Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Naked Aggression

Over the past couple of weeks I have posted chapters from my novel, Naked Aggression. Some people prefer to read “real books” they can hold in their hands. If you would like to buy a real copy of Naked Aggression, this is the link:


Last Chapter

Chapter Eighteen



Cold November winds were blowing down from the north and mom and dad didn’t get out much these days. They appreciated company in the house so, most of the time, it suited to have someone staying with them and I got the feeling mom wasn’t looking forward to the day I shifted all my gear into the new house being built just a couple of miles down the road. Things were generally working out well, until mom started fussing.

Three months had passed since I returned home from Europe. Three months in which I had finally changed my life from one hampered by anger to one generally at ease with the world. Radio and television news broadcasts constantly told us about the progress of the fragile cease-fire in Northern Ireland but, privately, I had my doubts about the chances of peace taking a firm footing over there. Not just yet. There didn’t seem to be the will to do what was needed to achieve the sort of real peace that lasts. Maybe time would improve the chances. Or more suffering, as Mother Theresa had suggested. On a wider scale, however, it no longer really mattered to me, no longer bothered me as it had done such a short while before.

I was flying regularly now and I was enjoying it. The airline was expanding its network of air routes and I had just returned from a staged series of flights through South East Asia. I’d had a lay-over in Vietnam and I spent two days in Ho Chi Minh City waiting to bring a return 747 flight back to the States. I was too young to have been in that war so it had been a fascinating experience to see the country that fought against us and won. It struck home to me that a country brought to its knees by that devastating war was now fast bringing itself back to life again through its own efforts. Poverty and deprivation was still widespread but the will to rise back out of the ashes was strong amongst the Vietnamese people. It took me very little time to warm to them and to see that there was a strong will amongst the people to help themselves; a determination to avoid crying too long into their own empty soup bowls and, instead, to succeed by virtue of their own efforts. I flew out of Vietnam with a fervent wish that, one day, the people of countries like Bosnia and Ireland will do the same, make that same effort to put the past behind them and live in the present.

I felt a hankering to get out of the house one cold morning, early in my three-day rest period after that Asian trip. A mist hung over most of the city and outlying areas, the product of mixing chill northerly winds with damp sea air. No weather to be out of doors too long. The new house wasn’t yet ready and mom and dad were doing their best to make life as comfortable as possible but mom fussed a lot, as most moms do, and I needed to get away without causing any offence. On a sudden whim I went down town to see Chief Hanson. It seemed like a good excuse to get me away from the house for a few hours.

I hadn’t seen him face to face since I started the job with American Interstate because he’d been over in New England for some months, taking care of his own aged father who was invalid and refused to move west. Anyhow, I knew that he was back at his desk now, so I just wandered in off the street and threw my wet coat over a convenient chair.

Hanson was enjoying his mid-morning coffee and scanning a copy of Playboy. When he saw me he jumped to his feet, grinning at me like one big cuddly bear who’d found his porridge just to his liking.

“How you doin’, Chief?”

“All the better for seein’ you again, Henry.” He grasped my hand warmly. “Jeez, but you’re lookin’ well. You got my wedding present, did you? Sorry I couldn’t be there in person but you know how it is.”

“Sure, Chief. I know. How’s your pa?”

“Cantankerous as ever. Say, I must get over to your parents place one o’ these days son. See your own mom and pa… and meet the little lady.”

“Sooner the better, Chief.”

“So, what you been up to?”

I took one of his more comfortable seats and stretched out my legs. He flopped down behind his untidy desk while I went on, “Nothing exciting. Been flying aeroplanes again. Generally getting on with life. And…”

“Enjoying being married?”


“Great.” He lowered his eyes slightly, a sure give-away that there was something awkward to come. “Heard all about what happened in Ireland. You ready to forget it all now?”

“Forget it? No, I’ll never forget it, Chief.” I scratched my chin thoughtfully. “But I sleep easier at nights these days knowing what it was all about. I feel less twisted up in my mind now, and that’s one big bonus, I suppose. Of course, I wouldn’t have figured it out at all without you putting your big footprints all over things.”

He feigned surprise. “What did I do?”

I leaned towards him. “You know damned well what you did. You set me up, Chief. That job application. You set me up for it.”

He didn’t flinch. “Maybe I did. I heard about the new house you’re buying, by the way. Looks like it’s a good job you’ve got yourself if you can afford a new house like that.”

“Sure it is. But that’s not why you set me up, is it? The truth is, you knew I’d start digging with Terri McDolan. And you knew she would lead me to the priest. I figure you had it planned out all along. Why did you do it, Chief?”

Hanson breathed out long and slow. “Not much else I could do, Henry. Not if I wanted to help you and keep my own job at the same time. I made enquiries but I hit some sore spots. Someone high up the government ladder warned me off digging any deeper. Told me to back off or start calculating how much pension I got coming. I figured it had to be up to you after that. Hell, I felt a mite guilty about the whole thing and I tried to find out about that Irish American place, remember?”

“It was a ticklish business all round.”

