Finder’s Keeper – Part Sixteen
by D. G. Speirs
Copyright (c) 2017
Nottingham Street dumped onto something called The Strand. Appropriate, since I felt adrift. I turned right and kept walking, heading for the heart of Dublin proper, better to give myself a target-rich environment. More people, more pubs. More places to get blasted and drown these feelings.
And just what are you feeling, Louis? I mulled over that as feet pounded the uneven concrete, past rowhouses, churches, little shops set on the first floors selling everything from drywall to coffins. So far, though, no drink. For a town famed for its drinking, it was buttoned up tight at 7 a.m. Damned inconvenient for me.
Rain began to fall, inconsistent big, wet drops like God taking aim and spitting on me. Sure, why not? He can pile on. It’s not as if that Bastard hasn’t already worked hard to shatter my life. The image of Alicia’s car, a twisted pile a burnt metal, flashed in front of me and I stumbled.
“Mister, are you all right?” An arm steadied me and helped me upright. I looked over. It was an older guy with a small dog on a leash. “Caused me a scare there.”
“Sorry about that. Just tripped on one of the sidewalk cracks.”
“Ah. A Yank, out and about.” He studied the sky, then passed me his umbrella. “Looks like you’ll be needing this.”
“I really can’t—”
“Och, my home is just around the corner, I won’t get much wet, and Rosie here won’t mind the damp. Will you, girl?” The terrier yipped once and wagged her tail. “Besides, you’ve the look of a man who has an abundance to think about. Getting drenched shouldn’t be one of them.”
I opened the umbrella. It was a golf-style, vivid red and unreasonably gaudy in the muted grays of the neighborhood. The man nodded. “It suits you.”
Like hell, I thought, but I mustered up a smile and said, “Thank you, Mister—”
“Ian’s the name. Well, best be off before I get more than damp. If you get back his way look me up.”
“Where would I—”
He pointed across the street to a closed pub. “Stafford’s there is where I hang a hat most every night for a pint or two. You look like you could use one.”
I shook my head. “It’s not like that. I just… Someone…” I trailed off.
Ian nodded. “I understand.”
“Yes.” He sighed. “But as much as you expect to meet those moments alone, recognize there are always those who will back you.”
“Thanks for the pep talk, but this one belongs to me. Only me.”
“Don’t be surprised if the Universe shows you different. After all, it gave you an umbrella.” With that Ian tossed me off a sharp two-fingered salute and headed off with Rosie.
I gawked at him until he rounded the corner. On cue, the clouds let loose. Water dumped so hard I thought I’d gotten dropped in a dunk tank. Yet somehow under that umbrella, I stayed at a manageable degree of moist.
I renewed my trek toward the center of Dublin, my thoughts now shunted onto a sidetrack by Ian’s intervention. Was this all just some huge set of manipulations toward some greater purpose that I didn’t recognize? The umbrella seemed a Higher Power giving a peek at its hand, or at least acknowledging it’s in the game. Problem is, I’m a stubborn son of a bitch. I don’t believe in one – not after Bree.
That kernel of outrage that had been banked down flared up anew. I lost my daughter. Tomas knew that, yet he dragged me into a case with kids. Then he didn’t mention he had a daughter of his own he’d walked away from? How could the Boss do that? How could he lie to me?
The echo of a train horn started me. Somehow I’d wandered down to a train depot. I crossed under the tracks to find the station house. The sign surprised me: Dublin-Connolly. Our train from Clara had been destined for Dublin, but some place called Houstone or Hughston, something like that. Shouldn’t be surprised, big European cities generally have more than one train station – rail travel is a bigger part of the transport system here – unlike the good old U.S. of A., where other than Manhattan I can’t think of anyplace that has more than one. Hell, some have none.
Would our train still be down there, I wonder? I dismissed that thought. By now, the Gardai would have that car towed off to a side track or into a wheelhouse, a team of forensic experts combing through it for evidence of the miscreants who caused all the damage. Evidence that would lead right back to Tomas and me.
