He came awake in pitch darkness, lying on his side in a cramped space, curled up. His hands were tied behind his back, his mouth gagged, and a slight headache and dazed feeling plagued him. Where am I? He shifted, his knee hitting something hard above, and he groaned beneath the gag. The man paused, took stock. The floor beneath him was hard, cold... and he felt as if he was moving. He realized: the trunk of a car...? He had been in this sort of position once before, years ago.
The man tried to remember, tried to sort out in his head how this had happened. He had been on a short vacation, a few days at a rented cottage in the Gatineau valley, a long way from his home in Ireland. There had been a woman, half his age, blonde and gorgeous in a little black dress. She had bewitched him at a bar in Gatineau, flirted and teased. Then she had invited him to her hotel. He remembered being in the elevator with her, kissing her... and then what? Nothing. A blank.
Jamie O’Shea was a member of the Irish Parliament for Sinn Fein, and had once been a feared leader in the Irish Republican Army. Back in the day, he had been known for his ruthlessness, a hard man if ever there was one. Yet those days were more than a decade in the past, and he had let himself go soft. Peace had changed things, and if he hadn’t quite disavowed the old ways, he at least understood that most people in Ireland wanted peace. He was in his mid fifties, still a charming rogue, some grey in his thick brown curly hair, and hard blue eyes that still caught the attention of the ladies. A widower for five years, he had become accustomed to the life of the politician, had thought his days of the gun were behind him.
What is this? The question vexed O’Shea. Unlike colleagues like Gerry Adams, he had blood on his hands. A lot of it, he thought. He had been at war with the Prods and the British since the age of seventeen, nearly thirty years before peace had broken out. He had ordered the deaths of men, had personally killed many times. It was war, he justified. The bastards were doing the same to us.
The car slowed, making a turn to the right. Where am I being taken? The car moved on, and he could feel it moving slower. Another turn, within two minutes, to the left, and the questions persisted. The car slowed, coming to a stop. He could hear the engine turn off, and heard two doors open. After a moment, he heard the doors softly close. There were footsteps outside, on both sides of the car, but they were otherwise quiet. A key sounded in the trunk lock, turning, and the trunk lid opened. A soft light came on, and it hurt his eyes for a moment.
He gazed up, and saw a dark shape of a man, dressed in black, gloves and a ski mask completing the ensemble. He appeared to be around six feet tall, two inches taller than O’Shea. A woman – at least the shape of one- stood behind, small in build, no more than five foot five. The man reached down, pulling O’Shea roughly up by the arm, out of the trunk. O’Shea groaned, his legs cramped from the confinement, and felt the cold of the night air. The full moon and the stars shone overhead, and he smelled the faint scent of coniferous trees.
The man closed the trunk as O’Shea steadied himself, and took a glance around. They were on a dark driveway, gravel, from the feel of it. The shape of a house was nearby among the trees, no light to suggest the presence of anyone home. The woman had a gun aimed at him, a small shape in the darkness. He couldn’t tell what calibre. What do they want? He felt no fear, and remembered being in trouble like this before, and the fact that he was still alive reassured him. That was twenty five years ago, and I didn’t have twenty excess pounds on me back then.
The woman waved her hand, motioning him to walk, and the man was behind him, the feeling of a gun poking at his spine. The woman took the lead, walking along the driveway, a flashlight coming on in her hand. O’Shea walked between them, following her, felt the tightness of the ropes binding his wrists. Is it rope? He shivered, the coolness of the August night a surprise. He was wearing trousers and a grey dress shirt, and the cold bothered him.
She led the way, down a trail past the house, to a small wooden dock. A rowboat was tied alongside, and she turned, stepping down into it. The man poked at O’Shea’s back with the gun, silently directing him. O’Shea glanced around, saw no other light visible on the lakeshore. Think. Don’t panic. Look for a way out, he told himself. He stepped down into the rowboat, sitting in the middle, and the woman bound his ankles tightly, with what appeared to be climber’s rope. He winced at how tightly she secured him. Making sure I don’t do something stupid, he thought with a grimace.
The man stepped down into the boat behind O’Shea, releasing the lines on the dock, and took the oars, beginning to row out into the lake. It wasn’t an overly large lake, but dark in the night, the moonlight offering little illumination. O’Shea thought briefly of throwing himself overboard, but with his limbs tied so tightly... Suicide, lad, it would be suicide. The boat moved on through the water, the man rowing well on his own, the woman keeping O’Shea carefully covered with her gun. There was silence between them, no need for words.