“Sure. All I could do was to point you in the right direction. Did I do that?”

I loosened up. “Yeah. You sure did that.”

“And you did well, Henry. You sure did well when the chips were down.”

“Yeah. Not bad for an Air Force drop-out. Eh?”

“You’re no drop-out, son.” He was looking at me intently now. “Whatever I said about you, I was wrong. You got what it takes.”

“Thanks. I love you too, Chief.”

We changed the subject after that, went on to talk more about the new future I’d got set up. I told him about how things were at home and he sure sounded pleased.

About an hour later I headed back to mom and dad’s house. It was still raining when I pulled into the driveway and looked towards the lounge window. Penny was there, just as I expected her to be. Just as she always was every time I got home. And she was waving to me. I grinned and waved back and then she patted her stomach to let me know that the baby had been kicking again from the inside. A scan had shown that he hadn’t suffered none from the beating Penny had taken. It gave me this nice warm feeling to know we were going to have a family of our own.

One day, in the years to come, he’d be kicking a ball about our own back yard and I’d take him down to LA airport and show him the airplanes. And then he’d go to school with all the other kids in our district. And he’d play with all of the kids on the block, whatever their background.

He’d learn to grow up in peace.

Penny came out to meet me on the porch and I kissed her long enough to tell her, yet again, that nothing was going to change between us now that we were married. She needed that reassurance and it pleased me to give it. Made me feel comfortable because I was adopting the role of protector.

“There’s a letter for you,” she said, pointing to the hall table as we went inside.

It was from Michigan and I knew straight away what it was. I’d hired an investigator up there to look into the Bodine family history and he’d managed to trace other descendants of Pierre Boudine.

“What’s it about, Henry?”

I tore open the envelope and read through the opening paragraph. “It’s about a woman called Mary O’Callaghan.” I scanned on through the letter. “Well, well fancy that.”

“Don’t keep me guessing. What about her?”

“Mary O’Callaghan emigrated to America in the last century. She came from a small village near Killarney. She grew up in that area around the lakes.” I looked at Penny and saw the puzzlement in her face. “I went there to see a man called Whiteman.”

“Is that important?”

“I’ll tell you all about it. One day.






Monday, 24 June 2013

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen


Next morning I set out for the north. Crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic meant a wait at the customs and security post while they checked the car for explosives, weapons, that sort of thing. It was the usual sort of stuff that got traded across the Irish border on a daily basis and the khaki cannon fodder on the border post was supposed to try to stop it. They all knew it was a forlorn hope, but they stuck at it anyway.

I sat patiently at the wheel and kept cool about the whole thing, hoping no one would start asking awkward questions. No one did, so I eventually drove on with some assurance that Rourke was not going to spike my attempts to find out that last bit of the truth. I was too close now to the end game to let the thing slide for the want of one last bit of probing.

Driving on towards Enniskillen, I noticed a deceptive air of tranquillity about the place, like nothing bad ever happened here. In different circumstances I might have enjoyed the drive. There wasn’t much traffic, although the standard of driving was just as bad north of the border as south of it. Driving apart, the roads either side of the border were pretty good, nicely surfaced and easy to use. Those on one were side paid for by the British government and those on the other side were paid for by the European Community, which ultimately means the Brits put their hands deep in their pockets all over again. No wonder the Irish laugh a lot.

As I drove along the M1 motorway, heading east towards Belfast, I passed a heavily guarded complex of buildings on my left. A high wall, conspicuously fortified, blocked off a clear view of what was inside but it didn’t take much imagination to guess. This was the Maze Prison. Most Republicans still called it Long Kesh. It’s where they locked up all the brain-dead scum of Irish society: the kind who went around bombing and shooting with no regard for who got killed. The kind who killed Marie.

I had about eighty miles per hour showing on the speedo at the time so I eased off to take a closer look. But not too close.

I was getting closer to Belfast now and once again ran over my plan, such as it was. Not many people who I could question about Marie’s murder were now left loose on the streets. The Gidleys were under lock and key, as was Pat Mulholland. The Blue Taboo club had been closed down and Penny Hamilton was beyond my reach. But there was one place I reckoned I would learn something of interest from people with IRA connections and it was still open for business.

It was the Irish American Women’s Aid centre.

Once I reached the city outskirts, I headed straight there, parking just a street away in case anyone was on the lookout for my car. From the outside, the centre looked closed up. The IRA mural on the wall opposite seemed to be guarding an empty shell of a place. I walked down a side alley and came to a rough wooden door at the rear. With no other plan to fall back on, I tried the handle and it opened so I walked in. A dirty corridor ran straight back from the door and the shabby walls echoed loudly as I closed it and took a few tentative steps down towards the guts of the building. I stopped suddenly when I heard heavy boots echoing back from the far end of the corridor. Two figures came blundering round a corner into sight, one close behind the other. Both had intensive expressions on their faces and Armalite rifles in their hands. I raised my hands slowly to show I wasn’t armed.

“Hi, chaps. This is just a friendly call.”

