I’ve had these two introductory paragraphs and the final action scene done for years. Now I’m finally going to write what comes between.
As soon as I finish Jake Calcutta story #3 next week.
Mossie had bought me a very nice pair so I would, as he said, “look the part of heroic best man” at his wedding. I doubted a pair of shoes could manage that without oodles of help, but it was Mossie and Clare’s big day. Who was I to argue?
Before Best Beloved and I spent a year traveling the US and Canada doing house sitting, we’d already built a location-independent business. As a result, we’ve already done a fair bit of traveling. But this week’s challenge has me thinking.
1. San Francisco. The entire city, but especially the waterfront and the trolleys, fire up my creativity. I’d want to start my trip with a total immersion in a city that has always inspired me.
A children’s singalong I’m hoping is also witty enough for grownups.
Protect your pints.
I had the urge to leave. So far Siobhan had done nothing but avoid my questions, drag me cross country, and rebuff my advances. What kind of relationship was that?
I was so close. So close to finally being smart. Or, close to smart finally doing me some good.
I hadn’t even seen them come in; I was getting comfortable in my environs and not paying attention, or maybe I was so focused on deciding whether Siobhan was dangerous or not that I didn’t have the mental energy to watch for other enemies, if they were enemies.
“Dr. Martin, please, don’t go yet. We should talk.”
The speaker couldn’t have kept me there if he’d wanted to; he was the second smallest man I’d met in Ireland, after the ex-Mr. O’Quinn. His compatriot was another matter. A giant, in acres of Armani, he had me sitting back down and slid against the far edge of the booth as if I hadn’t existed.
The big hard lump in his pocket had smacked my elbow hard enough to hurt. A big metal lump, not even in a holster. Sloppy, but probably effective.
I decided not to go yet. I didn’t decide whether we should talk.
I didn’t completely mistrust her, but I was having an even harder time accepting that she just happened to be coming out of the garda station as I was heading in (although, how could anyone possibly have known where I was, or where I was going, when I didn’t know?) or that she was just a journalist looking for a story. In fact, I only had her word for O’Quinn’s death or anything else she’d told me.
It’s hard not to act suspicious, when you are. Probably just as hard as not acting interested in a woman, when you are. In the hour to Ennis, what was happening in my head must have become obvious to Siobhan.
We stopped to stretch our legs in Ennis. I popped into a pub to use the gents’, and when I came back to the van, Siobhan was waiting behind the wheel. As I got in the left side, there was a copy of ‘An Phoblacht’ on the seat.
I raised my eyebrows at Siobhan.
“A few pages in; under ‘Other News’ . . . ”
I flipped through the pages until Michael Seamus O’Quinn was glaring at me from the center of the right-hand page. The article was short and uncomplimentary, to both O’Quinn and myself.
“They’re not shy about convicting me of his murder, are they?”
Somewhere along the line I’d decided to trust her. I wasn’t totally sold on the reporter angle; maybe I’d watched too much American television, but that seemed like the easiest way to ask a lot of probing questions without raising suspicions.
Whatever; I suddenly wasn’t in a hurry to escape, at least not from her. Yeah, I know: stifle it.
I told her everything—almost. I described events; the kidnapping, meeting O’Quinn, my beating, the long sleep, the short trip with the cousins and my escape, lake boating and more escaping. I left out pilfering money from unsuspecting tourists, and most especially I left out my lack of memory. Maybe I wasn’t ready to trust her completely; maybe it was just a little humiliating. Doesn’t make sense, looking back, but I’ve heard men can be funny around attractive women.
“Does it really make sense to you that O’Quinn would go to all that effort just to get your not-very-good opinion about some artifacts you don’t even specialize in?”
“Hey, you were surprised to see the map there still, right? You think he’s gonna leave it there forever? No, we advance his timeline with audacity.”
“You’re sure he’ll bite?”
“You’ve convinced me.”
“Me? I’m not sure of it myself; how did I convince you?”
“You have a writer’s ability to paint a picture with words. I’ve visualized Dubin through your eyes. If you challenge him in a tangible way, he’ll want to crush you personally. He won’t let some rent-a-goon plug you. He made the threat personal, didn’t he?”
