James looked puzzled. “Jameson’s shouldn’t be murky like that. Let me get you another glass.” Niall grabbed his hand. Niall had O’Quinn’s voice; it said “Leave it! It’ll take a few minutes for him to drop, and we won’t have to carry him. Not too much, now; not too much. Don’t want to hurt the dear lamb.” I didn’t like O’Quinn or Niall calling me ‘dear’ or ‘lamb’, but I didn’t have much choice. When I tried to speak, it was Fearghal’s voice, slurred so badly I couldn’t understand what it was saying. I tried to make it say something sensible, but I couldn’t.
“Let’s see . . . ” ruffling through a sheaf of loose papers, neatly numbered in the upper right corner. “Ah, here we go.”
He scanned each page, blurting out a fragmented summary. Rob kept his questions direct and relevant, as always.
“Okay, gimme a minute. I need to sort this out. Questions; um, I need to, I wanna . . . “
I had my face in my hands, trying to put together a coherent sentence without any coherent thoughts in my head to do it with. Mossie laid a hand on my arm.
“James, I mean James Riley, the owner, said Web had been there, but with a couple strangers. We’ve been meeting there for a while, every time Web came out to have another confabulation with the jerk who was selling the house there in Pacoima, so James kinda knew us both. He was in the same time I was; served some of the same places, so we kinda hit it off. And knowing how Web loves all things Irish, he just sorta adopted us both; old enough to be our father, James is.”
“So, I’ll pretend I’m telling it to, Mossie, is it? Good. That way, I won’t keep assuming Web knows what I’m talking about when he really doesn’t.”
“Since my divorce, I’ve started making these trips over here with Web. For him, it’s mostly about the research, but he always makes time for the scenery and a pint, which is what I’m here for. Vacations are nice; a vacation with someone who really knows where they are with the kind of passion this guy feels is something else entirely.”
It was dark by the time we arrived. I parked the Mini in the same car park Siobhan had left the van. I did not, however, head for The Quay. Instead, I tried my best to go on autopilot, walking without thinking. In not too many minutes, we were across the street from Tigh Coili.
“Well?” He could tell I was nervous. I didn’t really know Rob would be there. Anyone could have been there instead. Maybe some anyones I didn’t want to run into.
What he heard was almost exactly what’s here, partly because I used his notes as an outline for this exercise in memory. It’s hard to convey the exact tone of voice and facial expression, so he may have picked up some things that weren’t exactly spoken.
He’d been scribbling like mad, only stopping me once in a while to let him catch up, or to clarify who I was talking about when I just said ‘he’ after mentioning a handful of people. And once or twice I realized he was doing that thing Siobhan used to do, staring at me like I had three eyes. He had his own version, though; where Siobhan’s lips were always compressed in restrained anger, his always had a bit of a smile at the edges.
I stopped on the landing halfway down the stairs and peered between the railings. I didn’t want to pop into the lobby and into the arms of the cousins, or Mr. Big or ReallyBig, or the police, or whoever else I wasn’t ready to deal with right now.
A quick glance around the lobby from the landing didn’t reveal anything scary. I knew that was wrong, so I took a better look. Still nothing. Ah, well. A little paranoia doesn’t hurt.
I hadn’t finished my beer or my sandwich. I couldn’t afford to be food-groggy if I was going to pick her pocket and slip out, rather than dropping off to sleep.
She was already laying on the bed, flat on her back, hands behind her head, exactly the way I slept. “You don’t have to sleep in the chair; after last night, I think I can trust you.”
Lisdoonvarna, home of one of the largest matchmaking festivals in Europe. Too bad I was a month early and with the wrong person.
The Rathbaun on Main Street gave us a room with nary a glance at my appearance. It was a tidy little room, so different from less expensive American hotels. Despite the fact that smoking wasn’t universally condemned here as it was in California, the room smelled more of pine cleaner than cigarettes. The Irish have always seemed fonder of open windows than Americans, especially near the sea. Windows without screens were the norm; fewer flying bugs.