Neither man spoke. One jabbed his Armalite into my ribs and the other motioned me to move on down the corridor. They were your average brain-dead dickheads, probably never had a coherent thought between them in their lives.

“You really don’t have to go to all this trouble, guys,” I told them. Brave words but lower down my bowels were beginning to work loose. “I’m sure I can find my own way.”

They nudged me round the corner at the end of the corridor and through a half open door. Then they both backed away. I lowered my hands and stared about the room, knowing instinctively who I’d see.

And there he was.

The room was just dirty walls and bare boards, covered windows, stairs off one corner and an old man busily poring over papers behind a wobbly table. He wore casual street clothes but I recognised him straight away.

I coughed and spoke. “Hi there.”

Father O’Hagan looked up and gave me a grim expression followed by an even grimmer tone of voice. “You know, I had this feeling all along that you’d be back sooner or later.”

“Didn’t want to disappoint you.”

“Son, d’you know any good reason why someone shouldn’t put a bullet between your eyes?”

“Nice to feel welcome. Always thought you Irish were a hospitable bunch.”

“That’s really funny, son. Really funny. At least, I assume you think it is. What the hell are you doing here?”

“Came to hear your confession, priest.” I walked close to the table and sat down right opposite him. Close enough to stare him out, eye to eye.

“Why don’t you get the hell out of here. Right now, Mr Bodine. While you’ve still got legs that work.”

“That ain’t very nice. Where’s your sense of brotherly love?” I gave him a sly grin designed to try to relieve that loose feeling in my pants.

He leaned across the table, not put out by my manner. “You were warned to stay out of this country!”

“That’s right.” I sat back, suddenly confused by his words. Then it all fell into place. Damn! Why hadn’t I seen it before? “I was warned by Chief Inspector Rourke. Did he tell you himself, or did he pass on the message through a British soldier called Whiteman?”

O’Hagan started, but caught himself again quickly. “You don’t know what you’re getting into, Mr Bodine. Just turn around and walk away before you lose your chance.”

I stepped up the bravado. I had little to lose now. “You know, it took me a while to figure out someone like you had to be at the heart of this. Someone with a foot in two campsthe USA and Belfastand the appearance of innocence. I should have smelled some sort of rat when I realised Fisher was linked in with Marie’s murder.”

“Christine Fisher was a true friend of Ireland. Your sister was a common prostitute. Don’t mix them up.”

It was a taunt but I chose to hold back from physical violence. “You’re a lying bastard. You’re no innocent priest, are you? You’re another link in the chain, someone able to take over where Christine Fisher left off. That’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? Finishing Fisher’s work. You’re the new go-between linking the Provisional IRA and their financial backers in the States. With the co-operation of the Brits, in the form of Captain Whiteman.”

Tell-tale perspiration appeared across his forehead. “This business is bigger than you, Bodine.”

“Oh boy! That’s real big words. Sounds like the sort of thing John Wayne would say with a gun in his hand. This city’s not big enough for both of us. Well, you can back off priest. I don’t get frightened any more by the likes of you.” I stared him out, hoping he wouldn’t spot my growing signs of fear.

“You’re mad, son. You’re into something that could get you killed and you act like you don’t care.”

“Maybe I am. You know what? I really don’t care at all. The truth is that you’ve been duped. It’s staring you in the face and you can’t see it. You and your IRA killers were set up and duped by Whiteman.”

“Sounds like some sort of fairy tale.” His face remained impassive.

“There are no fairy stories here, priest. You were involved with Marie’s killing, and that’s no fairy story.”

He didn’t answer that, which was significant. Instead he growled at me like priests are not supposed to growl. “Your sister was a drug-peddling prostitute. You know that, don’t you?”

“Bullshit! And even if she was, she sure didn’t deserve to die because of it.”

“Matter of opinion, son.” His tone suddenly changed, became more conciliatory. I was too dumb to take heed of it. He leaned back in his seat and his voice went into full confidence mode. “Sure, an’ she was your sister, but she was up to no good. You should know that. She came here more than once, so she did. Got herself so well-known we didn’t cotton on to what she was doing for a long time. She could have ruined the whole peace process and the Brits knew it. And they knew they had to stop her somehow. That was why they told us what she was doing.”

“Whiteman told you that?”

He avoided my gaze, which was telling. “If that’s what you want to think.”

“What did he say was she doing?”

“Working with the UVF.” He paused to let his words sink in. “She was passing on information about this place to the Loyalists at the Blue Taboo club, so she was. They supplied her with drugs in return and she used them to feed her boyfriend’s habit. All along she was setting us up for a major bomb which would have killed a good many innocent women. The Provisionals had no option but to stop her.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. “She didn’t pass on anything to anyone, you stupid bastard!” I was rising to my feet now. “It was all a goddamn plot! You and your murdering IRA friends were set up to kill Marie because Whiteman wanted her dead. He needed her corpse.”

He remained composed but his eyes told me he was willing to hear more. “I’m a priest, son. I never killed anyone in my life.”

