm resolve?” asked Jeb. Everyone looked at Stillpoint.
“Stillpoint, can you do this?” asked Moon Cloud.
“I don’t know how I got mixed up with you people,” said Stillpoint, “but I’ll do anything to get out. Give me the damned mushroom.”
Kat Lady pulled out a Portobello burger from where she’d hidden them and handed it to Stillpoint, who took a big bite and started to chew.
Once again the world began to spin.
* * *
It was night, but overhead soared a full moon that cast a pale light upon a dolman on Tara Hill.
Beith howled and writhed on the ground as everyone formed a circle around her.
Billy Joe Bob sat on his Harley and remarked to one of the Singing Movers, “I ain’t seen nothin’ to beat this since I helped out during bull-castratin’ time at the Y.O. Ranch.”
At Carragh’s direction, everyone unloaded the shoes from the back of the van and threw them into a huge pile. They siphoned petrol from the truck and set them alight.
Beith screamed and thrashed and levitated four feet off the ground, but again at Carragh’s direction, everyone took hold of her and brought her back down to earth. Beith’s head continued to revolve, and Carragh said, “Craig, you hold her head.”
Craig hurried to obey, but just then Beith’s head turned and she bit into Craig’s right thumb.
“Shiiiiiiiiiii ….” shouted Craig, while Lady Moon Chaser and Jeb levered the Irish girl’s jaws open. Finally freed, Craig cursed and hopped about the hill in the light of the shoe fire, holding his bleeding hand.
“Oh Craig, stop being so dramatic,” said Kat Lady.
“That dodgy redhead bit off me thumb!” cried Craig, and sure enough, now they all saw the digit laying there on the ground near Beith’s head.
“Men,” said Lady Moon Chaser. “Always complaining about something insignificant.”
“You deserved it for starting this thread,” echoed Moon Cloud.
Finally some order was restored, and while Night Hawk drummed on a hollow log, Carragh began to chant. …
* * *
Dawn broke on Tara Hill. Smoke rose from the ashes of a fire, and a group of people slept in a circle around the figure of a girl with red hair, who was finally free from the rope that had bound her.
Only Crow was awake, still writing the story that he sensed would finally win for him the elusive Paganzer Prize.
As he watched, Beith stirred and sat up.
“Hey everybody,” she said. “Wake up! I’m home!”