They reached the opposite shore. There was what appeared to be a boathouse in the darkness, but the rowboat moved towards the right side, directly into shore. The woman untied the cord around his ankles, and then stepped out into the water, splashing, and moved quickly on shore. The man poked O’Shea in the back again with the gun, a hard threat in the gesture. O’Shea struggled up to his feet, and stepped over the side, his shoes getting soaked in the water, feeling the coldness of the lake against his lower legs. He stumbled up onto the shore. The woman had moved slightly up hill, keeping him covered, and he heard the splash of the man stepping out behind him. O’Shea glanced back, saw his captor walk up onto the shore, pulling the rowboat slightly up onto the shore, just enough for it to stay in place.
The woman waved the gun, and O’Shea moved up the slope, saw the dark shapes of small buildings, reminding him of a cottage, and outbuildings. There was a path, faintly visible in the light coming from the flashlight, and he started walking. The footsteps behind him told him that his captors were close behind, not about to let him take a chance to flee. They walked along, through the woods, and he noticed a clearing ahead to the left, the moonlight giving enough illumination to suggest a parking lot. The path forked ahead, one going towards the lot, the other to the right. He felt a hand at his shoulder, the man squeezing hard, directing him to the right.
O’Shea walked, a growing anxiety filling him. They moved up the path, coming to another clear area a short distance up from the lot. An expansive stretch of grass opened up before them in the moonlight, the shape of flowerbeds present. A two-story house stood in the darkness to the left, sizeable porches visible in the moonlight. O’Shea saw no trace of light inside. A tall flagpole dominated the lawn, and he saw the distinctive Canadian flag fluttering at the top. At the treeline, he could make out a columned arch, standing by itself. Where are we?
They pushed him on, a gun at his back, off to the left, past the house, through the trees. Glancing to the right, he noticed a large dark shape low to the ground, peculiar… Stone? The light suggested stonework. On the ground? They didn’t let him linger. His captors pushed him on. Up ahead, there was another clearing. The moonlight shone on a small group of what appeared to be ruins. Arched windows, stone columns, an arched door, and four sides… as if a building of old had stood here, and was on its way into magnificent decay. What is this place? The question persisted as he walked into the midst of the ruin. He felt a chill. Something about the place, being here this late at night, with two armed people… it filled him with a growing dread.
“Stop.” It was the woman, and even the one word was enough for him to recall the sound of her voice. It was the woman from earlier in the night, but rather then the pleasant French-Canadian accent, the tone was hard, and cold.
“Down on your knees,” the man ordered, his accent hard, cold, and distinctive. It was the Ulster Irish of his enemies, of the Prods. And so, with the sound of that accent, the dread that had been growing inside him became fear. O’Shea paused, didn’t know what to do, and the voice was sharper. “I said, down on your knees.” O’Shea dropped, his knees feeling the dampness of dew on the ground. The woman circled around him, her gun aimed at his head. The man spoke again. “Do you remember Peter Reilly?”
O’Shea froze. Of course he remembered the man. Ulster Volunteers, a nasty piece of work. He had overseen the murder sixteen years before. Killing him in the foundry had been a pleasure. He murmured, but the gag muffled his words. The woman reached down, pulled the gag out of his mouth. “What… what is this…?”
“Don’t play stupid, O’Shea,” she said, her voice containing the same harsh Ulster accent as the man. “You bloody well know who he is.” The man circled around, facing O’Shea, his gun extended. Both of them glanced at each other, and with their free hands, pulled away their masks. Both had the same blue eyes, the same red hair. Hers was longer then his, and he realized she’d been wearing a wig earlier. Yet it was her, the same woman who’d caught his eye in the bar.
It was the man who spoke now. “Peter Reilly was our father.” His voice was filled with hate, his eyes flashing with rage. The same rage was in his sister’s eyes. “And you and your boys dropped him into molten steel. You butchered him.”
O’Shea gasped, realized who he was. Cain Reilly, once a member of the UVF, now his own man, with his own inner circle of Prod terrorists who didn’t give a damn about the peace process. “We’ve settled the score with the rest of them,” the woman said. “Now there’s just you. The one who called the shots.”
They took close aim at him, and he knew fear. They would never let him walk away. Not after what he had done. “Wait,” he muttered, the nervousness in his voice obvious. “Just wait a minute…”
“We’ve been waiting sixteen years, you fucking bastard,” Cain spat. Both of them levelled their guns, ready to fire. “Cecilia…” he called out softly, looking over at his sister. She nodded without taking her eyes off O’Shea. “On three.”
“No, wait!” O’Shea cried out.
“One,” Cecilia replied quietly.
“Just wait!” O’Shea begged.
Cain sneered at him. “Two.”“Three,” Cecilia whispered. Both pulled their triggers. The last thing O’Shea saw was the flash of both guns, followed by the blackness of oblivion.