James looked puzzled. “Jameson’s shouldn’t be murky like that. Let me get you another glass.” Niall grabbed his hand. Niall had O’Quinn’s voice; it said “Leave it! It’ll take a few minutes for him to drop, and we won’t have to carry him. Not too much, now; not too much. Don’t want to hurt the dear lamb.” I didn’t like O’Quinn or Niall calling me ‘dear’ or ‘lamb’, but I didn’t have much choice. When I tried to speak, it was Fearghal’s voice, slurred so badly I couldn’t understand what it was saying. I tried to make it say something sensible, but I couldn’t.
“I’m tired of this.” Well, that came out clearly enough. I stood up. “Whiskey’s gone bad, James; try lemonade next time.” James had his back to me, wiping a glass. He’s not usually so rude, so I left.
I looked back and Niall and Fearghal were laying on the table. I wanted a nap, too, but O’Quinn was holding their heads up, looking into their eyes. “Too much, I think. Yes, you’re gone, he’s gone, I’m gone” and he vanished. Their heads hung in the air where he’d been holding them.
I should have taken a taxi, but when I yelled for one it was James’s voice. “Don’t do that! You shouldn’t be here. Go home! Get out!” I didn’t know what he was mad about, but it hurt my feelings; James is usually such a nice guy.
I decided that if they wouldn’t all play nice I’d go home. But not that home, the other one no one knew about. My own private clubhouse. Just me and Siobhan.
She was waiting for me in the bedroom. The police uniform fit her nicely. I said so. She started crying. “Don’t leave me, Web; don’t leave me.” I said I wouldn’t.
When I tried to put my arms around her, she pulled out her nightstick and hit me. Hit me hard. I fell to the floor.
Arms grabbed me. “Web! Wake up! Look out!” as I swung my fist; wasn’t gonna let her hit me again.
The sun in my eyes was a stabbing pain. A shadow moved in front of it, and became Rob.
“Geez; put some clothes on, or at least wrap the blanket around you!”
I climbed back into the bed and under the covers.
Mossie and Rob were both up and dressed. “I was gonna wake you up, but Mossie thought we should just let you sleep and see what happened. You seemed pretty intense there just before you jumped out of bed. What was that about?”
I could remember the whole dream, but only one bit seemed relevant. “I think I know why my memory is gone. Most of the dream was all mixed up, but I have a clear image of Niall putting something in my drink at Riley’s, and one of them saying something about ‘not too much.’ Dunno if that’s imagined, or if they thought I was drunk enough that they didn’t have to be cautious. I’d love to find them and find out what it was.”
Rob wasn’t convinced. “If that’s what happened, your description of those two geniuses makes me think all they’ll know is that O’Quinn gave them something to put in your drink. Although how they were gonna carry you out of Riley’s would be nice to know.”
“There’s something about a delayed reaction; not sure, like I said, if that’s imaginary or if it really happened.”
“So, is this what it’s like, when you remember?”
“It’s been different each time, but until now it’s been more clear; actual memories. This might just have been a dream; my head making up a feasible solution to the puzzle.”
“It does seem feasible, though” offered Mossie. “And if we do run down the cousins, as you call them, it won’t hurt to ask. In the meantime, you need clothes, and we all need breakfast.”
I couldn’t make myself put that suit on again. “Rob, why don’t you take the slacks and shirt to the Dunnes around the corner and get whatever they have in my size, and then we’ll go eat. I’m just not gonna wear that again. And besides, I want to think.”
They waited until room service brought a pot of tea, and some toast and marmalade. Then, I lay in bed while they went out.
Ah; the tea. That first sip of the first cup from the first pot in the morning. There are nights I drift off to sleep, imagining the smoky creamy aromatic slickness on my tongue. And real marmalade; not just masses of sugar with a bit of orange peel, but substance and flavor all the way through. Doesn’t even need butter.
I finished my second cup, and my second slice. I’d studiously avoided letting my mind wander by focusing on the mundane effort of spreading, sipping, chewing, swallowing.
I didn’t want to think about any of it. I didn’t want to think about Siobhan; I knew, absolutely, that I loved her, and I didn’t want to know that she was just using me in her official capacity.
I didn’t want to think about Dubin. I’m no hero; if gangsters want something, I say give it to ’em and maybe they’ll leave me alone.
I didn’t want to think about my past. No one had said anything, but from the bits I remembered and the comments I’d read in the papers, I sounded absolutely dead boring. Like a school teacher who taught something no one was interested in, or like the eccentric down the street who only comes out to yell at kids for crossing his lawn to get their ball.
Maybe I didn’t want my memory back. Maybe this was a chance to start fresh; be a new, interesting person. Maybe a bit of adventure was what I needed.
I had moped my way into quite a state by the time Rob and Mossie returned. “You guys mind waiting down in the lobby while I shower and dress? I’ll only be a few minutes, but I wanna have some time to clear my head.” I really didn’t notice them leaving; just turned on the shower and stood in the steam. Nicer shower than in Lisdoonvarna, but none of Siobhan’s red hair clinging to the side of the tub.
Suddenly, I didn’t want to be alone. Maybe I never had. I dressed as fast as I could, slipped into the blue suede slip-ons Rob had gotten to replace my almost shredded dress shoes, and headed down the stairs.
I could see Rob’s back across the lobby, around a corner into what might have been a dining room. As I rounded the corner, I saw that he and Mossie weren’t talking to each other.
They were talking to Siobhan.