When the police dropped Mike and Topher off at his van, the two guys got in and for several minutes just sat and stared ahead. Finally, Topher looked at Mike and said,
"What the hell just happened?"
Mike shook his head.
"I don't know. Did you say anything to the police about the unicorn?"
"No," replied Topher. "Did you say anything about the Princess?"
"No," he replied. "None of the questions they asked could be directly answered by talking about the unicorn or the Princess. So I didn't say anything."
They heard a knock on the van door. Topher looked out the window and saw Liam and Johnny. Mike opened the door.
"So, lads," said Liam. "Wasn't that just a wild ride? Can we come in?"
"Why not?" asked Topher. "Maybe you can explain a few things to us."
"I can try," answered Liam. "But there are some things that you'll never understand."
"Neither of you mentioned anything about the unicorn or Auntie?" asked Johnny nervously.
"Didn't get the chance," said Mike. "They were more worried about what happened in the yard than why we were there. I just said that we were there to protect Trelawney and Mrs. Everett."
"Me too," agreed Topher.
"Well that's good," said Liam. "The last thing that we needed was for them to start digging around into Trelawney Rose's personal business. If they came around and started asking her questions about the unicorn, it wouldn't have told them a bloody thing that they needed to know and they just would have upset the poor child all over again. And I am not sure that they would have known what to say if we dragged Auntie into it."
"I'm not sure that I know what to say about Auntie," replied Mike. "That was quite a performance that she put on for us."
"And how," added Topher. "By the way, can you tell us now what you meant when you said that she had made one prediction too many?"
Liam and Johnny looked at each other.
"You might as well tell him," said Johnny.
"Well, it's like this," he said. "Now you can't go and tell anyone about this. It has directly to do with Phoebe, Trelawney Rose, and Francine. They've all been through enough and we don't need nobody coming around to bother them about it."
"We promise," said Mike. Topher nodded.
"Okay," said Liam. "When Auntie was shooting off her mouth about the two sisters and the innocent third party harmed by the cousin, she finished off the word 'unless'. Right?"
"Yeah," said Mike. "And I asked her unless what."
"Yeah, you did," replied Liam. "But the 'unless' told me that this was an aspect of the premonition that could be changed. In other words, nobody needed to get hurt."
"But somebody did get hurt," said Topher.
"That's true, but the person who got hurt was never either directly mentioned or even alluded to in the premonition," explained Liam.
"Huh?" asked both boys together.
"This is it," said Liam. "The storm was the lights falling from the sky and the danger for all who waited. Auntie's going to have a field day with that because she got it all right. But me and Johnny here are going to have to have a long talk with her about the other. The sisters were Phoebe and Trelawney Rose. The innocent bystander was Francine. The cousin was old Johnny here, because he literally brought old Cholmondeley here."
"Yeah," said Johnny. "That's the last time that I listen to my Mum. If I have to pick between being a Trelawney or a Featherstonehaugh, then I'm a Trelawney. If any harm had come to Trelawney Rose and it was my fault, Grandfather would have skinned my alive."
"So then," asked Mike. "Do you believe that that guy was really the unicorn?"
"Yes, I do," replied Johnny. "I seen it for myself now. He was desperate to get into that house. And it wasn't to make a fuss over the baby. He was determined to 'take care of things' with the girls. We didn't find the Fowlers at home, and that him really mad. He was just dying to get at Francine to shut her up. The only other place they could have been was Phoebe's. As soon as I saw the gun I knew it was for Francine and Trelawney Rose. The man was crazy. If he'd gone in there shooting, who knows who would have been hurt?"
"When it came time for me to make my own choice," said Liam. "I could have run away or stood my ground. I decided to stand my ground. Or I could have tried to kill him with my bare hands or grab the gun."
"You offered him forgiveness and God's mercy," said Topher.
"Yes. But first I had to get it for myself. I've been carrying around a lot of hate and anger with me for the past year. But when the time came to let it go by finally having my revenge on Cholmondeley," he said. "I couldn't do it. My sister Sylvia was right. Two wrongs don't make a right. Two acts of evil don't make for justice or peace. They only make for more evil. And the little one has always known that. She ran Cholmondeley off when he tried to marry Phoebe, but she never hurt him."
"My sister Sarah has always said that Trelawney is too good," said Topher. "And then she doesn't understand it when other people aren't, good that it."
