Siobhan was silent for the rest of the half-mile down to the Ring Lyne Pub in Chapeltown. But, once again, it was the comfortable silence we’d found so many times over the past few days. (Few days! It seemed like months.)
Before we entered the light of the pub’s windows, she slipped her hand from mine and stepped into the shadow behind the last house on the left. She gave me a gentle nudge, and disappeared into the blackness.
I slouched my way across the street, and tried to look exactly the opposite of how I felt; that is, tried to look hopeless and forlorn when I felt exhilarated.
I pushed through the door into the alcove, then into the pub proper. It wasn’t crowded; everyone gave me the usual glance-and-nod greeting of a small-town Irish pub. I slid onto a stool at the end of the bar, and said to no one in particular, “Thirsty work, walking all night.” I smiled, trying to look hopeful.
My faith in Irish hospitality was almost slipping when a voice behind me said, “Step right this way, sir; there’s someone as wants to buy you a pint.”
I turned, smiling, and looked into the bruised face of Mr. ReallyBig, my long-lost friend from Galway.
Even knowing this was what I expected, it was hard to stifle the panic. I smiled, sort of. Maybe it looked like a drunken leer. He bought it, anyway. At least, it seemed so at the time.
He led me to a smaller room off the main pub. Mr. Big, Conor Dubin, sat at a dimly lit table with a small whiskey in front of him.
“Dr. Martin, sit, please. Feany, please see to it we’re not disturbed.”
Mr. ReallyBig Feany stepped outside the room and closed the glass door. We could see the occupants of the pub, but in the half-darkness we would have been as nearly invisible as Dubin had been when I walked in.
“Dr. Martin, you’ve been keeping the wrong company.”
“Come now; friends have identified the attractive young lady who effected your daring rescue during our last meeting. You were in excellent hands, yet you abandoned her protection. Why?”
I hadn’t expected to make my pitch so quickly, but he was running the show, and this was where it fit in the script.
“Change of heart. Decided I was willing to forgive your; um, that is, Mr. Feany’s regrettable lack of judgment regarding the use of firearms, and consider, oh, a more remunerative arrangement?”
“So, allow me to recap: you’ve come from spending a day and two nights with an agent of the government, and yet I should trust you.”
“Because you want money.”
“Rumour has it you already have it.”
“What I have are possessions. Possessions, even when you’re in hock to your eyebrows to get them, require upkeep. They require a lifestyle. A lifestyle to which, I must say, I’ve become accustomed. A lifestyle which requires certain expenses regarding my local constabulary, expenses such as I’m sure you have, Mr. Dubin.”
He smiled. More shark. I hoped he didn’t see me shiver.
“You are not what you seem, Dr. Martin, but you are what I hoped. O’Quinn was a fool, wasting his time and effort, and yours, I might add, supporting an outmoded idea related to certain political ends which have no personal benefit to me.”
“Michael, God rest him, led me to believe you had access to certain information he needed; perhaps had even given him that information. Unfortunately, Feany, as you say, has a regrettable lack of judgment regarding firearms. Whatever you shared with Michael is now in better hands, or blacker.”
“O’Quinn made it all too difficult. I’m American; I don’t give a flip whether the IRA runs this country, or the English, or the French, for that matter. But he had to make everything a crusade.” If that was Dubin’s hobby-horse, I could ride it too. “His financial arrangements always assumed my support of his ’cause’, and I could never convince him that my cause was Dr. Noah Webster Martin, first, last, and only.”
“Capital; capital, Dr. Martin.” I had never realized how popular film noir was in Ireland; something I’ll have to check into, if he was going to continue quoting Sidney Greenstreet.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to abandon these refreshments for more practical activities.”
“Fine by me.”
As he stood, Feany opened the door like it was a New York hotel. Instead of crossing the pub we went left, out a darker alcove, away from the prying eyes of the Ring Lyne’s guests.
Around the building to the left was a car; black as the night we were walking through, and when Feany opened the door for Dubin, I could see that by Irish standards it was huge.
“Very nice. I hate these rattly tin boxes the hoi polloi drive here.”
“As do I, Dr. Martin. I spend far too much time traveling to spend it, as you say, in rattly tin boxes.”
Feany opened the left rear door for me; I plopped into the glove leather seat. I sank up to my hips; it was like a featherbed. He went around and got in front, behind the wheel where he could watch me by flicking a glance over his shoulder.
“If you don’t mind, Dr. Martin, we’ll travel in silence. I often rest during these long drives, whether or not I actually sleep.”
“Fine by me.” I should probably try to vary my slang. Or maybe, being repetitive makes it sound real. Kind of like, truly random numbers might include two or even three in a row of the same number. Or maybe I was really seriously over-thinking it. Yeah; that’s probably it. Travel in silence, like the man said.
Feany pulled gently into the road, and headed west, toward the bridge to the mainland. We crossed it, and after the requisite weaving along the shoreline, turned onto the N70, northeast along Dingle Bay, northeast to heaven-only-knew where.
But I was going to find out, whether I wanted to or not.