“That’s a matter of opinion. Your hands are soaked in blood sure as eggs is eggs. Did Whiteman tell you where the IRA gang would find her that night?”

“What the hell is this, son? A quiz show?” O’Hagan rose to his feet to meet me on level terms.

“And did you pass on the message to the killers?”

The priest shrugged but said nothing. And that told me everything.

“So that was how Whiteman got his second red-headed corpse.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, son.”

“I don’t suppose you do.” I studied him carefully, noting the uneasy look in his eyes growing bigger by the minute. “I suppose Whiteman told you later that the hit squad murdered Christine Fisher by mistake. Was that what he told you? Did he tell you to hush the whole thing up because of an IRA foul-up?”

“You seem to know a lot about this.” A deep frown crossed his face.

“Yes. And I know the truth. Your thugs really did kill my sister. Just as Whiteman planned. What he told you later was a damned lie. It was the Gidley’s who killed Fisher. She was the girl in the car with Sammy Wilde, but the Brits couldn’t afford for your IRA friends to know she was killed by a pair of bone-headed Loyalists. So the bodies were swapped later.”

“You’re lying!” His eyebrows arched alarmingly.

“No, I’m not. It was all a very clever trick. Two staunch loyalists killed Fisher, and the IRA were duped into thinking they did it. And Whiteman got his revenge on my sister.”

“Why would he want revenge?”

“None of your business. Am I right about this?”

I didn’t hear the reply because there was none. Just a pistol barrel jammed hard in my back and an order to keep still. The voice behind me was cold and razor sharp. “No more questions.”

“Well, ain’t that great.” I half turned, as much as the pistol butt would allow. “You just had to be in on this didn’t you, Milligan?”

“No more answers either. Head towards the stairs.”

The pistol grew tight against me and I moved as he dictated. “Bedtime, is it?”

He tried to put on an air of melodrama. “No. Parachute lessons. And guess what. We just run out of parachutes.”

The priest raised his eyebrows but said nothing. With the pistol barrel in my back I did as Milligan wanted and walked towards a narrow staircase that led off one corner of the room. We went up the stairs in tandem, me in front and Milligan providing the persuasion with the occasional jab in the back.

In a small attic room, we stood in front of a grimy open window. Cars passed by on the road forty feet below. Somewhere in the distance a police siren was screaming. A normal day in Belfast.

The gun dug deeper into my back. “Open the window. Time for lesson number one. How to launch yourself into the air.” The melodrama was getting out of control by now and, in different circumstances, I would have been laughing my socks off.

“And lesson number two?” I asked.

“Cancelled. Your tab just ran out. Get up onto the window ledge.”

Not just my tab. I was running out of ideas fast.

I put one foot up onto the window ledge and tried to drag out the rest of the procedure. Hell, this was getting just too serious by half. I’ve always had this instinctive feeling that there are such things as guardian angels and I was desperately hoping mine was doing his job properly. Reckon he must have been because right about then the room door burst inwards.

A crashing noise was followed by the roar of a gunshot. Milligan pitched forward with a look of sheer surprise still spread across his face. He was dead before he hit the ground.

I breathed out, long and hard, put my feet firmly back on the floor and then looked at the man with the gun.

“What kept you?” I asked.

Whiteman glared at me. “I ought to shoot you as well. You stupid bastard!”

“One Bodine’s enough for your conscience, Whiteman.” I took a few seconds to restore my thoughts before heading back towards the stairs. “There’s a priest downstairs. Think we should get him up here to say a few words for the dead man?”

Whiteman looked down at the spread-eagled body. “Sod the bastard. Let him rot in hell.”

I glanced back at the body. “Reckon he probably will anyway. How’d you know I was here?”

“A bird told me.”


“He certainly does hate your guts, Bodine. What the hell do you think you’ve been playing at? You’re in big trouble, you know that?”

“Sounds like I’m gonna be thrown out of the country a second time.”

“You can count on it. Don’t bother to unpack.”

I suddenly noticed my hands were shaking. “I hope you brought some of your mates with you. They’re not very friendly round here.”

“I’m not stupid, Bodine. Unlike you, I don’t take chances.”

He was right. I was hustled out of that place fast by a small band of soldiers in black Balaclava helmets. Almost certainly SAS. They took me directly to Rourke’s police station and left me there under armed police guard. Before the day was ended I was taken to Aldergrove Airport and put on the next flight out of Ireland.

I never did get the chance to find Christine Fisher’s grave. Marie’s grave. By then I’d come to the conclusion Whiteman was right about one thing: it was better to let things lie.


I stayed in a hotel near Bayswater and spent the next few days pulling myself together. I had to accept that it was all over now. Whatever gaps remained in the story were best filled by intuitive guesswork. I had nothing more to gain by going back to Ireland.

After a few days exploring London, I packed my bags and made ready to go home. I arrived at Heathrow early and found myself a seat at the bar in the departure lounge. From there I could see all the other passengers as they came into the lounge. I ordered a coffee rather than a stiff drink because I wanted to be fully sober if Penny turned up. I’d had no word from her and neither had I been able to find out where she was staying. I’d phoned the hospital but they were none to co-operative. Probably warned off by the RUC. So I sat there and waited.

