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?
Now that my heart was slowing down, maybe there was enough blood left to operate my brain. Siobhan’s rescue was completely contrary to any idea she was trying to get me hurt. If she was my enemy (other than her parasitic fourth estate status) she wasn’t acting like it. Secretive, yes. Evil? I came down, once again, on the side of ‘no.’ For now.
“If those two could find me in Galway, what makes you think they won’t find me wherever I go?”
“Nothing. So, we go nowhere. I mean, we keep moving. Moving target is harder to hit, right?”
“Why not just go to the police?”
“The garda would take one look at you and slap the irons on, remember?” I hadn’t remembered.
“So, I’m stuck racing around the country with you until you get your story or someone solves O’Quinn’s murder, or both.”
Wait a minute—was I complaining about being shackled, so to speak, to a lovely Irish girl? Maybe I really was daft.
“Ah, you’re probably right. We both need rest and a bite to eat; I think I wore off my fish and chips back there.”
She slowed, and turned to look at me. The quizzical look turned into a smile. A nice smile. A nice, friendly, ‘maybe this won’t turn out so bad after all’ smile.
I’m afraid what she got back was a dopey leer. Didn’t seem to bother her.
We stopped by the bay after Kinvarra so I could step behind some bushes. I’d been planning a pit stop in The Quay after Siobhan came back from the ladies’, and wasn’t going to wait until the next town to fulfill it.
Ballyvaughan was only a few more miles; Lisdoonvarna 10 more past it. And between them, the Burren.
As recently as my own childhood it had been just ‘Burren’, from ‘Boireann’, meaning ‘great rock’ which it indeed was. As world travel became less the province of the wealthy, it had somehow taken on the definite article, ‘The Burren’—in Irish it would have sounded like referring to ‘The California.’ But I’d learned about this spectacular wilderness even before I’d developed my love of Celtic languages (and maybe it was part of the reason for it) and so in my mind it was ‘The Burren.’
One hundred and twenty square miles of weird rock formations, sprinkled with both Mediterranean and Alpine flora, and some of the best preserved ancient human artifacts in a land where there was no shortage. Some of the outcroppings were a thousand feet high, which is saying something in a country where the highest mountain is only a third the height of what Californians consider ‘a mountain’, yet they could slope steeply down almost to sea level in less than a mile. It was considered world-class hiking and rock-climbing terrain.
It was no place to wander around in the dark, though. Time had slipped by faster than I was keeping track of it, and it looked like it’d be dark not long after we hit Lisdoonvarna.
That, though, assumed we’d even make it that far.
We’d just swung back and forth up a series of switchbacks when the engine sputtered and the van lurched. Siobhan scowled and downshifted. The engine sputtered some more, and the van lurched some more. Then Siobhan sputtered and lurched.
“We’re out of petrol.” Okay, that’s the G-rated version of what she said. The sentence was actually about twice that long, but you’ve got the pertinent bits now.
The van drifted to a stop at the edge of the road. “How far is Lisdoonvarna?”
“You’re driving; don’t you know? Five, six miles, maybe.”
“That’s an hour and a half, up and back.”
I groaned. I didn’t want to walk twelve miles for gas, but I couldn’t exactly send her while I napped in the van.
It wasn’t entirely unpleasant walking in the cool evening. The sunset was glorious. The salt air carried hints of delicate florals. Passing the unshakably moving landcape, I realised how attached I felt to my companion. The feeling was growing, even though I still didn’t know whether or not she wanted me to live much longer.
The Burren has huge areas of flat rock where you can see three miles, and then there’ll be gullies and ravines a hundred feet deep where you could hide an army for a week. I could see why hikers came here; you could make it as easy or as hard as you wanted: a pleasant stroll among the Spring Gentian, or an agonizing scrabble up the face of a near cliff.
Even after half a mile, we could look across the stone back to the van, resting quietly at the outermost corner of the switchbacks.
We could also see, in the dimming light, a set of headlights swinging back and forth through the switchbacks. Experience had taught me forcibly about the discretion versus valor thing, so without a word I grabbed Siobhan’s hand and dragged her off the road to the left.
She tried to jerk away. “Stop it! What are you doing?”
I breathlessly waved my free hand back toward the headlights and kept pulling.
“So? A car; now we can get a ride.”
“Or maybe the nasty bloke you rammed with your door is coming to return the favor.”
Her freckled face was visibly paler even in the fading sunset. She slipped from my hand and ran like a rabbit into the Burren.
One more time, I followed instead of leading.