“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 hand on my knee was firm. Then, it was crushing. Then, it started to slide the kneecap right off. Despite the pain, I didn’t cry out; in a bizarre comedic moment I wondered if the thing shoved against my ribs was called a ‘silencer’ for more than one reason.
Another survival tip for you, kiddies: no matter how funny you find yourself, don’t smile when the bad guys are interrogating you under physical duress. They don’t like it, and things go downhill fast.
Mr. Big (as in the leader) gestured vaguely toward the bathroom hallway Siobhan had gone down (where was she??) and Mr. ReallyBig the thug dragged me from the booth and shoved me ahead of him down the hallway toward a greasy door at the end.
I had a little more experience with being meekly led to the slaughter, and I wasn’t walking to my own funeral this time. Better to be shot in a room full of people than in a dirty alley (or maybe the alleys in Galway aren’t dirty; I didn’t remember) or down by the ocean where they’d never find you.
I say I had experience with the concept. I had none with the execution of it. I jerked away from Mr. ReallyBig and ran for the door. Which was locked. I think. I don’t know; it wouldn’t open.
The pain in the back of my head was amazing. At first I thought he’d shot me; then I realized he’d just slugged me with the gun. Not enough to knock me out; contrary to what you see in the movies, that takes more than a light tap. But enough to make me reconsider my flight and, instead, bend over with my head between my hands. I’m no tough guy, I’m an academic, remember?
Misters Big and ReallyBig obviously knew the secret of the door, opened it, and dragged me into the small street behind the shop. It was a dead end to the right, running back toward Mainguard and Shop Streets to the left.
The unpleasant chap with the gun had my left arm in a grip that made Fearghal’s seem wimpy. The more unpleasant chap said “Yes, the left elbow. That way he can still walk.”
While I was trying to digest that, a small van flew from the cul-de-sac where cars shouldn’t have been.
It split our little group in two; Mr. Big over there jammed against the door of The Quay, the gunsel and I on the right, had we been in the van. (Now there’s a thought . . . )
The gunsel was just a bit slow getting out of the way, unfortunately. As Siobhan swung her door open the corner caught him in the head. It made a lovely bang, a lot like I’d imagine a blacksmith’s hammer on the anvil. Sometimes at night, when I can’t sleep, or when I’m feeling down, I think of that noise, and the resulting lack of any expression whatsoever on Mr. ReallyBig’s unconscious face, and I smile.
I was leaping over Siobhan before he hit the ground. Which meant that I was headfirst jammed under the dash, with one leg in her face and partly out the door, and the other sliding down between the two front seats. I had never noticed the smell of stale peanuts on the floor before, but I was much closer to it now.
“Get down—stop that—no, this way!” as I tried to right myself. “Just keep still; all I have to do is close the door.” She banged it shut. The shouts of the angry mob we were shoving through were quieter now, then suddenly were completely drowned out by the screech of metal against something or other as Siobhan crammed the poor little van between the posts put there to prevent cars from entering the area.
Seconds later the van stopped. “Get up, get up; get outta my way!” She shoved my right leg between the seats with the left, and I sort of climbed backwards between the seats. It wasn’t easy, what with the gear shift in my right side and the sparkling language Siobhan was using to encourage me, but I made it. Being upside down is disconcerting; there’s a reason our legs are where they are, and our head is where it is.
I slid my legs back through the opening and as I was trying to slide back into the passenger seat, we flew back into traffic and down Williams Gate. Before it turned into Prospect Hill, I was in my seat and buckled. Buckled firmly. I had a newfound terror of Siobhan’s driving.
“Where were you? What was that all about? Who were those guys?”
“I was in the ladies’, remember? I came back and saw them, and ran for help.”
“And ended up at the parking garage? You didn’t run for help, you ran to save your story.” Or worse, I finished to myself.
She didn’t even try to refute it. “It worked, didn’t it? I’ve been in tighter spots than that; I can take care of myself, and still have a little left over to take care of you.”
“So, who did you just assault with a moving vehicle?”
“I don’t know who they were.”
“Then why did you run when you saw them?”
“I thought they were O’Quinn’s cousins you keep raving about.”
“Those are two big guys; this was one big guy and one tiny runt.”
“Look, I didn’t take their measurements. I saw two men where I expected only you. I thought you needed help. I was right. I helped. What exactly is it you’re complaining about?”
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t tell her I was wondering how those two had known exactly where to find me, and that the simplest answer was that she had told them.