Either she would come or she wouldn’t.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen



Captain James Whiteman was somehow caught up in Marie’s murder. Call it intuition or whatever. I was sure of it.

I had a pretty good idea about most of what had happened that night Marie died, but I had no proof that my suspicions were right. Nevertheless, the vague wider picture was, at last, beginning to crystallize into some sort of detail. For the rest of the detail I needed to see James Whiteman. To do that, I had to return to Ireland. Killarney. I went straight back to my hotel and got the receptionist to make the necessary flight bookings for me.

I had nothing else to occupy myself that afternoon so I took a trip into the West End of London and wandered around the streets. One niggling matter still bubbled around inside my brain and I allowed it to direct me to the gaggle of streets near the Soho area where the strip joints are concentrated together. Feeling somewhat uneasy, I ambled slowly through the sleazy jungle wondering which of these joints had hired Marie. She had been here, I could feel it. There was little doubt in my mind that Marie had danced here, slipping out of her clothes night after night in front of all the perverts and dirty old men that London had to offer. Dancing naked in front of strangers so she could make enough money to feed herself and that creep Mulholland.

Most of the clubs had colourful display boards outside the entrance with photographs of the girls. The pictures were all much the same, pouting faces, protruding breasts and modesty banners spread across the girls’ pubic areas. No different, really, from anything I’d seen in so many other cities around the world. But one photograph at one particular joint caught my eye.

The strip club was half way down a seedy street with too many Chinese restaurants and too many second hand electrical shops to make it a popular tourist spot. Glaring signs and posters led me to a place called Benny’s Night Girls. I stood outside for some minutes, staring at the nude photographs. It was early afternoon but the place was open so I figured Benny’s girls must have day work here as well. Continuous performances, it advertised, dozens of girls, all nude shows. I paid at the door and went inside.

Walking in, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped inside the Blue Taboo Club in Belfast. Or the Pink Pyjamas. Or any one of a dozen other seedy places in either city. The same atmosphere, the same ‘feel’ about it, the same sort of show. Neither were the punters that different. I took a glance around looking for someone who’d be in charge here and eyeballed a hood in a gaudy green jacket that looked like it was dyed in day-glow paint.

“Hi there.” I went towards him, hands firmly in my pockets.


“You’ve got some photographs outside the door.” I nodded towards the entrance.

“What of it?”

“You willing to sell any of them?”

He gave me a suspicious look. “Why?”

“Personal matter.” I took my hands from my pockets and reached for my wallet. He noticed, but his expression didn’t alter. “I knew one of the girls.”

“So do lots of our customers. What’s this all about?”

“I just want one of your photos. The girl was called Marie Bodine. Sometimes used the name Marie Kelly. You remember her?”

His brow creased into a furrow and then cleared again as his memory came up with the goods. “Yeah. I remember her. Ain’t seen her for months, or longer. What’s she doing now?”

“She died. She was in Belfast and she was caught in a bomb blast.”

“Shit! Nasty.” Sounded like he was commenting on something he’d seen on the television. A bad business, but not really his concern. “And you knew her well, did you?”

“Yeah, that’s why I’d like to buy the photograph from you.” I gave him another look at my wallet. “I’d pay whatever you ask.”

“How’d you come to know her? This girl, Bodine.”

“She was my sister.”

At first he looked like he was going to come back with a sarcastic remark. Then he took in the serious expression on my face and changed his mind. “No kidding?”

“No kidding, chum. My kid sister. Ain’t seen her in some time.”

“Poor kid. Blown up, eh?” He shook his head. “Look, I’ll give you the picture, but I don’t want any money for it. Got lots of other pictures to put in the window.”

I left the West End with the photograph safely in my pocket. Mom and dad would never see it, but neither would any other sexual pervert who roamed the streets of London. I felt that Marie’s image was, in one very small way, cleaned up.

Just a tiny bit.

The next day I checked out from the hotel, took a flight from Luton Airport to Cork, hired a car and drove on west towards Killarney. It was the first time I’d been in the Irish republic but I wasn’t that surprised by the way it looked. Most Americans have seen films shot in Ireland. The real Ireland.

I found the hotel on the Cork Road just outside Killarney. It looked exactly like the picture on Whiteman’s postcard: a modern two-storey building with concrete wings spreading out across the countryside with no regard for tradition. Comfortable, but not in keeping with the panoramic view of the majestic mountains behind it. Most of the cars parked outside had Southern Irish registrations. Three were from the North and one was British.

I checked in at reception but made no enquiries about Whiteman. No point in spooking him too soon. It had been a long journey from London and I hadn’t stopped on the way so I had a shower, went early into dinner and took my time over it. Time to gather my breath and time to study the other guests when they arrived. It was outside the school holiday season, so most were either elderly couples or businessmen. Easy to spot which were which.

Whiteman was neither, so he stood out in the crowd.