I was tired of Siobhan’s cat-and-mouse game. As soon as I figured out how to get my identification away from her without tipping her off about how much I knew, I’d disappear long enough to find a garda station and turn myself in. It couldn’t possibly be worse than roaming the countryside, sleeping in fields, smelling like stale corn chips.
She seemed content to sit in silence as we rode the shuttle to the tiny hamlet of Carran. We couldn’t have discussed much of any value with the driver there anyway. So instead, we watched the scenery for the short trip.
My stomach lurched and my head swam. I wanted to run screaming from her; I wanted to hit her; I wanted to beg her to tell me it was all a mistake, that she wasn’t my enemy.
I was in the middle of nowhere with someone who, for all I knew, wanted me dead. I don’t know how she’d come by my passport and license, but the last time I’d seen ’em the cousins were buying our tickets from LAX to Shannon.
It wasn’t really difficult going, but it was getting dark. A flashlight would have been nice, but I probably wouldn’t have used it anyway, what with unfriendlies not far away.
It was cooling off, but it seemed like the limestone below us had held the heat from the sunny day. It wasn’t uncomfortable at all, especially if we kept moving.
There was nowhere to go but uphill. I would have rather found a nice deep gully to slip into, but since the car was a dead giveaway I’m not sure it would have mattered much.
The darkening sky made every little ripple in the rock stand out; I’d been worried we’d be tripping and falling all over ourselves, but it was fairly obvious where to step.
The 25 miles around Galway Bay to Kinvarra would have been about 10 if we’d had a boat. Might still have taken the same hour, though; maybe more.
I was convinced now that Siobhan had lured me to Galway for—what? If she’d told Mr. Big and friend where to find me, why did she run them down and rescue me? But if she hadn’t told them where I was, how did they find me?
“Dr. Martin, I’ll begin by clarifying something: Michael O’Quinn’s methods were sloppy and ineffective, as was his thinking. So it goes. My thinking is direct and forceful. You will find my methods to be the same. I suggest, therefore, that it is in your best interests to cooperate more willingly with me than with the late Mr. O’Quinn.”
This guy should chat with Niall. They’d been watching the same movies.
“Dr. Noah Webster Martin; pleased to meet you. And you are . . . ?”
The mixture of sea air, restaurants and old wood felt familiar as we walked up Mainguard Street past the traffic pilings. I wonder how many cities would survive if they cordoned off their downtown area from motor traffic. I realize Galway has spread to more modern areas and this was really the tourist spot, but a huge proportion of tourists here would be American, and Americans hate being separated from their steel support systems.
It was disturbing as ever to see the McDonald’s on Shop Street. I don’t have anything against fast food; not much, anyway, but it’s like going to a nice Italian restaurant and they’re playing rock music over the sound system.
The last half-dozen miles from Oranmore to the center of Galway City went either much too slowly or much too fast. The traffic was thick, the closer you got to the center, so sometimes we were crawling. A light rain had started; it seemed like someone’s work shift had just ended. By the time we rounded the traffic circle off the N6 we were in a snarl of traffic that seemed sure to delay us half an hour at least. Except, I didn’t know where we were going, or if I wanted to go there. I didn’t know where I would have gone had I come here alone—or, in fact, if I really wanted to go there, either. I wasn’t making much progress in sorting out who Dr. Noah Webster Martin was, or why he was driving to Galway with a gorgeous redheaded Irish girl.
I didn’t completely mistrust her, but I was having an even harder time accepting that she just happened to be coming out of the garda station as I was heading in (although, how could anyone possibly have known where I was, or where I was going, when I didn’t know?) or that she was just a journalist looking for a story. In fact, I only had her word for O’Quinn’s death or anything else she’d told me.
It’s hard not to act suspicious, when you are. Probably just as hard as not acting interested in a woman, when you are. In the hour to Ennis, what was happening in my head must have become obvious to Siobhan.
Somewhere along the line I’d decided to trust her. I wasn’t totally sold on the reporter angle; maybe I’d watched too much American television, but that seemed like the easiest way to ask a lot of probing questions without raising suspicions.
Whatever; I suddenly wasn’t in a hurry to escape, at least not from her. Yeah, I know: stifle it.