I had to admit that it felt really personal. Boy, this capturing desperate criminals is fun. You should try it some time. Like, maybe the next time they ask me you can have my turn.
I was stunned. “So, they don’t think I killed him?”
“Course not! Ridiculous. But when they found your passport and license in his pocket, they had to at least ask, right?”
I tried to digest that. It was chewy, and not very tasty.
“So, I’ve been running all over the country, hiding from the police who would have protected me from those thugs here in Galway?”
“It would seem so,” offered Mossie.
Pally was silent.
Dope headed for the house. Since he had my arm twisted behind my back, I headed for the house, too.
Just before we entered the light from the door, a large sliding glass affair, Dope let my arm go and Pally stepped up next to me, as if they’d been like that all along. Dope slid the door open, and we stepped into a lavishly furnished living room where a tiny little man sat in a chair three sizes too large.
“What’s that on his face? What happened? He was not to be harmed, fools! This is not how we solicit assistance from our friends; it is most certainly not!”
During his tirade, startlingly violent in tone, he’d slipped from the oversized chair, crossed to Dope, and started slapping his face for punctuation. He almost had to jump, but he slapped, nonetheless. I expected Dope to snap him in half and use the sharp end for a toothpick. Nothing doing.
He was white as a sheet, eyes wide in fear.
Since everyone was feeling chatty, I thought I’d jump in. “So, where are we going, exactly?”
Dope pretended to be a post. Pally looked at me suspiciously like I was trying to trick him into telling me where we were going. Then he pretended to be a post, too.
I pretended to be a post. No sense making the natives restless.
The sunlight flickered on and off between the high clouds. We passed the Van Nuys airport and wound through the valley on the San Diego Freeway. Why is the 405 in LA the San Diego Freeway? When I lived in San Diego, only freeway was 5, north to LA.
When did I live in San Diego? Wasn’t only childhood; I remembered the freeway as a driver, not a kid.
Aaah; gone again.
We took Howard Hughes off the freeway and headed south on Sepulveda. That’ll take us right through the airport. Which means I’ve been there, maybe, or how else would I know South Sepulveda runs through the center of the airport?
I started racking my brain for what was south of the airport. Didn’t really matter; this car was made for traveling, and if we were going to Mexico it wouldn’t have mattered to Dope and Pally.
It also didn’t really matter, because we weren’t going through the airport, we were going to it. And I knew who Shannon was. Shannon was an international airport.
We were going to Ireland.
In my latest newsletter I asked for input about which of these works in progress should get my attention after I finish A Still, Small Voice and Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle. (If you want in on stuff like this, sign up for my newsletter.)
- The 3rd Irish adventure — From the Fog (follows Through the Fog and Into the Fog)
- A 3rd Phil Brennan mystery — A Short, Sharp Shock (follows A Long, Hard Look and A Still, Small Voice [not yet published])
- More scifi/adventure — another Jake Calcutta (follows Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle [not yet published])
- More Jesse Donovan (follows That She Is Made of Truth)
- The Village Id — a witty cozy mystery set in a small English village filled with quirky characters; very P. G. Wodehouse. Check out the 1st chapter.
- Coming of age story — a young teen’s life is disrupted when his family has to move in with relatives; he turns to music for comfort
- Anacrusis (a mystery with a female lead) — A woman dumps her unfaithful fiancee and moves to a small town where two men amorously pursue her, while one of them awaits the life insurance payoff from the first wife he murdered.
This year, I made two slots.
#1 and #2.
Do you have any idea how many indie books are out there?
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.
When the blow came I wasn’t the only one surprised.
Niall’s fist hit the side of Feany III’s neck with a sound like a handful of meatloaf you threw at the wall. Feany III went down like the meatloaf, and then there was one. Feany the Only must have heard Fearghal behind him; he dodged ever so slightly and caught the ham-sized fist in the side of the head instead of the pressure point on his neck. It was still almost enough; his head rocked, and he shoved backwards into Fearghal. Fearghal went over backwards, and Feany scrambled behind a car.