by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents
Chapter 8, part 4
appeared in issue 229.
Chapter 11: Dublin, Irish Republic
part 1 of 2
Toni reset his watch during the flight, and landed in Dublin just after one o’clock local time. He retrieved his suitcase and found a tourist services desk. He was quickly booked into a city centre hotel and supplied with a street plan, and he marched confidently out of the terminal into the veiled Sunday sunshine.
Then came his next real decision — to take a cab, or that smart, fast double-decker bus that was just about to leave? He chose the bus, hoping it would give him a better view of the famous Irish countryside from the upper deck, and for a short while his hopes were fulfilled. But they soon entered the very ordinary northern suburbs of the fair city, and then it made little difference.
They pulled into the central coach station. As he was about to get off, he had a bright idea and asked the driver for directions to his hotel.
‘Ah, you stay on board, now, and save your legs. I’m going on to the western terminus. What’s your name, sir?’ ... ‘OK, I’ve got it. You go back up and enjoy the view again — I’ll give you a shout, don’t worry now ...’
The bus moved off again and crossed the River Liffey. Then they ran along its southern quays and, as he consulted his map, Toni did indeed get a fair view of several of the city’s diverse architectural delights.
They were approaching Grattan Bridge.
‘Hey, Mister Moo-ra-noo, this stop is just for you ...’ sang the driver, to a famous Dylan tune.
‘What a nice guy,’ thought Toni, as he set off down Parliament Street. ‘I wonder if everyone here is like that?’
He checked into his hotel, climbed the stairs to his roadside first-floor room, and discovered that the window looked directly across to the monumental Christchurch Cathedral.
‘I’ll have to have a good look around that before I leave!’ he promised himself, out loud.
‘I’d like to join you if I may, Toni,’ said a gentle voice behind him.
He turned in surprise and found Carla relaxing in one of his chairs. But this time he had no adverse reaction. This was not Lisa, his brain insisted: no, this was definitely his trusty new friend.
‘That would be very nice, Carla.’
‘Good. And hopefully there are many more beautiful sights we can see here before we leave. But right now, we must get down to work. I’ve followed you all the way from Spain, but Quo and I have no idea what’s due to happen next!’
‘Oh, I just have to meet up with a guy called Donny at six o’clock. I assume he’s got some airline tickets and stuff for me. I don’t know why they had to make me wait all afternoon ...’
‘Maybe they were allowing for delays to your flight.’
‘Good point. Hmm, why didn’t I think of that? Anyway, apart from the rendezvous, I have no firm plans.’
‘Have you had lunch?’
‘Yes, on the plane.’
‘Excellent. So we have plenty of time for an important little job, straight away. We need to touch base with another old friend. Perhaps you too will make his acquaintance properly one day. You recall what Quo has recently told you about Raymond Martin Graves?’
‘Yes — he’s a senior NATO Political Advisor. He’s living in Belgium at the moment, near the SHAPE Headquarters. Apparently I helped you contact him in the past. I don’t remember ...’
‘That’s it. Well, we may need to work with him again soon. So we want to know his short-term plans, while we’re back here in Europe. We’d like you to telephone him for us. We have his home number, from before.’
‘You want me to do this before I even open my suitcase?’
‘Why not, Toni?’
Carla gave him a short briefing on just what he would need to ask. Then he pulled out his mobile phone, she dictated the number, he dialled it, and she listened in carefully on the side.
‘Is that Mr Graves?’
‘Oh. Do you speak English, sir?’
‘A little. Do you not speak French?’
‘I would prefer English. To whom am I speaking, please?’
‘Me, I am the Team Leader of the Home Removals of the NATO. Who is this calling?’
‘Oh, I’m a good friend of Raymond. Is he there?’
‘Do you perhaps know where he is?’
‘Can you tell me?’
‘He has returned to his home. In America. Yesterday. He has been recalled.’
‘But he was actively working at SHAPE less than two weeks ago!’
‘Monsieur, I am in the home removals. You wish I should discuss such affairs with you?’
‘Oh no, I don’t. Please do excuse me. I am just very surprised ...’
‘But of course I excuse you, monsieur! What politeness! And, if it will be of help, the word among the knowing here is that your friend was called home immediately after having written a major report on European political opinions ...’
‘A home removals man knows about that?’
‘Doucement, monsieur ! I believe this is where we commenced. And now, I have work to do. Au revoir.’
After a momentary consultation with Quo, Carla the Handler was very satisfied.
‘How convenient, Toni! We shall not have to drag dear Raymond back to the United States ourselves. He has already engineered that for us!’
‘Do you expect me to understand any of this, Carla?’
‘No. But we’re still really pleased!’
‘Good. Now — I’d like to get unpacked, and then take a look around the city, while I have the chance. I’ve no idea how long I’ll be here.’
‘That’s fine. Can I come too?’
‘But of course, ma chérie!’
* * *
They crossed the road and walked fully round the solid mass of Christchurch Cathedral. When they came to the entrance door, Toni was keen to go inside. But then he discovered they would have to pay an entrance fee, rather than donate at their discretion. He didn’t think that was quite right, and he shook his head sadly and decided against it.
Then they bore east towards Dame Street. He picked up a guide book at the first opportunity, and soon got his bearings. ‘Aha — there’s Dublin Castle, look, up above the buildings on our right.’
They reached the access road, then wended their way past City Hall, along the walls, and into the fascinating castle grounds for a gentle stroll in the pale sunshine.
Carla was strangely impressed by the huge angular towers and turrets. ‘What a lot of effort people have to put into their defences ...’ she murmured.
