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.
“So, I’d say the salient points are, one, how did Mr. Big find you in Galway, two, what is he likely to do between now and whenever you turn yourself in to the police, three, why did you lose your memory in the first place, and four, how can Rob help when we get to Galway?”
I almost drove off the road. He looked at me with that look again. “Well, who else would you be meeting in Galway?”
“Fine. Whatever. What about Siobhan? How’d she get my passport and license? Who is she working for?”
“Well, let’s answer those in reverse order, since how she got them is based on who she works for. Her employer is the Irish government, specifically the police force. She had your documentation because she was assigned to follow you to Mr. Big.”
This time I just pulled over.
“I was almost believing that ‘gift’ stuff, but you’re not even in the ballpark with that one.”
“Eh? What other possible explanation is there? Saints, she was walking out of a garda station when she ran into you. Every step of the way, she’s been almost as surprised as you at the little confrontations you’ve had, and yet she’s done everything in her power to stay close enough to protect you. Well, that is until she fell in love with you and let her guard down.”
“Oh, now you’re just nuts.”
“Of course I am. But, help me out here; could you please point out one single flaw in my explanation, other than your purely emotional refusal to believe something to your benefit?”
“Logic, huh? Fine. How come she didn’t know what the cousins looked like?”
“What makes you think that?”
“In Galway; she said she thought Mr. Big and Mr. ReallyBig were the cousins.”
“She thought that, or she told you she thought that? Tell me: what’s her professional or personal reason for letting you know that she recognizes the big fish who almost certainly eliminated O’Quinn? To impress you? To scare you senseless? No, that was the simplest lie which did the least harm.”
“Well, how did Mr. Big find us in Galway if she didn’t tell them?”
He sighed. “I keep forgetting how much brain damage you must have suffered lately, with the memory loss, irregular sleep and meals, falling in love, and so on. No; wait—” as I tried to interrupt at that preposterous claim. “How long were you messing about in boats from the time you left Sneem until you arrived on foot at the garda station in Killarney?”
I thought back. “Must have been, oh, five, six hours, including the nap. Maybe more.”
“And if we’re dealing with a foe even remotely intelligent, couldn’t they have, in that time, found the cousins, obtained information about your whereabouts, and decided to follow you?”
“Why follow? Why not just grab me?”
“With a policewoman in the van? Come now; they’re not trying to get the full wrath of the police force aimed at them.”
“But she was still with me in Galway.”
“She was running away from the restaurant as fast as she could.”
“That was after she saw them.”
“So she said. We’ll have to ask her to be sure, but she must have known something was afoot when she left the table. From your description of events, she couldn’t have had time to get to the car park and back unless she’d run like mad from the moment she left the table. She went to get the van and scoot you out the back way. My guess is she’d discovered you were being followed and hit upon the quickest escape.”
I mulled a bit. Then I pondered. Finally, I actually thought.
I started the Mini. “Tell you what; let’s have this same conversation with Rob once we get to Tigh Coili, and if he’s with you, I’m with you.”
He smiled. “If he’s got any sense at all, which I’m beginning to fear you haven’t anymore, he’ll see a number of things before you’ve finished telling your story.”
I wasn’t sure if Wheeler was the smartest man I’d ever met, and I was the dumbest, or the other way ’round.
We drove to Galway.