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 a sidewalk crack.”
“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 golf-style, overly wide, 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.”
“But how can I return this to you?”
“No need to.”
“Well, if you insist and you get back up this way you can 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 of those, too.”
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 moment 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 made a note of the pub in my phone, then renewed my trek toward the center of Dublin, my thoughts now shunted onto a sidetrack by Ian’s intervention. Was this all just some massive set of manipulations toward some greater purpose that I didn’t recognize? The umbrella could be a sign, 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 around a train depot. I crossed the street and under a set of 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 was 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 entered the terminal. Just get a train 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 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 to the ATM for some quick cash and visited the pharmacy downstairs for a few supplies to 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. And no, I did not count whatever it was on a stick I’d had at the glorified Gathering of the Clans as a proper meal. Hell, it barely qualified as food. For all I knew, I had eaten a barbecued rat. 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 joint called Madigan’s.
A perky young waitress with blonde hair tinted with pink and purple streaks escorted me into the main 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. Saoirse. This was not going to end well. “Anything stronger, uh…?”
She caught me stalling for time and sighed as she handed me a second menu. “Aye, bar’s open as well. Nothing mixed, only beer and whiskey. And it’s pronounced ‘Sur-sha.’ Rhymes with inertia.”
I scanned the list of libations. “Good to know. Jameson Black Barrel. Triple flight. 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.” Saoirse sauntered away toward the kitchen, hips swinging. I could help but notice that Saoirse also rhymed with Alicia, sort of.
Right now, everything reminded me of Alicia.
I stuck my head in my hands. The girl was right. I was just reacting wildly. Every other moment another half-baked plan would pop in my brain and shove me in a different direction. I’d lost my anchor and was a damned balloon bounced along by the wind, ready to explode at a moment’s notice.
Saoirse walked back and set a coffee mug down, then topped it with a fresh pour of black brew that smelled delicious. I took a sip. Most coffee I’ve had on the continent was vile stuff – their usual practice is you make espresso then water it down. Never quite works out. Different process, different grind, different flavor profile, and they end up diluting things. But somehow, these folks got it. My second pleasant surprise since I walked away. I don’t believe in coincidences, and my senses went on alert.
The waitress returned with a small wooden tray. I recognized the type. Fancy joints use them to hold shot glasses with different kinds of liquors – they called them flights. Alicia told me once this was because they were named after a group of similar things flying through the air together, like flocks of geese. I envisioned throwing the glassware and told her it sounded like a waste of good alcohol to me. Alicia explained patiently no actual throwing was involved.
This time, my flock was a set of identical triplets. I smiled at their mother hen. “Thank you, Saoirse.”
She just looked at me and shook her head.
The waitress reached into a pocket of her apron and without being asked placed the open bottle of Jameson Black Barrel on the table. She raised a hand and said, “Not all at once. I’ll go get your food.” She turned and walked 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 still 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.