Chapter 2 of ROAN : Tales of Conor Archer

At Buckingham Fountain

Taking a handkerchief from his jeans’ pocket, Conor wrapped the bleeding hand as best he could. It started hurting like hell again, and he sure wasn’t going back to the bar. How would he explain all this? Cecy would fuss, and Fintan would bitch about the time he was wasting. Fortunately, Conor had stuck his tin whistle in his pocket, and already had his jacket on. Going back would simply raise questions in the already pissed off mind of Fintan Carr.

Conor climbed up the steps from the river back onto Michigan Avenue and headed south. He walked for a bit, past a rapidly thinning pedestrian crowd. Walking after midnight. Normally cool, but now, kind of frightening.

The fog in his head was not clearing, but his vision seemed changed and sharpened. He saw a rat skitter into an alley, and heard the sleepy coo of pigeons in the trees that lined the avenue. Never paid much attention to that stuff before. Yet, his mind could barely process what had happened. Already his hand was swelling, blood sopping through the handkerchief. He thought he should get to a clinic to get it looked at but he needed to get home and check on his mother. Hospice stayed late, but not much later than this.

Detouring into Millennium Park, he stepped onto the deserted concourse. Why he was aimlessly walking, he couldn’t figure. Ought to grab the bus, or maybe splurge for a cab. That’s what he was thinking but still his legs moved him ahead. Getting back on Michigan Avenue at the Art Institute, he kept going until he was parallel with Grant Park. At the Congress Hotel, he took a left towards the lake. He saw Buckingham Fountain, still lighted, still sparkling, and he thought he’d walk over and sit for a moment.

The beautiful round fountain, huge with its spouting water horses and lights which cast the water in different colors, was a peaceful place. The barrier, three foot high wrought iron, was meant to discourage not prohibit. Glancing around, he saw no one, particularly no police.

Hot, he was hellishly hot. Stepping over the barrier he sat by the side of the water. He didn’t bother taking his shoes and socks off; he stuck in his feet and plunged his wounded hand into the pool. The cooling water eased the growing pain somewhat. Then, he realized someone else was walking towards the fountain. A woman, tall and thin, bone-white her skin, black her single piece flowing dress. Made bold, perhaps, by his own flaunting of the barrier, she stepped over as well and sat near him. She didn’t look at him but had her arms stretched up and behind her, unfastening a clip on her hair. He heard the snick as the clip let go, and watched as over a yard of lustrous red hair fell in front of her face and dangled in the water.

She began to wash her hair. Conor knew the strange folk that sometimes haunted the park. He’d seen them often, but he’d never seen her. The length of her hair fascinated him.

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