The sunlight coming through the window was warm on my face. A breeze, cool, but not cold; distant sounds of farming: a sheep bleating, a tractor, a muffled voice shouting instructions about ‘the upper field.’
It was good to be back in Ireland. My annual trips to Sligo had not only helped my understanding of the ancient language of the land, but given me an almost native comprehension of the modern as well.
It was a warm morning for Sligo; the sea breeze was usually cooler this time of year. Doesn’t matter; I’ll just lay here a bit longer; eyes closed, pondering the first cup of tea like you can’t get anywhere else in the world. Milk, not cream; no sugar, please.
The pain in my temple made me shoot upright in bed, which not only made the pain worse, but confused me immensely—there was no reason I should be in Sligo right now; the first glimpse of the room confirmed that, indeed, I was not.
I should, in fact, have been on the floor of the shed outside this house, not lying in my underwear in a feather bed in an upstairs bedroom.
Memory; that’s it, I’ve been having trouble with my memory.
A brief mental review took me back to the shoes and crate in my basement, but no further. The events of last night were all too clear, as were the bruises on each individual rib, it seemed.
I had no idea why O’Quinn had his cousins move me into the house, but I knew it wasn’t smart to lie in bed pondering it.
O’Quinn. Michael Seamus O’Quinn. A little man with a big mind, and two big cousins, Fearghal and Niall. O’Quinn was persona non grata, both in the Republic and the north. He was somehow connected to supplying rather unpleasant armament to some rather unpleasant people who wanted to blow things up, English things, most likely.
O’Quinn had apparently sent his thug cousins to collect me for a personal visit when his phone calls hadn’t touched the greed in me which he seemed to think dwelt in every man but himself; no, Michael O’Quinn wasn’t greedy; he was just angry. Wanted the English and probably most of the Irish and perhaps the rest of the world to pay for—something. .
That was as far as it went. Clear impressions, distinct memories of exact conversations on the phone, but nothing about myself, and even more important right now, no clue how I’d given the cousins the slip back home. Now that would have been useful information right now; knowing the town I was born in or what I’d eaten for breakfast last week could wait.
There was nowhere in the room my clothes could have been; the room contained only the bed. There was a spot in the corner of the floor where a free-standing closet must have been very recently; the dust bunnies were barely disturbed.
The window was a possibility, even dressed in my underwear. It was open a couple inches, but one tug made it clear that’s all the farther it would ever open, at least with my bare hands. Two rather healthy looking 16d nails were driven far enough into the window frame to keep anyone from moving anything without a big hammer.
I wasn’t sure how quietly I could move around the room on that wooden floor; in every old movie there’s that one board that creaks . . . just like that. The feet pounding up the stairs were in quite a hurry. I decided sitting on the bed in my undies was better than standing mid-floor in my undies. I sat. They came through the door. Almost literally.
Fearghal (ah, Dope, I’ll miss calling you that) in front, shoving ahead of his younger but less dim brother Niall, who truly must have enjoyed film noir the way he talked.
“Stop that!” (to me.)
“Uh, stop what?”
“Trying to escape. He’s not pleased right now, and won’t be any more pleased if you’re missing when he gets back.”
“I’m not going anywhere in my drawers, Fearghal.”
Their puzzled glances at each other seemed odd. Then I remembered how careful they’d been all along not to use their names. Why had O’Quinn been so free with the information?
“He told us you wouldn’t know who we were. He promised. Made us swear not to use names. So where’d you hear mine?”
They were crowding into the room, more puzzled and confused than threatening.
“O’Quinn mentioned his stupid cousins more than once in our phone conversations. Three minutes on the internet and I knew he only had two cousins. You know they have lists of entire families on there?”
“Don’t call us stupid; Fearghal may be a bit of a dope now and then, but schooling isn’t the only way to be smart.”
“Wasn’t me; I’m just quoting your cousin.”
“Well don’t. He wouldn’t talk like that about us. Family’s important to him. You Yanks wouldn’t know about that, fergetting your homelands and all that.”
“Sure; fine; whatever. Can I have my clothes back? Do we eat? I love you guys, but not before breakfast.”
Fearghal scowled. Niall disappeared, thumps and noises came from the next room, and he reappeared with my clothes neatly folded.
“We’ll eat on the road. He left yesterday when you wouldn’t wake up, and we’re to bring you.”
“Yesterday? How long have I been out?”
“Niall here slugged you solid; you slept a night and a day and another night.” He seemed proud of his brother’s prowess with a shillelagh. I was more impressed with the fact that I could be out for 36 hours and not feel worse than I did. Of course, some of it might well have been sleep rather than unconsciousness; bits of memory kept drifting up near the surface, then drifting back down into the muck at the bottom, but it seemed someone had made sure I at least had water once in a while. Not enough, by any means; most mornings, the bathroom was my highest priority when I woke up, but this was the first I’d thought about it. Crimenently; I must be some kind of health nut worrying about kidney trouble from lack of water when my ribs were each a subtly different shade of purple.
“Get those on; he said to bring you right off, if you came to.”
“Oh? And what did he say to do right off if I didn’t?”
They did their impressions of posts again. I didn’t press the issue. Sometimes I’m squeamish like that.
“Fearghal, get the car and tell the boys in the cottage we’re leaving.”
Niall followed him out, leaving the door open. I dressed, and followed.
Niall was sitting halfway down the stairs. “Just you be careful today, pally. You’ve caused a lot of trouble for us, and Michael’s not the forgiving sort.” His faith in O’Quinn’s familial affection didn’t seem as strong as he’d sounded before. Thoughts came to me of sowing dissention, dividing and conquering; that sort of thing. Maybe. Maybe not.
Niall never let go of my arm all the way to the car. We took up our usual traveling positions, and swerved and bumped our way down the narrow dirt lane.