Now and in the Hour of Our Death (35 page)

BOOK: Now and in the Hour of Our Death
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“Why would I get cross? He seemed a decent enough chap. I can certainly stand an evening with him if it's important to you.” He kissed her gently. “I do love you,” he said quietly.

“I know,” she said, and only briefly hesitated before whispering, “and I love you, Tim.”

She stood and hugged him not with passion but as a sister might hug a brother, and, bless him, Tim responded just as a brother might and softly stroked her hair.

She moved away from him but held on to his hand. “Come on,” she said. “The prawn cocktails'll be getting soggy,” and she led him through to the kitchen.

*   *   *

Tim burped. “'Scuse me.” He laid his knife and fork neatly across his plate between the empty skin of the potato and the now-stripped corncob. “Feast fit for a king.”

Fiona chuckled. “I'm glad you enjoyed it, your majesty.”

“Too right, and this is very good, too.” He drank the last mouthful of Merlot from his glass and refilled it from the bottle, now half empty.

Fiona picked up their plates and took them to the counter beside the sink, opened the fridge, and took out her Chardonnay. She had been more abstemious than Tim, but as she moved back to the table and topped up her own glass, she recognized that inside her was a gentle warmth, and she wondered if it was the wine, or simply having Tim back that gave her the glow. “I'll pop this back in the fridge,” she said. As she returned to the table and picked up her glass, she was conscious of Tim's gaze moving over her from the tips of her pumps to the top of her head. She raised her glass. “Right,” she said, “what'll we drink to?”

Tim glanced at the neck of her dress then back into her eyes.

She noticed how grey his eyes were, pale yet deep.

“How about”—Tim's voice was soft and serious—“to us?”

“To us,” she said from across the table, and drank.

“To us,” Tim said, and winked at her.

The wink surprised her. Made her giggle. Some of the glow she felt was definitely wine-induced. And the feeling pleased her. She moved around to him and heard his chair legs scrape on the floor as he pushed it back and stood. She looked up at his face. Felt his lips on hers, his tongue on her tongue, his arms round her, strong but gentle. She laid her head on his chest and murmured, “Welcome back. I've missed you.”

Tim stroked her hair. “You smell good,” he said.

She felt his hand at her waist.

“What does this line do?” he asked, tugging at the dress's tie.

She took two paces back, her own hands dropping to the bow. “Watch,” she said, as the knot slipped free. “I'll show you.” She unwrapped the folds of cloth and held the dress apart, feeling the coolness of the evening air on her breasts. She saw Tim's eyes narrow, heard his breathing quicken, as did her own.

She knew, as women had known from the beginning of time, that men were so easily aroused by what they saw. She pouted, moistened her thumb and one index finger between her lips, then used them to grasp her left nipple, feeling it stiffen. She closed her eyes and pulled in one long breath. She let her nipple free and, using both hands, slipped the dress from her shoulders, feeling the light material slip to the floor to lie crumpled round her ankles.

She heard Tim gasp. “God,” he said, “you're lovely.”

She smiled at him, and when he smiled back, she felt heat between her thighs and an urgency that would not wait. “Love me, Tim,” she said, softly. “Love me.”

His shirt was rough against her skin, his hands warm and soft on her back. She felt the hardness of him and his hands on her buttocks pulling her against him. She felt the heat of him and her own heat and the dampness of her. She kissed him, softness on softness. She tasted the bouquet of his wine. His hand cupped her breast and his mouth found her nipple, and the softness of his kiss on her breast was matched by the hardness of him.

“Love me, Tim,” she whispered, taking his hand, feeling the one callus that she knew was the result of hauling lines on

She squeezed his hand. “Love me, darling.” And like a mother leading an eager child, she brought him to her bedroom.

*   *   *

“Go away,” Fiona muttered, half awake. Beside her, Tim's breathing was soft and regular. His hand still held one breast.

The telephone in the living room jangled again.

She glanced at the alarm clock on her bedside table. Who the hell would be phoning her at eleven thirty? “Go away.”