The little bastard completed our contract. He found the girl. It’s his idea to twist it into a crusade to achieve something else. Not my concern. Not what I signed up for. The words rang hollow in my head, but I didn’t care. I waited for the signal, crossed the street and entered the terminal. Just get to the airport, hop on a cheap flight to L.A., and let the Boss deal with his menagerie on his own.
I grabbed a schedule from the information kiosk and checked it against the clock on the wall. Still another couple of hours until the next train to Dublin International. Might as well be productive. I hopped over the ATM for some quick cash and visited the pharmacy downstairs for a few supplies for clean up with. A wash-up, a shave, a comb through my mane, a little product to hold it in place, and a chance to brush most of the dried Irish bog off my jacket made Louis practically a changed man.
Practically. I still hadn’t encountered a proper meal since our wheels had touched down in Dublin nearly sixteen hours ago. Time to rectify that. I dumped the unused toiletry items in the rubbish bins of the water closet – great, less than a day and I’m already thinking in their lingo – and headed back to the upper level to the station’s main eatery.
A perky young waitress with blonde hair tinted with pink and purple streaks escorted me into Madigan’s dining room. Pleasant enough space, part of the old station, whitewashed brick, brass hanging lamps, dark stained oak booths. I slid into one as she handed me a menu. “Will you be fancying tea or coffee, love?”
I looked up and read her nametag. “Anything stronger, Maire?”
She handed me a second menu. “Aye, bar’s open as well. Nothing mixed, only beer and whiskey.”
I scanned the list. “Jameson Black Barrel. Three shots. And coffee.”
“Any food to go with that?”
“Any you recommend?”
She lifted an eyebrow and gave me a once-over. “Can’t see if it’s the dawn of a long day or the finish of a longer one. I’ll split the difference and go big with you.”
“I have to catch a train—”
“With three shots of Jameson? Not bloody likely.”
She wagged a finger at me. “Shh, you. I know better. Just sit there and drink your medicine while I bring you your meal.” Maire sauntered away toward the kitchen, hips swinging in a way that couldn’t help but remind me of Alicia.
Right now, everything reminded me of Alicia.
I stuck my head in my hands. She was right. I was just reacting wildly, every moment another half-baked plan popping in my brain and shoving me in another direction. I’d lost my anchor and was a damned balloon bouncing along in the wind, ready to explode at a moment’s notice.
Maire walked back and set the coffee mug down, then topped it with a fresh pour of black brew that smelled delicious. I took a sip. Most coffee I’d had on the continent was vile stuff – their position was you could make espresso then water it down. Different process, different grind, different flavor profile. They just never got it. But somehow, these folks did. My second pleasant surprise of the morning. I was already suspicious.
Maire returned with a small wooden tray. I recognized the type. Fancy joints used them to hold shot glasses with different kinds of liquors – they called them flights. Vee told me once this was because they were named after a group of similar things flying through the air together. Sounded like a waste of good alcohol to me at first, until Vee explained no actual throwing was involved.
This time, my flock was a set of identical triplets. I smiled at their mother hen. “Thank you, Maire.”
She just looked at me, shook her head, then placed the remaining bottle of Jameson Black Barrel on the table and headed back to the kitchen. I could learn to like this girl. She was a mind reader.
I took a healthy swig of coffee to leave room in the mug, then dropped in the first shot of Jameson into it like a soldier ready for an amphibious assault. As I slammed the empty shot glass upside down onto the tray, I picked up the mug.
“To you, Tomas del Mundo, you son of a bitch. You knew. You knew, and you didn’t give a damn what it would cost. Screw you.” I knocked back the contents of the mug in four gulps, the whiskey and the coffee burning together down my throat. It’s a shame to abuse good liquor like that, but right now I was not in the mood to savor the incredible full nose or its rich long sweet finish. I just wanted to find some semblance of oblivion.