‘Of course,’ said Toni. ‘But you seem surprised.’
‘Well, Quo has re-briefed you about the Doman experience, hasn’t she? When males ruled our world, we, too, needed defences. But once the males faded away, we females learnt to trade true thoughts rather than treacherous words. We soon stopped fighting and did a lot more listening, instead. And then the defences too could be left to crumble safely into dust.’
Toni digested this in silence, as usual. Much of his attention was anyway focused on tasting his first glass of Guinness — ‘Could it be anything else?’ he was smiling to himself — and as soon as they were back on Dame Street he found the nearest bar and resolved that situation with ease. While he was inside, Carla did a few personal observations of her own in the streets all around, and was impressed with the camaraderie that was apparent in every direction.
Then, with one hour still to spare, they continued steadily along Dame Street to College Green, and savoured the graceful beauty of the majestic, curving façade of the Bank of Ireland.
‘Oh,’ said Toni, consulting his guidebook. ‘It says here that this was originally the home of the first Irish parliament!’
‘Hmm. Well, all things must pass.’
And now ahead of them, beyond the Bank, spread the vast grounds of Trinity College. Toni consulted again. ‘I don’t think we’ve got time now, but if we’re still here tomorrow, I’d certainly like a good walk around the College. And look — the National Gallery’s only a little farther down the street. I must try to spend some time there ...’
‘I hope we can, especially for your sake,’ she smiled. ‘We shall see.’
Finally, they crossed over to College Street, picked up Fleet Street and strolled back west to the welcoming downtown atmosphere of Temple Bar.
Toni had been keeping his eyes peeled for a florist’s shop. At last he came upon one, dived in, and bought a single yellow rose. ‘This is for you Carla, but I think I’ll need to wear it on your behalf.’
‘How thoughtful ...’ she purred, with a grateful smile. And inwardly she reflected ‘... and certainly more gallant towards me than when you found yourself holding that lovely bouquet over in Brussels on April Fool’s Day!’
* * *
The Quay’s Bar was impossible to miss, both for its smart exterior of rich golds and greens and for the bright and breezy folk music emanating from inside.
Carla had sensibly made herself scarce again, and Toni ventured in alone. It took him several minutes to find enough room at one of the busy bars to catch the barmaid’s eye and order another small glass of Guinness (‘What else?’ he joked again). Then he stayed firmly put, relishing the smooth drink and the vibrant music, and facing outwards to ensure that the little rose he had pinned rather self-consciously to his jacket was clearly visible to all.
Donny Molony was not yet thirty years old, but he had already been doing this sort of job for his various European associates, on demand, for nearly half his life. It was easy, it was well-paid, it was often fun, he was very good at it, and at his end it was perfectly legal. Nothing to lose, and he had a fine record of grateful clients and satisfied bosses.
He had been waiting inside the bar for well over thirty minutes, and had watched Toni’s every move since the Spaniard had walked through the door on the dot of six o’clock. Quite certain of the positive identification, he waited till there was enough space around his target, then wandered up to greet him in a friendly but subdued tone.
‘Hi there! So were you expecting me now?’ ... ‘Ah, that’s good. So you’d know my name then?’ ... ‘Sure that’s great. And could you just confirm your name for me now?’ ... ‘That’s fine, Mr Murano. Why don’t you drink up, and we’ll go for a little walk, OK?’
Toni was rather wary of this, but he was under firm orders from a higher authority. He drained his glass and followed meekly as his amiable young travel agent made for the door.
Carla, who had been waiting outside and un-made, watched them emerge from the bar and stroll off silently together up towards Dame Street. She pursued them at close quarters until they suddenly stopped, half-way along the quiet side-street.
Donny’s one-man local management team also followed and then halted with equal discretion but at a greater distance, just to ensure that the expert courier continued to perform his job to utter perfection.
‘OK, Mr Murano,’ said Donny, pulling a large envelope from his pocket and handing it over. ‘Please open this for me now, and make sure it’s all in order.’
Toni did what he was told. Inside he found a business class open return air ticket, in his own name, from Dublin to New York JFK, outbound the next day on the late afternoon Aer Lingus flight. And there was more. Another air ticket in his name — one-way this time — onwards the following day from JFK to Columbia, South Carolina. And a confirmation slip for a two-night reservation at a downtown Columbia hotel. And finally, for good measure, a very large fistful of dollars.
‘Why is it a return ticket?’ he found himself asked Donny innocently.
‘Ah, over there they like to be sure you’ll not be staying for too long.’
‘Right. And I see there’s a hotel booked for me later in Columbia — but what about tomorrow night?’
‘That’s a good question! You’ll definitely need to give the American authorities a firm first address. But I understand your own colleagues hope to make personal arrangements for you before you depart ...’
Carla, hovering unseen by Toni’s shoulder, registered this cue and murmured gently in his ear. ‘That’s all fine, mi amigo. We have some special plans for you in New York City. I’ll see you later tonight and we’ll sort it out together. Just keep things going with him for now, nice and easy ...’
‘OK,’ said Toni. ‘Thank you, Donny. Yes, I know exactly what to do.’
‘Great! So are you all set for the evening, or would you like me to show you a few of the best bars in Dublin?’
Toni had not expected hospitality to be included in this particular package. But for many reasons, he found it hard to say no.
‘Fine,’ smiled Donny. ‘So can I call you Antonio?’ ... ‘Oh, Toni, is it? That’s better. OK, Toni, let’s go!’
Copyright © 2006 by Michael E. Lloyd