Sleep had lowered my defences allowing the worry- worms to riddle through my euphoria. There had been plenty of them as I'd tried to imagine who I'd meet, what he'd say, how I could answer him and whether I should be concerned for my survival. Waiting in the car park with the rain driving into me I wasn’t certain I wanted this Pat to turn up. I made a decision, five minutes, no more. The five minutes had stretched to a penance of twenty when, with neither a greeting or apology, Pat finally drew up. My question as to where we were going gained an illuminating, 'Not far.'
I gave up trying to wipe the mist off the windows. Without a wiper on my side all I could see was a colour wash and the heaters blast on my soaking legs was adding mist faster than I could wipe.
'Are you taking notes, or do you use a tape?'
Shee-it, I made a mental note to stop worry taking precedence over thought. 'The first meeting I usually just talk and listen. Find out if he's what I need. To be honest I thought there'd be nothing today but checking me out.'
'Oh did you now. And how many of these meetings do you think you'll want?'
'How can I answer that. You're the one who knows who I'm meeting and what he has to tell.'
‘I wouldn't be worrying about that, there's plenty he can tell. That's if he takes a shine to you and you're the scribe for the job.'
I said, 'I'll do my best.' with only the slightest quiver in my voice and twitch in my left eye. The latter a annoying nerve that seems to activate whenever I'm bending the truth or pushing my luck to its limits; though I'm probably the only one aware of it. I've used it in the past as a sort of conscience tickler and aggro limiter. Pat didn't smoke. I knew that when I got my packet out he just gave me a look that said forget it so I did. Technically I would say my mood was one of controlled funk. Controlled enough to take me by surprise when the car pulled into the kerb next to a tenement in a street of tenements.
'Through that door and up the stairs to the top. Left hand door, you're expected.'
No blindfolds or the imagined trappings of clandestine meets with the underworld. "Left hand door, you're expected," didn't sound like pending doom. Climbing the bland stairs, savouring a smell of disinfected neglect and where only the landings on the first and second floors had been furnished with doormats, I realised I'd been delivered clueless as to where I was and the route I’d been taken to get here. The first thing I noticed when I pushed open the unlatched door was the acrid smell of cigarettes and the fifties decor. Now I was struggling to weigh up the man melded in his shapeless armchair.
'Docherty's the name.' Said as though it was a challenge, it was accompanied by a gesture to sit in the chairs companion settee. 'Hear you're looking to know all about the movement. How the men feel about it, that sort of thing.'
I gave a nod, at the same time feeling the scales beginning to tip towards being scammed or conned. Docherty talked of men as though he was some sort of leader, but by the look of him he'd have difficulty leading his prick for a piss. 'Not so much a story, there's been too many of them. It's more a knowing, or understanding that I want to get.'
'An what good will it do us, you having this understanding as you call it?'
Gnawing at me was his look of frailty. Whether it was age old or health old, it was a look I'd seen before. The skin drawn and sheened with the pigment of a washed out tan. Drum tight round the features and forehead while the neck had a wrinkled surplus. Memory when it came shocked me more by the fact I'd forgot. Cancer, my dads death eight years before, this poor bugger's got the end staring at him. I felt ashamed that the knowing eased my nerves, 'Maybe every little bit helps to get a united Ireland.'
'You believe in that do you?'
' I think the sea's the only border to Ireland.'
'And because you think that it's enough for me to tell you about the movement.'
'No, I'm only telling you where I stand. Why are you talking to me?'
'Maybe like you I’m searching for something. What if I were to tell you it isn't Westminster wanting to keep on the six counties but us not wanting them till they're sorted out. They created the problem and its probably always cost more than it's worth, so let them keep it. Who'd want anything to do with murdering riff raff from either side.'
'I'd say you're having me on; about the six counties, that is.'
'I might well be, but there again I mightn't. Suppose you find these men and find they're misfits looking for some power and excitement to pepper up dull lives.'
'That's what I suspect. I was hoping to be proved wrong.'
'Why? Christ even the crusades was only an excuse. Why should ours be any different. An why not tell people what they expect, sure doesn’t that make for an easier life. Should we be bothered what people think of us? Hasn't it always been that oppression gives rise to terrorism and you'll surely not laying the oppression on us?'