She vaguely heard her own recorded voice telling the caller to leave a message. Why, tonight of all nights, must she be woken from the best sleep she'd had in weeks, sleep that had stolen on her as softly as the autumn fog rolls into Burrard Inlet while she lay spent, nestled against the safety of Tim, the pair of them curled up like two spoons?

The answering machine beeped.

She heard a voice—a man's voice with a thick Belfast accent. It had to be Jimmy, but she couldn't make out what he was saying, didn't want to make out what he was saying. The wee Ulsterman was too keen by half, what they'd call “pushy” here in Canada. She felt her lips curl into a soft smile. Take your hurry in your hand, Jimmy. Whatever it was could keep until the morning. She pushed back against the warmth of Tim and, knowing that he held her safe from her dreams, slipped into an untroubled sleep.




Erin huddled in the kitchen armchair. She'd been awake all night. How could she possibly sleep? Eamon should have been here in the late evening, should have been but wasn't. It was now 7:00
., and there was no sign of him.

It was seventy-five miles from the Kesh to the farm. She'd driven those roads often enough to know them as well as she knew the lane from the farm. It shouldn't have taken more than three hours for him and his friends to reach the nearby woods, where he'd told her they'd wait until dark before finally crossing an open field to the tumulus.

The breakout had happened at 2:30 yesterday afternoon, and she'd marked every hour on the hour since then, hoping, wishing. She'd been able to pass the early part of the evening doing routine chores. She'd finished milking the dairy herd. Even dealing with that bloody cow, Margaret, had been something distracting to do. She'd made an early supper and taken pleasure from the way Cal, as usual, tucked in. She'd picked at her food.

Needing something to occupy her mind after supper, she'd talked with Cal to refine their plans for the attack on the Security Forces.

After she'd cleared the dirty plates, she'd laid a large-scale map of Strabane and the surrounding countryside on the kitchen table. Cal and she had gone over the details of the raid and the all-important getaway. As she explained the finer points to Cal, he'd become more and more enthusiastic. All that time she'd listened for any unexpected sounds from outside, despite knowing that there'd be nothing to hear. Eamon and his friends were to go to ground, and she was to make her way to the grave after dark and greet them.

She'd waited until Cal had gone to bed, telling herself she was giving Eamon and his friends plenty of time to be safe in the tumulus. And, she admitted, if he had to wait that hour or two longer to see her, he'd be all the more glad when she came to him.

She'd crept to the neolithic grave only to find it deserted, told herself that it served her right for trying to play silly games with Eamon's emotions, reassured herself that the men would be here soon.

She'd gone back twice: once at 10:00 to hang a thick blanket as a blackout curtain over the inside of the entrance, because on her first visit she'd noticed that light from the passage could be seen through the brambles. There was no sign of the men.

In the wee hours, when a sudden gale had rattled the shutters and hurled rain against the windows like bursts of machine-gun fire, she'd put on her oilskins and battled against the wind to deliver a heap of bath towels wrapped in a plastic bag. The men would be soaked. But there weren't any men, just damp and spiders and the ghosts of long-dead Celts. She'd left the towels on the table, turned out the lights, and struggled back to the warmth of the kitchen.

Now, fearful that someone might notice her going and coming in the daytime, she knew she must wait, as indeed the men would, until darkness fell again. They were somewhere out in this bloody awful weather. She shivered.

Wait. She'd done nothing but wait in this kitchen; waiting on Friday night for Fiach, who would never return to her, waiting now for Eamon, who would. He
, damnit.

She walked to the kitchen door, opened the top half, and stared out into a steady downpour so heavy that the nearby hills were hidden behind curtains of rain that slashed across the farmyard, the sheets of water blown nearly horizontal by a bitter northeaster. She hoped that Eamon and his friends were somewhere sheltered.

She wished she could see the familiar landscape, the fields, the valley, the Strule, and the hills, because in the not too distant future they would have to live only in her memory. The long early morning hours had given her time to consider her future.