"She never told anyone in the family what he did to her. She never looked for revenge. She wanted protection, but never revenge. Never let the likes of me know because she knew that I would have taken the revenge for her. For the past year, she thought that I was protecting her, which I was. But if the opportunity had arisen for me to take care of the bloody bastard once and for all, I would have taken it," he explained.
"But you didn't." said Mike.
"No. She's suffered a lot, but she won't have to suffer because I damned my soul in her name," he added. "In the end, it was Cholmondeley himself that made his choice. If he had come towards the light, as Topher told him, he would not have been shot. But he was getting ready to shoot us. And he would have. It was the security guard that saved us."
"So then," said Mike. "The truth about what he did will not come out."
"There's no reason for it to," said Johnny. "You two are the only ones outside the family who know about, except Francine. She'll never talk. As long as you can keep your mouths shut, then we can help Trelawney move on with her life. Now she is safe."
"But what about the Princess?" asked Topher.
"You leave her to us," said Liam grimly. "She'll say nothing more about Phoebe and Trelawney Rose. And she never cared nothing for the unicorn any way. She actually did have the power to protect Trelawney Rose, but she chose not to. She was playing a very dangerous game. If I tell Grandfather what her silly fortune telling almost did, then she'll be dead to him. No, she'll be saying nothing more about that."
"What's going to happen now?" asked Mike.
"Well, we're all going to stick by our story about the broken engagement being the cause of it all with the police," said Liam. "The police told us all not to talk to anyone else or each other. Well, too bad, we talked to each other. But we're all on the record as saying the same thing. If anyone comes nosing around looking for information, just keep your mouths shut, like the cops said. Officer Parsons told me as we were leaving that they were going to try to keep the family stuff out of the press."
"What about our parents?" Mike fearfully asked.
"That's a hard one," said Liam. "They know that you ended up at the police station. You're both better off coming clean. But don't tell them too much. There's more than likely to be some story in the paper about the killing. Hopefully the storm is bad enough that most folks won't care about it. They'll be more interested in reading about their own troubles than some foreigner with a funny name who bought it for trespassing. It's better not to lie about what you saw."
"Why is that?" asked Topher.
"What you saw tonight was a dreadful thing," answered Liam. "There's nothing worse than watching a man die before your eyes. It wasn't your fault or nothing, but you were there."
"We've got a harder task," said Johnny. "We've got to find a way to explain it to the little one. She'll be glad that the unicorn is gone, but you know that she never wanted revenge. Phoebe will be even harder, but hopefully we can wait until she's recovered from the birth."
"She'll be alright," Liam assured him. "The Professor will be strong for her. She'll be more worried about Trelawney Rose. And she should be. The death of her parents was a great trauma. The details of this will be hard for her to take."
"Well," said Topher. "I'm going to be around too. Just because the unicorn is gone, it doesn't mean that Trelawney won't still need a gallant knight."
"Trelawney Rose will always need a gallant knight," replied Liam. "Especially out here. It's more the pity that she can't go back to live in the village. But that's the way it is, she's got to be with her Phoebe."
"Well," said Johnny. "We got to get to our hotel. And you boys have to get home. I hope that you're not in too much trouble with your parents."
"Yes," said Liam. "You were brave lads tonight. And you were honorable. I'm sure that we'll see you again before we leave."
But Topher was only too happy to see them get out of the van and go to their own car. He would be just as glad if he never had to see either of them again.
By the time Mike and Topher were finally alone again in the van, they were both exhausted.
"Did that really happen?" asked Mike. "Or did we just fall down a rabbit hole into some alternative universe."
As always, Topher gave him a smile.
"By the time your mother gets ahold of you," he answered. "You're going to be wishing that you fell down a rabbit hole. It would be more believable. I bet she's waiting up for you."
"Yours too, I bet," he answered. "I'm still not sure of what to tell mine."
"Tell her what you told the police," Topher suggested. "That's what I'm going to do. The folks don't need to know anything more than that."
Topher started up the van and drove Mike home. By the time he got there it was nearly dawn. He groaned. Whose car was out in front, but his Dad's?
"Oh, boy!" he said. "Now we're really in for it. It looks like we're going to get it in stereo."
But Mike just shrugged. Topher looked at him closely, but he realized that he was too tired to care. But he had another thing going in his favor. He was leaving for New York City in a week. He wondered if he could hitch a ride with him. He stopped the van and got ready to leave.
"Time to face the music."