He came in about half an hour after me and I recognised him instantly from the photograph his mother showed me: tall, blond hair, blue eyes and a deep cleft chin. Smartly but casually dressed in a way that put him a class above most of the other guests. It was easy to see why Marie had fallen for the bastard. At least, I liked to think she’d fallen for him. Inwardly, I damn well knew that it could have been—probably was—just another business deal.

He sat two tables away from me, side on so that I could watch his every expression. Trouble was, he kept his face implacably neutral. Nevertheless, for once I felt in charge of the situation. I finished my leisurely meal, lingered over the coffee and all the time I watched Whiteman as he ate his lonely dinner. Never once did he look my way. When he stood up to leave, I took the last sip of my coffee, now almost cold, and casually followed him. He stopped at the reception desk and I came up close beside him to politely ask a pretty little dark-haired girl in a green suit if I could see a brochure of the local sights and activities. It was all so easy. Smile at the pretty little girl while she talked me through the brochure and all the while keep a close ear on Whiteman as he talked to the main receptionist. He let slip that he had booked himself onto a coach tour around the Ring of Kerry, leaving the hotel the following morning. When he had moved on, sufficient to be out of hearing, I asked the pretty little girl to book me on the same tour. This guy was making things just too easy for me.

Bright sunshine woke me early next morning and when I looked out the window I could see the hills starkly outlined on the near horizon. Just the sort of day I needed to put me in a good mood. After a leisurely bath, I went downstairs and lingered over breakfast but saw no sign of Whiteman. In fact, I saw nothing of him until I came to board the tour coach outside the hotel. There, he stood out like a pimple on a priest’s nose, once again smartly dressed in tweed jacket and white shirt, all tastefully set off by a red cravat. Too English by far. I boarded the coach after him and sat two seats behind. Close enough to watch him without arousing interest.

The tour took us anti-clockwise around the Ring of Kerry. All the tour buses followed the anti-clockwise route to avoid having to pass one another on the narrow, twisting roads. Some roads in Ireland had been improved with the aid of money from European development funds, but not that one. At times it clung to the sides of the hills like only the prayers of the locals kept it from sliding into the sea.

Once we got going, I settled back and enjoyed the spectacular views, knowing Whiteman wasn’t going anywhere without me. Besides, the sunshine remained bright all day and I figured I was about due some sort of relaxing break. We stopped for lunch at a small town near the western limit of the peninsula. Whiteman seemed quite unperturbed by anything, almost like he’d switched off for the day. He took a few photographs, admired the views and gave the appearance of being quite relaxed. Maybe he was.

The road back along the south side of the peninsula was even more spectacular but I gave it less attention. By now I was finalising my plans for getting at Whiteman. The last stop on the tour was Muckross House on the shore of Killarney’s Middle Lake. That, I decided, was the place to make my move.

I followed him in amongst the throng of the coach party as far as the House and there, where the majority of the party turned into the courtyard, I saw Whiteman break away and head off towards the lake. That was the first point at which he gave any indication of having seen me. Just a glance, but it was enough. I knew then that I couldn’t afford to put things off any longer.

I moved in closer.

We were only a yard apart when we came to the water’s edge. The lake was still and calm, a silent witness to the moment of truth. When I spoke, my voice seemed to echo off the water. “James Whiteman?”

He barely moved but his eyes darted furtively from side to side. Whether or not I’d spooked him, he sure wasn’t too easily ruffled.

He made no reply, so I said, “Captain James Whiteman.”

He stared at the lake, hands jammed into his jacket pockets. “You took your time. Playing me along, were you?”

“You knew?”

“I’ve been waiting.”

“How long

“Spotted you at dinner last night.” His voice was totally unemotional. “Made a point of letting you know my plans for today, just to see what you would do. Been trying to work out who the hell you are. Yank, aren’t you?”

“You must figure you’re some sort of clever bastard.”

He gave me a deep, withering look. “Of course I am. It keeps me alive. Who the hell are you?”

I didn’t immediately tell him, decided to string him along. Give him a moment or two of worry. “I spoke to your father in England last week. He told me that if I came across you, I was to give you his regards.” It wasn’t true but it sounded good. And it gave me more time to marshal my thoughts.

He kept his nerve, I’ll say that for him. “Told you where to find me, eh?

“Not exactly. Your mother let slip you were on holiday out here. It wasn’t that difficult tracking you down.”


“Need to ask you a few questions. About this girl.” I closed the small gap between us and slipped him the photograph from the strip joint. “Her name’s Marie.”

He took one brief look and then handed back the photograph. “Marie who?”

That made me angry, and not just because of the words. His voice turned cold, devoid of any emotion. I stuck the photograph close up against his face where he couldn’t avoid looking at it. “Don’t play games with me, buddy! Marie Bodine, your father’s mistress. The one he kept in the apartment in London. And your mistress, before she went off with that drop-out, Mulholland.”

Still, he kept his cool and replied with a low, measured tone. “What’s all this got to do with you?”

“Name’s Henry Bodine. Marie was my sister.”

He compressed his lips and nodded slowly, as if the big picture was now forming in his brain. “Really? Sorry about what happened to her.”