She could see clearly that once they were committed to bombing the Strabane Barracks, and she had every intention of doing so, there was a risk that if any one of the attackers were taken or killed, the Security Forces would be able to identify their other assailants and come after them. The prospect of her own dying caused her little concern, but the thought of a long prison sentence, locked in a cage like an animal, miles from her home, her Tyrone, made her shudder. Once they had attacked, it would be safer to run. She was sure of that.

call off the raid, but she'd still have to face the fact that Eamon couldn't stay here. He'd have to get away, and he'd expect her to go with him. In her heart she knew that yesterday afternoon in the tumulus she hadn't been sure what she'd do. After the long night just gone, worrying about him, aching for him, she had made the decision to go, and she'd tell him—when he arrived.

So, if it were inevitable that she would have to leave all this, leave the farm, leave the Ireland she loved—Erin smiled thinly as she thought of the five hundred pounds of ammonal Sammy was making—she might as well go out with a bang.

She heard the hall door open. It would be Cal, and, damnit, he'd be wanting his breakfast. She wished that her brother had taken the trouble to learn how to fry bacon and eggs for himself.

“Morning, Cal.”

“How are you, girl? No word yet?”

She shook her head and walked to the fridge. She heard the wind slamming the top half of the outer door with the same finality with which she had closed her mind to any possibility of staying in Tyrone.

“Bacon and eggs?”

“If you can be bothered.”

“Whenever couldn't I be? It's my job.” She tried to keep bitterness from her voice, clattered the pan onto the range top, stripped three rashers of Galtee bacon from their package, and lifted two brown eggs from their carton.

The bacon spat and sizzled in the pan, and the smell of its frying made her stomach heave. She'd drunk so much tea last night, she'd not room for one more cup, never mind bacon. “There's tea in the pot,” she said.


She watched Cal fill his cup before saying, “Will I turn on the news?”

She hesitated. The story of the break would be all over the headlines. What if they said Eamon had been recaptured? She closed her eyes. She knew, she just knew, that he hadn't—but—but if she were wrong? The truth would be better than her present uncertainty. She opened her eyes, feeling them gritty, knowing they would be bloodshot. “Go ahead,” she said quietly.

Cal turned the knob on the TV that sat among the copper pots on the Welsh dresser.

Roadblocks have been operative in a series of concentric circles at five-mile intervals on every road leading from the Maze. Many escapees have been stopped and detained. One inmate, Sean Donovan, was shot and killed while attempting to escape.

Erin flinched. Donovan was one of the men Eamon had said he'd be bringing to Tyrone, and if he'd been killed … She held her breath as the newsreader continued:

Some of those still at large are senior members of the Provisional IRA. Among them are Brendan (Bic) McFarlane; the Old Bailey bomber, Bobby Storey, who, it is believed, was the mastermind behind the jailbreak; and Brendan McGuinness and David McCutcheon, who were imprisoned together in 1973 following an attempt on the life of the then prime minister Harold Wilson.

Erin moved closer to the screen. Eamon had mentioned a Davy McCutcheon as his cell mate and friend. McGuinness was coming with Eamon, so perhaps McCutcheon was, too, and if they were still at large, Eamon had to be. He had to be. “Do you think that means Eamon's still out?” she asked Cal and was reassured by his, “I'm sure of it,” even though she knew he had no more reason than her to sound so certain.

Pictures of army and police vehicles flickered on the screen. The image changed to an aerial view of the Kesh as the camera panned slowly over the perimeter wall, zoomed in for a close-up of grim-faced soldiers in one of the watchtowers, and switched to a wide-angle shot of the H-blocks and the deserted compounds. Erin listened carefully.

The guards who were held captive by the prisoners have been released, but the prisoners have barricaded themselves in their cells and are refusing to come out until assured that there will be no reprisals. The guards are understandably angry. Six of their number were injured in fights, two seriously. We are taking you now to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Erin crossed her arms, leaned her head on her shoulder. Eamon had said there wouldn't be any violence, not that she gave a shite about the Brits, but if guards had been hurt and Donovan shot dead, there must have been more injuries among the prisoners.

BOOK: Now and in the Hour of Our Death
4.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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