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.
We stopped to stretch our legs in Ennis. I popped into a pub to use the gents’, and when I came back to the van, Siobhan was waiting behind the wheel. As I got in the left side, there was a copy of ‘An Phoblacht’ on the seat.
I raised my eyebrows at Siobhan.
“A few pages in; under ‘Other News’ . . . “
I flipped through the pages until Michael Seamus O’Quinn was glaring at me from the center of the right-hand page. The article was short and uncomplimentary, to both O’Quinn and myself.
“They’re not shy about convicting me of his murder, are they?”
“Oh, so you believe he’s dead now?”
I couldn’t tell if she was angry or hurt. Or maybe I was a man and she was a woman, which would mean I didn’t have any way of knowing what she was feeling.
“Look, I’ve been through a lot the past couple days. I don’t even remember how many days it’s been. I’m kinda sorting this out as I go along. I appreciate the confirmation, and not just because it’s one less person trying to hurt me.”
“Yeah, whatever. I know reporters are slime. Don’t worry, I won’t touch you.”
“Hey, I didn’t ask for your help. I didn’t ask you to come along. We’re here because you want my story, not the other way ’round. If you’re not enjoying my company, I’ll find a way to get along without you.” Maybe.
She turned and looked through the windshield. After a moment, she started the van and pulled into the street.
“I guess it’s sensible not to trust strangers, especially under the circumstances. I forget that, just because I’m reasonably honest and ethical doesn’t mean anyone else will realize it. Forget about it.”
I wasn’t in the mood any more; thought I’d just let her talk herself out. It appeared she already had.
I read the article again, instead of just skimming. I wasn’t entirely sold on its journalistic integrity, but it still jerked me to a stop to see myself described as a “wealthy amateur lexicographer.” I didn’t feel amateur, and I sure didn’t feel wealthy. I had a vague niggling at the back of my head that the Irish tend to think all Americans have money, but then, if I had a Ph.D. behind my name, I’d had some once. My rapidly aging suit was still nicer than a lot I’d seen at our leg-stretch-stop. Huh; maybe I wasn’t going to live out my days scratching for my next nickel. After this trip, I mean.
At this point, I was just hoping to live out the rest of my days, period.
I would have loved to have taken the N85 out toward the coast, through the Burren. Its rocky wilds were an ideal place to think. Which seemed to imply I’d been there, and done that. Instead, we headed the direct route, continuing up the N18. Siobhan was a more aggressive driver than I was; we made Gort in under an hour, flying through without our usual leg stretch.
The silence didn’t seem uncomfortable; more like when you’re with someone undemanding who knows that sitting quietly together can be as fulfilling as good conversation.
I didn’t know what was going through her mind. I pretended not to know what was going through mine.