They stopped, like people do when they’re talking about you and you suddenly pop into the room. Rob and Mossie looked at me, their expressions somewhere between worried and puzzled.
Siobhan said “Good morning. So very nice to see you again.” Except, as she said it, she stepped much too close, and walloped me hard. Even her open hand felt like a boxer’s left hook.
The sting made my eyes water. I fumbled behind me and Rob shoved a chair in place while Mossie pushed me down into it.
“Not sure that was absolutely necessary, was it?” Rob didn’t look angry. He looked like he was genuinely interested in Siobhan’s opinion about whether or not slapping me silly had a beneficial aspect. I could have answered that for him. I didn’t get the chance.
“There’s more than one kind of necessary, Mr. Graham.”
“True. I’ve wanted to slug him myself more than once. But I’ve usually been able to sort things out without resorting to violence.”
“Oh, he’s not hurt. Much. Not as much as he needs. So, now that I’ve finished my business, can we get down to cases and discuss how you’re going to help me get Conor Dubin out of circulation once and for all?”
“Wait a minute!” I wasn’t about to meekly let myself get slapped around. “I think I should be allowed—” Rob grabbed my arm. “Not now. Take some good advice, and shut up. Let’s get out of here; we can talk in the car.”
I shut up. We walked out of the Victoria and down the street to the right. There, just as if it belonged, was Siobhan’s van. She opened the driver’s door, and jerked her head toward it. “Drive. With your mouth shut, for a change.”
I glared at her, but Rob and Mossie were already sliding into the back, and I decided to wait for a battle I could win.
“Where to?” as I started the familiar little van.
“Out of the city. South, toward O’Quinn’s.” She didn’t offer any more.
“When do we do the Q and A session?”
“When you’ve behaved with a smidgen of intelligence for five minutes together.” I glanced in the mirror, but Rob and Mossie weren’t offering any help.
“What about Mossie’s car?”
Rob finally spoke up. “It’s about an hour ahead of us. My two friendly investigators are doing some reconnaissance.”
“An hour? How long—” Siobhan backhanded my arm. “I’ll tell you when you talk. Until then, drive.”
I plodded through the city traffic on College Road toward the Dublin road, then to the N6 and the N18 south toward Limerick.
The 60-some miles took almost two hours, between the traffic getting out of Galway City and an overturned lorry near the village of Cratloe, almost to Limerick. After creeping along for two miles, we passed the cleanup crew and zipped the last five miles into Limerick on the Ennis Road.
“Lunch, then we’ll talk. Left here” as we crossed the river. “Up a few blocks, across the bridge, then right.”
We ended up at a place called The Locke Bar, right on the river. Excellent fish and chips, which came with the traditional mushy peas. Rob looked at me funny. “Never did see how you could eat those things.” He was having the seafood chowder. Mossie had what smelled like an excellent chicken curry. Siobhan had an enormous medium rare burger. She ate like she was killing it herself. I kept my opinions to myself, and pretended to enjoy the view of the river.
Lunch over (Siobhan paid with a credit card; not the one I’d seen before; different color.) She pretended I wasn’t standing near her. I tried to pretend it too. I’m not very good at it.
Once again, I was in agony.
“Can we just—” She whipped around. “No. No, we cannot. We’ll talk while we drive. I mean, I’ll talk. You—you’ll drive. And not talk. Because I’m not listening.”
She ploughed between Rob and Mossie, yanked her door open, and slammed it way too hard after she got in.
They looked at me like a child they were disappointed in. “Man, you used to get along with people; you were never this, I dunno, complicated, before.” Rob didn’t seem angry, it was more concern.
I didn’t say anything, having, you know, nothing to say. Mossie gently tugged my sleeve as if directing a sleepy child toward his bedroom.
I wasn’t sure why they were all behaving so oddly; I was the one with the brain damage. Or maybe they didn’t remember that.
I got behind the wheel, moping some more. Siobhan talked.
“First off, do you want me to save your life or not?”