By the time Max and Mossie and friends arrived, Siobhan had filled in enough of the gaps to make most of it make some sense.
Patrick, Feany the First, had infiltrated Dubin’s organization a year before. He discovered quickly that Conor Dubin was a man of temperament, and could be closemouthed like a clam with one associate and chatty as a schoolgirl with another. The SDU officer unfortunately hadn’t been interesting enough to Dubin to get him to open up about life, the universe, and other crimes. I guess it’s tough to do an accurate personality profile on someone like that.
He was able to glean enough information to confirm the N.B.C.I.’s suspicions that Dubin was personally responsible for enough dirt to put him away permanently—but not enough information to actually accomplish the fact.
Then I stumbled into the net.
O’Quinn had been recruited, rather clumsily, to get incriminating evidence against Dubin. It was hoped that their personal feud would be enough to keep O’Quinn on the straight and narrow. No one was sure whether or not it had; they were only sure that O’Quinn had arranged a meeting with Dubin outside of the authorized schedule, and had never come out again. Fortunately for Siobhan and company, he’d already decided to use me as bait for Dubin.
Unfortunately for me, the N.B.C.I. liked the plan, and arranged to have Siobhan implement it in O’Quinn’s absence.
They’d been tracking the cousins from the time they entered the country, so they would have removed me from their custody sooner except I decided to ‘escape’, throwing a wrench in the works. Apparently it really was coincidence that I ran smack into Siobhan outside the Killarney garda station; she was heading out to find me, and I just made her job easier.
Officer Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Boyle had been inserted into the vacation cottage at Inverin as soon as Patrick had rented it for Dubin. Apparently she was going to receive further training on staying in character. From Patrick, who was as good as it gets, considering the time we’d spent together without me suspecting a thing.
Everyone had belongings in the Victoria, so we arranged ourselves in the available cars and made the drive back. Siobhan and Max had to oversee the dissolution of the observation post and all that, so Rob and Mossie shuffled me over to Tigh Coili to try to wind down enough to sleep.
Mossie held up three fingers on each hand. James smiled from behind the bar, and we rounded the corner to what must have been a reserved table or an incredibly undesirable spot, seeing as how it was empty every single time we came in.
By the time we were seated, James was already there with three Imperial pints of Guinness, and four large Jameson’s. After setting one in front of each of us, he raised his. “To Dr. Web Martin—success as a writer. Slàinte!” They all waited while I tried to figure it out, gave up, and hoisted my glass. “Slàinte!” from Rob and Mossie.
“So, what’s this about?”
Mossie smiled. “My notes are in my bags. Rob says you’ve had plenty of experience writing, and that this would only be a slight adjustment to your style. I think between my notes and what there is of your memory, it should make a fairly interesting story.”
Maybe it’ll just take a little time, but having been through it all, it seems messy as Chandler, predictable as Dick Francis. Ah, well; maybe you have to be outside it to find it interesting.
A few days after we returned to Killarney, Dubin’s car was found on the cliffs just southwest of the little house where I’d met O’Quinn. A politely nosey neighbor had seen three men drive it up there, but was almost certain only two came back. The smaller gent, she said, hadn’t looked well on the trip up, so perhaps he was laying down in the back of that great long auto as it passed her window a second time.
The police are making inquiries into the whereabouts of Fearghal and Niall O’Quinn, but I have the impression they’re not looking too hard.
Oh; the map tube wasn’t in the car. Just before Rob, Siobhan, and I left for the States, a colleague of sorts announced the discovery of what she called “the most important written discovery in a Celtic historian’s career”; a map of some kind, possibly related to Brendan the Voyager.
The SDU has asked me to keep my nose out of other people’s business, and not dispute the map’s authenticity. But that’s another story.
Back in LA, the taxi dropped Rob at his office, and took Siobhan and I to my research house. Seemed strange, coming back where it all started, but with such a different perspective. I knew a lot more about myself than I did that first moment, but not enough; not all, by any means.
The back door to the kitchen was still unlocked. Walking into the living room was like an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’—computers everywhere, lights blinking, cables neatly channeled through desktops.
“What’s all this?” Siobhan was clearly impressed. “I thought you said this was empty.”
A speaker crackled to life somewhere. “Finally back, Web? I was beginning to think you were cancelling the project. No one’s heard from you all week. Though maybe the leggy blonde explains that!”
“Project? Wait; you can see us? Who is this? Where are you?”
I’ll have to get used to these long pauses while people try to sort out why I’m so confused. “I mean, can you introduce yourself to my colleague? Explain as if I weren’t here.”
A deep sigh came from the hidden speaker. “I’m Toby Wills, technical assistant to Dr. Noah Webster ‘Web’ Martin, and you’re standing in his cognitive recognition research facility. We’re configured to allow us to observe and hopefully interpret the body movements and facial expressions of our subjects and make comparative analyses of their verbal output. That more or less the scoop, Web?”
“Sure; sure. Yeah. So, perhaps you’ll explain to Miss Quinlan why a noted Celtic historian would be doing all this?” And to me, too.
“You’ve never let your hobby get in the way of your work, although you’ve handed off a lot of the grunt work to us since your last trip to Ireland. But you’re still as good as it gets when it comes to interpreting body language and facial expression.”
Siobhan laughed. “Don’t bet on it, Toby.”
“Huh? What’s up?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all. Any chance you could turn yourself off for a minute?”
“Sure; no problem. Cameras off . . . microphones on your end off. We’re now blind and deaf, and signing off.” The speaker clicked.
“Interpret this, genius.” She put her arms around my neck, and finally, finally, I got to kiss her.
I’d love to say that at this romantically perfect moment, my memory came back in a flood, but it didn’t. Maybe it never will, but for now, I’ve learned to live in the present.
Instead, there was a knock at the door. Siobhan looked at me, eyebrows raised. “Expecting guests?”
I crossed to the front door and swung it open.
“Hi, John. Don’t know if you remember, but we bumped into you in the alley last week and left some magazines with you.”
“Sure, Matt, John. Only my name’s Web, not John.”
The real John looked puzzled.
“You’d better come in. It’s a long story.”