Millie turned enough to touch Darcy’s face with the back of her hand. “I know, dear. I don’t think you’re in any real danger or I wouldn’t ask you to do this.”
Darcy nodded. “I’ll be okay. I just had to wind up for it.” She smiled a big fake smile at me in the mirror, mussed up the back of my hair, and got out.
Millie and I went off to do battle with the rest of the family.
It wouldn’t stop, though. There was yelling. And a scraping noise.
When my eyes had the strength to open, some of the noises started to make sense.
“Hang on.” I didn’t know if they could hear me over their own yelling. I got my thick fluffy robe, which is far more luxurious than most single guys would have but since I sleep in the same clothes I shower in I keep something posh handy in case of emergency.
The hammering and shoving at the door sounded like an emergency.
My front door does not have an annoying habit of failing to stay latched.
It latches just fine. I make sure of it.
So it concerned me not a little that it was ajar when I rounded the top of the stairs.
I froze, then stepped back a bit. I stopped on the top stair and leaned my forehead against the wall, which put my good ear almost in the hallway where it could listen better.
These old wooden floors creak if you look at them. Nobody was moving in my place.
Which meant one of two things: nobody was in my place, or they just weren’t moving.
You’ll want to sing that title to the tune of, um, something that fits. I don’t know what. I just know it’s better if you sing it.
He also asks me hard questions.
By the time Max and Mossie and friends arrived, Siobhan had filled in enough of the gaps to make most of it make some sense.
Patrick, Feany the First, had infiltrated Dubin’s organization a year before. He discovered quickly that Conor Dubin was a man of temperament, and could be closemouthed like a clam with one associate and chatty as a schoolgirl with another. The SDU officer unfortunately hadn’t been interesting enough to Dubin to get him to open up about life, the universe, and other crimes. I guess it’s tough to do an accurate personality profile on someone like that.
When the blow came I wasn’t the only one surprised.
Niall’s fist hit the side of Feany III’s neck with a sound like a handful of meatloaf you threw at the wall. Feany III went down like the meatloaf, and then there was one. Feany the Only must have heard Fearghal behind him; he dodged ever so slightly and caught the ham-sized fist in the side of the head instead of the pressure point on his neck. It was still almost enough; his head rocked, and he shoved backwards into Fearghal. Fearghal went over backwards, and Feany scrambled behind a car.
I looked at what I could see of the glorious old building; the triple nave above us, the square stone columns, arches everywhere. I wanted to take a closer look at the organ; built just before the Great War, it incorporated parts from the original from 1872. I had a quick mental image of being under a pump organ; I was so small that I could only pump one of the pedals; someone else was on the other, and the feet of the players (I use the term loosely) dangled over our heads. I wonder where that was, and if it was even real.
As we slipped down the stairs, I could barely hear the three behind me; Max and his big friends. When we got to street level it was black. Out front it was gently lit, but back here there were no lights but the stars.
In five minutes we’d be at the church, and I’d either be goading some thug into calling Dubin, or involved in something much, much worse. Siobhan could pretend it was all business; I couldn’t.
Siobhan’s room was on the ground floor; not directly below Rob’s, but close enough that wireless connections for video worked between them.
She stayed in persona once we were back in the room. I had a harder time with the clothes than the hair; blonde was gonna suit her long before a leather mini would.
The chap behind the bar, whose name should have popped into my head but didn’t, gave me a nod between the heads of hair at the bar. I held up one finger, which he seemed to be expecting, and headed around to the table I’d sat at with Rob and Mossie. It was empty, which was a pleasant surprise, or completely expected—I’d walked past a couple empty tables to get here; most of the patrons were lining the bar where service was faster.
We walked across the gravel of the carport, then across an unkempt grassy area and down concrete steps to a rocky beach. There, over the sound of the waves, Dubin explained his plan.
He had arranged for a professor of Celtic history to ‘find’ the Brendan map and announce it to the world. I was to allow others to comment on its authenticity to see who else might support it. He hinted that some of the supporters might be ‘associates’ of his, but that they would only speak up if no other linguists or historians accepted the map as genuine.
I seemed to have an unerring ability to miss Lochlainn at the office. Lisa was always most apologetic about his occasionally erratic schedule. Not that I minded a nice chat with her, but if Lochlainn and I didn’t get together in person, I wasn’t going to feel completely comfortable entrusting the Gaelige translations of my books to them.
I spent some time wondering how much of this Dubin knew. Was he connected to the publishing house somehow; is that why we were here? Happy coincidence seemed too much to ask. I just couldn’t remember anything specific about Cló Iar-Chonnachta or this part of County Galway to form an opinion.
“I apologize that I can’t provide appropriate sleepwear, nor indeed anything for the morrow, but at the top of the stairs you’ll find a room where you can make yourself comfortable if you like. The larder is also well-stocked, if you have need of anything. I personally do not eat this late in the day, but your digestion may be better than mine.”
I risked the appearance of subordination. “No conversation?”
Once we were outside the church again and all was securely locked, Dubin muttered something to Feany who walked off southwest down Market, away from the car.
I turned toward Dubin, eyebrows raised. Which, of course, he couldn’t see in the pitch black dark, but he must have heard them creaking, or maybe he just knew I was puzzled.
It was a good one; really it was. At first glance, I’d thought it was genuine, but there was something wrong with the language in the paragraph Brendan had supposedly written in the center. It wasn’t the content; that all matched the time period, his education and mission, all that. But the phrasing and some of the syntax was really sixth, maybe even seventh century.
It’s 85 miles by air from Farranfore to Galway. I assumed Galway, since we headed nearly due north. After a quarter of an hour I could see the few dim lights of Limerick 20 miles to the east. Of course, Sligo would have been exactly the same direction and 60 miles farther; Donegal would have been nearly north and about twice the distance of Galway. But I could feel from the angle of the plane we were already descending after Limerick; if it was the midpoint, we were almost certainly landing in Galway.
At Killorglin we continued on the N70 as I expected; it’s also where the N72 splits off and follows the River Laune down to Killarney, through some of the most beautiful land in Kerry, which is to say, some of the most beautiful land on earth.
At Castlemaine (“There was a wild, colonial boy . . . ” but I heard the Clancy Brothers, not John Wayne) we turned off the main road, right, onto a smudgy little track. I thought things I won’t write down. There’s only one reason to get off the N70 at Castlemaine, and that’s to cross over to Farranfore. Farranfore Airport.
Siobhan was silent for the rest of the half-mile down to the Ring Lyne Pub in Chapeltown. But, once again, it was the comfortable silence we’d found so many times over the past few days. (Few days! It seemed like months.)
Before we entered the light of the pub’s windows, she slipped her hand from mine and stepped into the shadow behind the last house on the left. She gave me a gentle nudge, and disappeared into the blackness.