We're delighted to present an extract from The Deadwood Encore, the debut novel by Kathleen Murray, published by Harper Collins.

Frank Whelan is the seventh son of a seventh son, so by now should have inherited his father's legendary healing power, but still hasn’t managed to graduate beyond small-time skin afflictions.

He already feels adrift when his twin, Bernie, reveals a life-changing decision that calls into question everything Frank thought he knew about his place in the family. And then he discovers his father had been keeping secrets of his own.

And so Frank turns to an unlikely source for guidance and finds himself on a quest for answers… from this world, and the next.


I Need You

Tuesday afternoon a good-looking young wan with a scrawny whelp of a child arrives at our back door.

"Mrs Whelan here?" she asks.

"No," I says. The way she's staring at me, I’m thinking I might have a blob of chicken curry on my chin or something. So I rub the chin, and my nose just in case, and the young fellah starts copying me.

"Is she due back?" she says.

"Impossible to tell with the Mater. Travels to the beat of her own drum."

"It’s for the cure." She stands there, adjusting her bag. The strap stretches her top off her shoulder a bit and you can see her collarbone. There’s something very even about that bone.

"It’s actually me you’re looking for," I says, then I feel the red starting up from my neck, at the thought of maybe laying hands on her. Well not on but a couple of inches over whatever affliction she has. "The mother is more spirit guides, tea leaves and that."

"I must’ve picked it up wrong. May as well give it a go seeing as we’re here. Ringworm okay?"

Ringworm can be tricky enough at the best of times and I’m still waiting for the best of times to arrive. They say by the time he was five year old my father had the full gift; his father could drain an infection off a man with the whack of his left thumb by age ten. My great grandfather didn’t show any sign til his sixteenth birthday and then he’d lift Lazarus from the grave. If Lazarus’ death had anything to do with circulatory issues, I mean. I was holding out hope for my eighteenth birthday but that’s come and gone nearly two year and I’m only getting joy out of warts and the odd rash. It’d be easier if the Da was still around to give me a steer.

"Grand. Come on in," I goes. "Where is it mostly? We do see a lot on the stomach."

"Not on me," she says, giving me daggers. "Him. On his leg."

"I could do warts as well while you’re here," I says trying to make up a bit of ground. "If the child has any. His hands?"

The young lad looks up doubtfully at his mother.

"Conor, show the man your hands."

The boy rips his fingers through the air, like a tiger.

"Knock it off."

He straightens them out, giving me the middle finger first, then unfolding the others. Dirty fingernails and there’s some kind of hangnail situation going on with the thumb but no sign of a wart.

"Looks all clear. Though they can be dormant."

" Dormant warts?" she says sounding interested.

"Yeah," I says trying not to be too showy. "It’s kind of my thing. At the moment. You specialise in one area and then expand out."

"Oh."

"Like if it was joints, I’d be doing knees and shoulders. Hips." Hips comes out too strong, like I’m thinking about hips.

"Or an ear nose throat fellah."

They’re both staring at me and my mind says shut the fuck up but my mouth says, "Well you have to see what emerges, what comes out, over time. Every generation is different so you never know. You probably heard of my Da, Billy Whelan, well-known for digestive stuff, skin afflictions, general pain relief. A bit of everything really. There’s a lot looking for immune system stuff now and that’s a new field. In a way. Though there was always, you know, hay fever. And stuff."

"Warts?" she goes.

"Yeah."

"All warts?" she says.

"Yeah."

"Genital?"

"What the fuck?"

She gives me the hairy eyeball, "Language please," and nods at the young fellah who’s pulling a scab off his elbow.

"That’s not really my thing," I says.

"Well," she says. "It’s nobody’s thing when you think of it. So the ringworm cure?"

I direct her towards the sitting room for our kitchen can be in any state.

She indicates an area, back of the kid’s knee. I put my hand out, hover it and close my eyes. Usually I think of football scores, or calculate the odds of something happening, but today I remember this one time, asking my Da if there was special words inside his head when he was giving the cure.

Then he sings, real deep, 'Every time I hear a new-born baby cry, or touch a leaf, or see the sky, Then I know why, I believe.’ He laughs but he doesn’t say what the real prayer is. This other day, after I seen him do five or six different cases, all varieties – a leg ulcer, rashes and a twitch – I asked, "What do you say, Da? Do you say different things for each one?"

He looked down at me like I was a tiny burr sticking to his trousers. "I say, clear the way, I’m coming through."

"You say that to who, their leg? God?"

"I’m not really in an ongoing conversation with him. But if I was, I’d tell him ‘Dream along with me, I’m on my way to the stars," and he bursts into a full-blooded rendition. Of all the singers he favoured Perry Como because of their shared history, both seventh sons with the gift. You’d think that’d make me his favourite son, me being seventh and all. But no, it was Bernie, my twin brother. They were forever messing, dancing around the house, singing.

When I open my eyes, they’re both staring at me, the woman and her kid. I must’ve lost track of time. "It’s a tough one," I goes. "Hang on."

I get this rag from the kitchen, an auld dressing gown the Mater cut up into small squares. Before I go back in, I squeeze some lemon juice onto the material. The Mater’s a massive fan of lemon juice. She uses it for everything; her hair, cleaning sinks, her elbows, the works. I haven’t any good reason to believe it’ll do the business with the ringworm but it won’t do any harm either.

The Deadwood Encore is published by Harper Collins