'Sometimes what people expect isn't what they need to be told.' Watching Docherty light a cigarette from his last I saw I was being scrutinised.
'Did you read that series of articles written by the American, what's his name?' The fingers clicked, 'Latimer. Some three four years back. Went all the way back to the civil war of the twenties and shaped it through to the present day. Very detailed it was, as though he'd managed to find a answer for everything and a reason for most. You must have heard about them at least.'
I felt my hand going to my chin before I remembered I'd no beard to tug. I'd reached the chancers dilemma of blind hope or stupid hoax. I reckoned I'd been stupid enough in the last few years so I tried hope, 'Never heard of him or his articles.'
Docherty nodded, ' Oh he did them right enough. Only thing he didn't manage to do was make any sense of it. Your not making sense now and if we don't start off with that, how will we find it later. One look at our troubles should tell you that. See that's all we want, one Ireland. Whatever happened in the past we don't want to fight for it, kill or be killed to get it. We don't need to now, economics will win it for us.
'And the I.R.A.?'
'Wonderful body of men when you see them drilling in their barracks.'
'What do you mean?'
Docherty sighed blowing out a cloud of smoke, 'The Irish republics army is the only army we have or need.'
'Bullshit, they exist you know they do and they exist to reunite Ireland.'
'No that's their excuse. Oh, it had some right to be there in the past but not now. Now even the idiots know patriotism's dead to commercialism. So why would I want to give any more credence to the stupidity of the past by feeding you up with it. That's what we're playing with now, the shadows of sympathies, the myths of past betrayals, the religions of revenge. It's Ceasars coin that renders no value and you don't have a clue what I'm on about.'
I realised I wasn't feeling too happy. Not at being found out. Not even at being found out so easily. More that I was here under false pretences. That I wasn't a writer or reporter with the skill to record this dead mans tale perhaps allowing his voice to be added to the thin annuls of sanity. Swallowing the bile of fraud and wanting to put it right, I tried to look straight into his eyes though I'm sure the smog of smoke made it a useless gesture. 'I'm not a writer.'
Docherty's laugh came out more like a choke, 'Now why doesn't that surprise me.'
Not having the answer I limited my reply to a shrug.
'So what is it you do want?’
'To be blunt I'm here because I couldn't think of any other organisation than yours that could give me what I need and might be interested in helping me with what I intend to do. So is it any good telling you or not. Sorry didn't mean it as sharp as that. But after what you've just said, I don't think you'll be interested.'
'We wont know that till you tell me what it is. That's your decision, mine is I'm willing to listen.'
'How do I know you can help?'
Docherty's smile would have given hope to a leper, 'You don't and until you flesh out this thing you won’t. But look around you, there's nobody else here and I can't be much of a threat, so what have you to lose except breath.'
Some or all of it I thought and again felt guilty, 'It's where to begin.'
'Well, if it's as long as that why don't you stick on that kettle.'
Filling the kettle from the sink recessed into the window I knew I didn't want this bloke regarding me as some sort of nut and telling him my intentions could add the fruit and the wrapper to it. I stuck the kettle on the stove built out from the sink and put a match to it when the gas didn't light. I was in Docherty's era, mine was in the process called change. Handing him a cigarette, my first, I started from the beginning and waited for the kettle to boil. My hand was shaking when I poured the tea into the stained cups and added the milk to his, the sugar to mine. Docherty had said nothing when I raved over bank directors, receivers, their agents and minions. The denials of the utilities directors and managers the obscene symbiotic scum of the establishment. I told him I wanted a lot. I wanted revenge, I wanted a sacrifice from each of them. I wanted to dis-establish the establishment and I wanted a weapon and ammunition. And when I'd finished and stubbed out a second cigarette end that was burning my fingers I saw his look that said I wanted my head examined.
'You want revenge?'
I thought that was pretty obvious but I answered him anyway, 'Damned right I do.'
He seemed to go off on a tangent, 'My father had a twin brother and a younger brother. My father was a Collins man and thought deVelera was shite. His twin, my uncle Liam followed deVelera. My younger uncle Frank didn't say much. On August 22nd, 1922 Collins was shot. After that my Father hated deVelera with a vengeance, my Uncle Liam wept and Frank just shook his head and emigrated. That one bullet has probably costs this country a thousand deaths and a million nights of fear and grief since. If it was done in hate, who ever it was has extracted a price that should warm his cockles in hell. But more'n likely it was a chance shot by somebody caught up in circumstance with little understanding of the cause or its effect. But his innocence didn't change the course of history it was the bullet.
