I seemed to have an unerring ability to miss Lochlainn at the office. Lisa was always most apologetic about his occasionally erratic schedule. Not that I minded a nice chat with her, but if Lochlainn and I didn’t get together in person, I wasn’t going to feel completely comfortable entrusting the Gaelige translations of my books to them.
After two drives over from Galway on separate research trips, I wasn’t sure Lochlainn and I were ever going to meet, but on the phone he’d been very excited about making my work available in quality translations, even though I didn’t have the time or the interest in doing the work myself; I was more excited about writing new books than revisiting the old ones.
Maybe the forced memory thing wasn’t such a good idea. Waking up with fresh memories was a lot more fun than the bizarre unsettling dreams. Of course, I’d gotten the phone number from the dreams, but that wasn’t the only way to get a phone number.
Ah, well; so much for amateur psychiatry.
It seemed early; the sun was up, but in summer that only meant it was after six. I didn’t hear any noises down below.
I showered and dressed. Another look through the books didn’t turn up anything really interesting. I headed downstairs.
The smells and sounds of breakfast came up the stairs as I was on my way down. A grandmotherly type was frying and slicing and generally clattering around in the kitchen. She glanced over her shoulder, then back at the stovetop. “You must be Mr. Morrison’s guest. Sit down, sit down; breakfast’ll be ready in a moment, soon as these potatoes finish.”
Maybe Feany’s cooking wasn’t up to Dubin’s standards. I hoped Morrison was just an alias for Dubin; I didn’t want another person to sort out of all of this.
She set a plate in front of me; I hadn’t even seen her serving it. “Eat up; eat up. I’ll be taking Mr. Morrison’s in to him as usual.” She paused to smile wistfully; or maybe it wasn’t wistful, but there was more to it than a simple smile. “Ah, that Mr. Morrison is a strapping big lad; reminds me of my Patrick, he does. He doesn’t have too many guests, does Mr. Morrison,” and then, in almost a whisper, “except that other gent, the weasel-faced one.” Then, with a gasp, “Oh, sir; I’m so sorry if he’s a friend of yours. Lizzy, you’ll learn to keep it shut one of these fine days.” And she almost ran from the room with a tray for, of all people, Feany.
Was Dubin just distracting attention from himself by having Feany act as host? I was reminded not to let my guard down around these two; there was always something unexpected going on.
Before I finished eating I heard noises down the hall. They didn’t come to the kitchen. Lizzy came through the kitchen with a smile. “Ta, then; back for cleaning after lunch.” She whisked past, and the door banged shut.
I sat, finishing the last of my tea. I didn’t want to act too subservient, if that was Dubin in the next room. I needed him to think I was self-assured and confident, even over-confident.
Feany burst into the kitchen, grabbed two slices of Lizzy’s bread and popped them into the toaster. Getting a knife from the drawer he pulled the marmalade pot and butter close. Finally he spoke. “Best not leave Mr. Dubin waiting overlong, Doc.”
He took the lid off the marmalade pot and the cover off the butter dish.
“Thanks for the tip, Morrison.”
He stiffened, then fidgeted with the lid to the marmalade pot. “Curse that Lizzy! Look, don’t let on to Mr. Dubin; I don’t want Lizzy to lose this job. He pays well, and she likes the travel.” He looked almost pleading. It changed his whole appearance.
“Don’t worry; she’s a great cook, and if your boss and I are going to be in business together, I’ll be glad to have her around.”
The relief on his face was instant and childlike.
What am I, the Stockholm Syndrome poster boy?
The toaster popped. Feany retrieved both slices with one hand, dropped them on a plate and started buttering as if we hadn’t spoken. I got up and went out through the entryway, and then down the hall to the sitting room. For some reason, I felt like letting Feany see me keep his boss waiting just a minute longer, or I would have gone straight down the hall from the kitchen. As I passed the kitchen door to the hallway, he was watching. He winked, and went back to his toast.
I guess we were officially co-conspirators now; I just wasn’t sure if it was only about Lizzy’s indiscretion, or more than that.
Dubin glanced up from a book as I walked in. It was Stampton’s thin volume of the ogham alphabet; I’d left it on my bedside table.
“I shouldn’t think you’d find this very interesting, with your knowledge of the language. Please, sit down, sit.”
“Why this particular book, Dr. Martin?”
“No reason, other than it was less uninteresting than the rest. I’ve already read the Francis mystery, and I can do without the rest of that drivel. Why? Something you don’t like about Stampton’s work?”
He seemed to ruminate on that for a moment. I hadn’t asked why he’d gone to my room, or why he’d brought the book back. I didn’t even think about the publishing house.
“It’s fine; merely curious about your own interest.” He set it down on the table next to him, where there was another thicker book, and a teacup.
“If you’ll sit quietly while I finish my tea, we can step out for a bit and discuss our business prospects.”
I just nodded slightly, and leaned back in the cushy chair with my eyes half closed. I could see that the larger volume Dubin was reading had a blank black cover; no print at all.
He finished, set down the book and his cup, and stood. “Shall we go, Dr. Martin?”
“Any chance you can call me Web, like everyone else? I’m not fond of the ‘Dr. Martin’ stuff, and if we’re going to be spending much time together—”
“Our doing business together has nothing to do with physical proximity, Dr. Martin. After today, I’m fairly certain we’ll never meet again. In fact, if you ever even refer to this little time we’ve had together, you’ll join Dr. Thursgood in his digestive distresses.” He’d walked past me toward the hall and delivered that last over his shoulder. The casual delivery made it all the more threatening.
I followed. This time as I passed the kitchen, Feany was leaning against the counter with a cup in his hand. He looked wary, not relaxed and chummy as he’d been. I left him to his tea, and went out the door with Dubin.