“So you should be, Captain Whiteman.” I glanced around. The rest of the group had moved on out of sight and we were left standing quite alone beside the lake. “When was the last time you saw her?”

“Sounds like an ominous question. Why did you come here, Bodine?” He pushed the photograph aside, the deft movement of a man in control.

“I told you that. To talk to you. When was the last time you saw my sister?”

He shrugged. “Long time ago. In England.”


“At the flat my father provided for her.”

I leaned close and gritted my teeth. “Liar. You saw her the night she died, you bastard.”

“What the” That shook him some. The iron nerve cracked enough to revive my own confidence. Told me I was going to win this one.

I pushed my face close to his and hissed at him. “And even if you didn’t see her alive, you sure as hell saw her dead body.”

“You’re speculating. Back off.”

No way was I going to back off, but I pulled back enough to give him breathing space. “Speculating that you were there when she was killed? No. I’d call it an inspired hunch.” The rest was made up of words I’d run over in my mind many times these past few days. It came out quite easy, like it was well rehearsed. “Let me tell you how I see things, Whiteman, and then you tell me whether it’s speculation.”

“If you must.” He allowed his body posture to relax just a fraction. Just enough to warn me he had some excuse or argument up his sleeve.

“You set up a switch that night. It was a girl called Christine Fisher who was killed in the taxi on the Crumlin Road. The Gidleys blew up the taxi to kill Sammy Wilde because he was messing with their daughter. They thought they were killing one person, but they actually killed two: Wilde and Christine Fisher.” I stared at him, expecting a response, but he remained impassively silent. So I went on. “Trouble was, Fisher was a crucial link in the planned cease fire. She was a go-between, tying up loose ends between the Provisional IRA and their financial backers in the States. Probably with the full support of the British security forces. If the financial backers didn’t go along with the cease fire, it wouldn’t happen, so you people had good reason for letting her get on with what she was doing. You depended on her, and when she was killed you had one hell of a problem on your hands. But what made things worsefar worsewas the fact that she was killed by a couple of ardent Loyalists.”

I must have paused for breath there because he cut in, “Lots of Catholics have been killed by Loyalists.”

“Right, but this was really sensitive stuff. You couldn’t afford to have it known that Loyalists had killed the crucial Republican go-between in those negotiations. That would have totally wrecked the whole damn game, killed off any prospect of a Provisional IRA cease fire. Imagine what the Nationalist press would have made of it: “Loyalist bombers kill Provo peace envoy!” It would have stopped the whole peace process stone cold dead, so you covered it up. You staged another bomb later that same night. Put it out that Fisher was killed in that second explosion. And you made it look like the work of a mistake by an IRA gang. A damned foul-up is what I believe Father O’Hagan called it. It gave the Republican movement good reason to keep the story under wraps.”

Whiteman gave me a sour look. “You’ve met O’Hagan?”

“You’d better believe it. A damned foul-up in which a Provo gang killed their own secret agent by mistake: that was what he believed. Why would he believe that, Captain?”

“This is all just wild guesswork,” he said. “That second explosion really was the work of a Republican gang.”

“Of course it was. But it was done with your connivance, wasn’t it? You set it up because you wanted a dead red-head to put in the cab the Gidley’s blew up. When the bodies were taken to the police mortuary, you did a switch. You did, didn’t you? Made it look like my sister was the one killed in the taxi with Sammy Wilde. But she wasn’t. She was killed in the second explosion, the one you engineered.”

Whiteman pulled out a packet of cigarettes. “Interesting speculation.” He kept his eyes lowered as he lit up. A deathly stillness hung over the silent lake.

“Yes, very interesting. Now let’s think about how my sister got caught up in this.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“You knew Marie was in Belfast, didn’t you? You also hated her guts because she went off with that drop-out Mulholland and because she left you with a nasty disease. You hated her, and you needed a red-headed girl to take Fisher’s place.”

“You’re off your rocker,” he snapped. He didn’t sound so cool now and that just about confirmed the whole thing for me.

“Am I? Marie was killed just hours after Fisher was killed by the Gidleys. I reckon a couple of hours is all it took you to set the thing up. Didn’t give you much time for examining you conscience though, did it?”

“You got any proof that this fairy story might be true?”


He visibly relaxed and that was the very last bit of proof I needed. He drew a deep breath and said, “Go home, Bodine, and forget all that you’ve seen here in Ireland. It can’t do you any good.”

“Convince me.” I stood beside him quietly for some minutes, waiting for him to say more.

He must have sensed my expectations. “You ever been in any sort of a war?”

“You’d better believe it. Seen the killing and seen the bodies. So don’t mess about with me, Whiteman.”

“I wasn’t going to.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets and stared out across the lake. “Look out there, Mr Bodine. It’s a beautiful country, isn’t it? Something worth preserving after all those long years of violence that make up Irish history.”

“What are you getting at?”

“One hundred and fifty years ago, there were around nine million people in Ireland. It was a thriving country by the standards of the day. Then came the famine and over a million of them of them died, and the British government sat back and let them die. A sad business. They still hate us for it, you know, hate our guts.”