'Yours will be lucky to make a headline and give you less satisfaction to live with.'
'Thanks for that, but what about some sort of pistol and fifty rounds.'
I obviously touched Docherty's funny button, he couldn't stop the laugh ripping out of him, 'Christ you are green. Why don't you get one in England?'
'No contacts. Probably would have blundered round asking the wrong people.'
'And you didn't here. Blunder around I mean.'
'Look Cameron, we've talked enough. Just think on this, there's no way you're going to hurt them. Better you concentrate on making things right for yourself. Think about that, and if you'll make me another pot of tea I'll get Pat to collect you. If we've anything to talk about he'll collect you tomorrow same time and place,' then hesitating, added, 'If you're at a loose end ask him to show you round. Might help to ease both of you off a bit.'
The possibility of progress made me forget the promise I'd made to remember some detail to identify the house and its street and I forgot to ask Pat to show me around. It was him who made the offer to me. Asking if he could manage a steak and if he knew a place that did a decent one. I said it was my treat for the help he'd been.
'So you're getting a story?'
'I'd say there's a strong possibility.' I wondered if my confidence was justified when it struck me we were headed in the same direction as the morning and one place on route gave me a flash of deja vu and Pat a moment of concentration.
The restaurant was situated between a residential estate and a business park. It wasn't busy; the combination of Monday and vacant units meant we had the dining area to ourselves. A confusion of class mixed fine Irish linen and Waterford goblets with cutlery of canteen quality. To further confuse, the food was excellent and the claret the dogs bollocks. I was finding it hard making conversation with Pat. Most of the time he seemed so withdrawn as to be almost morose. He dressed like a bum, acted like a gofor and gave the impression it was nothing of himself. I've always pulled my weight but probably never punched it, I thought he'd do both. Waiting for coffee's I asked, 'How is it you know Docherty?' I didn't get an answer, Pat was intent on a Mercedes that pulled up in the car park. Shielding his face with the menu he watched two men come through the door and pass us to get to a rear table.
'Pay the bill, I'll meet you outside.'
The drive back passed in silence and at a pace that proved the Golfs appearance didn't extend to its mechanics. Concerned that Pats abrupt change meant some other interest taking precedence I managed to hold out till he dropped me off.
'Docherty said you'd collect me tomorrow.'
I got a curt nod, 'He said maybe. Be here at the same time. An bye the way, how is it you know of Mick McGahern?'
'His brother Paddy used to work for me.'
'Fuck. Alright, be here same time.'
Knowing that was as much as I was going to get I made my way back to the boat. Once I was onboard I saw he was still there in his car so I gave him a wave before he drove off. It reassured me, thinking he wanted to identify the boat.
The rest of the afternoon I was kept busy carrying out the Harbour Masters instructions to vacate the jetty and take Synkro back out to a mooring. Pumping the inflatable and checking out it's temperamental outboard I decided it mightn't be a bad move. Among the fleet of Welsh boats I'd be less conspicuous and a couple of hundred meters of water might hold off any unwanted visitors. It was late evening when a figure walking back and forth the jetty caught my attention and was confirmed by the binoculars to be Pat. Flashing the navigation lights failed to catch his attention making me breathless by the time I caught up with him as he was heading out the car park.
'There's a change of plan. You won’t be seeing Docherty tomorrow. He want's you on the boat every evening from ten onwards and he want's two hundred for the pistol and ammunition.'
'How do I know I'll see anything for my money.'
'You don't and to be blunt, I've more important things to do to even bother trying to convince you. Either pay up and get it or don't and forget it. It's as simple as that.'
I'd no choice, though I knew the niggles after would tell me I had. Counting out the notes I reckoned I'd about five hundred left, not a lot for doing as Docherty said and making things right for myself. There was something else he'd said that struck a nerve and was waiting to be remembered.
© under the author's copyright
Chapter 4 will be next Sunday evening.
Chapter 1, Chapter 2
© under the author's copyright
Chapter 4 will be next Sunday evening.
Chapter 1, Chapter 2