Liam and Johnny left the station together in a police car that drove them back to Johnny's rental car on Oak Street. Liam didn't want to alarm the elder Everetts by showing up at three in the morning. Another car had driven Topher and Mike back to Topher's van. The police collected their passports and then went to the hotel to collect Cholmondeley's effects to give to his family.
Before they went to the hotel, they decided to have a little chat with the lads. When they walked over to the van, they discovered that they were both still in a state of shock. They were easy enough to talk to. They just wanted to forget that the whole thing had ever happened.
"Good thing the lads kept their mouths shut," said Liam when they were finally alone. "They both must have figured out pretty quickly that we weren't going to get into some of the more questionable aspects of the story, including good old Auntie."
"Well if we had," replied Johnny. "We'd still be there. There's no way that any of those officers was going to understand what really happened out there."
"Well," said Liam. "The boys barely understand it themselves. All we have to do now is stick by our story. No mention of unicorns and the like, you know?"
"What about Aunt Henrietta?" asked Johnny.
"Oh, she'll not say a word," Liam assured him. "As soon as she hears what happened, she'll be busy trying to figure out how to make a buck off of it for herself. She's never mentioned anything about any unicorns as far as I know. What are you going to tell your Mum?"
"The truth," he said. "Cholmondeley threatened you and Topher with your lives and another man shot him. It's no one's fault but his own."
"True enough," agreed Liam. "Now what about that passport for him that the police found on him?"
"It won't tell them nothing," said Johnny. "We hid the others when we got here. The way that things happened, the coppers probably won't try to dig deep enough into his background to hit the blind spot. But you didn't give them your real one, I presume. It's a good reminder to always carry a spare."
"What about when they try to notify your family?" he asked.
"Well, they'll only talk to his Dad, the usual way," he replied. "It'll be up to the Featherstonehaughs to figure it out from there. It's a bit of an unusual situation, but they'll get the body back for proper burial. It won't be a happy time for them."
"Well, now," said Liam. "At least the little one is safe, and Phoebe and the baby."
"But Grandfather still won't get Trelawney back," said Johnny. "He won't like that."
"He'll have to live with it," retorted Liam. "I doubt that Auntie's got any more tricks up her sleeve where that's concerned. She needs to keep her nose clean and stay out of their business. When we go in for another chat with her, we'll let her know that Grandfather will know her part in this whole mess if she starts up again.
"You would never have gone out to bring Cholmondeley here if she hadn't been going on the way she did. Grandfather may want the little one at home, but he wants her safe more than anything. We'll never know for sure, but if Cholmondeley had a gun, he was planning to use it."
"It would have been nice to get her pulled in with us to see the police," replied Johnny.
"But it's better this way. Who knows what she might have said?"
"Oh, I don't know," answered Liam. "I can't imagine what the police would have thought if she had started babbling about Rosalie and such."
"True enough," said Johnny.
"Well," said Liam. "Let's get some sleep. Tomorrow I've got to go back and face the 'day of judgment' with Emmeline and Sylvia. Hopefully the little one will have a word with them before they try to lay me out in lavender."
"The little one was a help then, was she?"
"Yeah," he said. "She was out there with me, helping me along. I was wanting to kill the bastard, but I knew it would break her heart. She got me past it and now I'm grateful. I suppose that I'll have to mend my ways now. It was kind of like the old saying that there being no atheists in the foxholes. Facing that gun, I realized that I could either make peace with my Maker, or see Him face to face. I wasn't ready for that. But it's time to take up my family responsibilities now. You know settle in the village like Dad wants and get married."
"Liam, you know those Chenoweth sisters are very pretty girls," replied Johnny. "I wouldn't mind marrying one of them myself. More family ties and all that, you know."
Liam grinned. "Well wouldn't that be a fun one for the police to figure out. Yes, officer sir, I would say, and he's also my brother-in-law. How did that copper's face look when he was trying to figure out who was related to who?"
"Totally confused. Part of the fun of being in the outside world," he replied. "You know? They'll never figure us out. They're too bloody smart for their own good. They've gotten so far away from the essence of the universe with their science and numbers and such that they'll never understand nothing again."
"Yes, that's true," said Liam. "These fools out here have educated themselves with so much information that they can't make hide nor hair out of nothing anymore."
Liam lay down to rest. The sun was starting to rise and it looked like it would be a grand day. He would make his fuss over the baby and then call up Dad. He'd let him know that when he finally made it home he would be happy to settle down with one of the girls. And who knew? By this time next year he might have a little nipper of his own to dandle on his knee.