“Maybe someone should tell them that the world has moved on since then.”

He compressed his lips and began to edge away from me. “You don’t tell Irish people things like that. Anything we British can do to bring peace to this island is worth the effort, Bodine. Anything we can do to get these people to live normal peaceful lives, has got to be worthwhile. Even if… even if the odd innocent victim gets killed in the process.”

“Killed by people like you.”

“Killed by people like us, Bodine.” He had his back to me now and began walking away. His last words to me were called back over his shoulder. “Forget all about it, my friend. Go home and forget you ever came here. You can prove nothing, and you can achieve nothing worthwhile by staying here.”

“Let’s put proof aside for the moment. Let’s talk human decency. What did you switch? The bodies, or the reports on their death?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I took a body back to LA. My parents saw it buried. Whose body was it?”

He stared at me, unflinching. “Messing around with official reports can be damned difficult. Too much risk of other people getting involved.”

“Easier to swap the name tags on two bodies in the same mortuary, the same night?”

He nodded his head barely perceptibly. “Does it matter whose body you buried? You gave someone a decent burial. Don’t upset your parents, Bodine. Let it be.”

Then he walked away and I let him go.

I remained there in front of the lake for some time, thinking over what had passed between us and trying to marry my angry thoughts with what I now knew for certain. Whiteman had been responsible for Marie’s death. Whiteman had engineered the swapping of the bodies. What was I going to do about it? Mete out some sort of justice? No. It would be retribution, not justice. Revenge. And what would it achieve? Probably nothing.

Eventually I went back to the tour coach and kept well away from James Whiteman.

My heart ached over Marie’s death and my thoughts drifted.

Some years ago I was at a meeting with a group of European military advisors in Luxembourg. One evening I was walking through the city with this Luftwaffe pilot. We passed a memorial with a burning flame and I asked him what it was all about.

“That,” he told me, “is a memorial to all the people of Luxembourg who were killed in the last world war by the Germans. It is something that should make all German people stop and think.”

“What about?” I asked.

“About war. You see, the people who did that killing were not, for the large part, mindless killers. Most of them were just ordinary people like you and me. People who were misled by their government. But ordinary people for all that.”

That evening, sitting over a beer in the Killarney hotel bar, I had cause to think back to those words. There was one hell of a lot of murder, hatred and killing going on in Ireland and it was hard to imagine that all the people who supported the killers were themselves mindless murderers. Hard to imagine that every Republican or Loyalist who implicitly supported Sinn Fein or the UVF was, by definition, a murdering thug. More likely they were ordinary people who had been misled by their leaders. Misled by their political leaders, misled by their religious leaders and misled by their own parents who indoctrinated them into extremist beliefs. And then there were people like Whiteman doing what they thought was their bit for peace, but getting innocent people killed. Was Whiteman just another ordinary guy like me, or was there real reason for me to hate his guts?

I had no answers.

I had the hire car for a week so I decided next morning to drive up to Belfast. Despite Rourke’s warning. There were still gaps in the story of what happened to Marie, gaps which Whiteman was not going to voluntarily fill in. I had to go back to find someone else who knew exactly what had happened that night. Someone who knew for sure how they managed to get Marie into that second cab, someone who knew how a Provo gang was persuaded to kill her. A hunch told me I might find the answer at the Irish American Woman’s Aid Centre.

Rourke wouldn’t like it if he found out, but Rourke didn’t have to know. I figured I was so close now to the truth that a few more enquiries was all it would take. Then I could be back across the border before Rourke and his men cottoned on.

Like an omen, thick cloud rolled over shortly after day break and then it started to rain. I studied a road map, wondering which route to take, setting weather against scenic promise. In the end I told myself, ‘to hell with the rain.’ I had seen little enough of rural Ireland so I drove up the western side of the island, through Tralee, famous for the Rose of Tralee and the Dingle Peninsula steam railway, through Limerick, famous for the ribald rhymes, and then on through Galway, famous for the Catholic Bishop and his illegitimate son. Funny how places gain fame for such different reasons.

Most of the place names came at me like something familiar, and yet quite unknown. Names once read in a book, but never associated with something tangible. At first the countryside looked clean and fresh, like the County Kerry landscape I’d seen the previous day. Houses colourfully painted and roadside verges neatly trimmed. But, the farther north I went, the dirtier it all became. Oddly enough, the open fields still had more than their share of new, expensive houses. I never did figure out how come such a poor country had such a large proportion of luxury homes.

By the time I reached Sligo I was driving through the next best thing to an open trash tip. The filthy gipsy caravans at the sides of the road seemed to blend in well with the general air of depression, leaving me feeling quite out of place. I was still in the Irish Republic and yet it all reminded me of Northern Ireland.

I stopped the night at a small guest house between Sligo and Eniskillen. Inside the Republic and only a short hop to the border. It seemed prudent to keep to a minimum the time I spent in the north. That night I went to bed early and planned on what I was going to do next.