Celtic Remnants

Celtic Remnants by Deborah O'Toole is a powerful novel of enduring love and betrayal set in the political turbulence of Ireland, glamour of London and wilds of Scotland.

From Chapter Twenty-Four

July 1993

London, England



WILLIAM FORAKER CLOSED his eyes tightly, trying to block out shooting streaks of pain that traveled through his fingers and up to his hands and arms. Each nail on each finger had been meticulously sliced up the middle and removed with agonizing, brutal slowness. Every time a nail was yanked from him, he could hear its clipping tap on the concrete floor underneath him. One by one, they were removed. Foraker thought he would go blind from the pain.

"Are you ready to talk yet?" A man's voice asked him. Foraker looked through his sweat-stained eyes to see the source of the voice. It was a man, a tall one, his face covered with a black ski mask. Slits for the eyes and mouth gave the man a frightening appearance. He was also wearing green army fatigues, with the sleeves rolled to the elbow.

In a haze, Foraker thought it odd the man was wearing a ski mask in the heat of July. Then he understood he was facing a terrorist, an Irish one by the sound of the brogue, and that his life was likely over this day.

"I don't know what you want," Foraker croaked.

"Who sent you to kill the nun at Kylemore Abbey?" the man barked.

"What nun? And where the hell is Kylemore Abbey?" Foraker tried to answer the man strongly, but instead his voice came in a whimpering moan.

The man nodded to someone standing behind Foraker. A slight figure, dressed the same as the man and with the same style of ski mask, came around to stand in front of Foraker. The eyes were cold and unmoving. Foraker sensed it was a woman. The build was akin to a female, and the small blue-veined hands gave her away as well. There was no pity or compassion in her eyes, so Foraker expected no quarter.

The woman bent over slightly and stuck the hot end of a burning cigarette into the raw flesh of Foraker's nail bed. He screamed. The pain was worse than the nails coming off. He could smell his own burning flesh as the woman ground the hot ash into his open wound.

She finally stopped as Foraker let out a ragged breath. "Answer the fucking question, you bastard," she spat at him.

Foraker looked up at the woman again, and the man who stood behind her, both like unmoving stone. "How did these two find out who I am, and what I did?" Foraker wondered vaguely to himself. "Then again, if they are the Irish variety of terrorist anything is possible."

"Who sent you to Kylemore Abbey to kill the nun?" the man in the ski mask asked again.

Foraker narrowed his eyes, but his vision was blurred from the pain. He remained silent.

The tall man picked up a hammer from the floor and went to stand behind Foraker. The woman remained in front of him, her eyes impenetrable behind the ski mask. Then she started talking. "My friend here doesn't take kindly to liars. Years ago, he perfected the technique of hitting a man square on the shoulder with a hammer. It hurts like hell, yes, but also dislocates the shoulder without breaking any bones. I think it's time we applied that bit of persuasion on you, and then we'll throw your kicking but useless body into the Thames."

Foraker tensed, but refused to speak.

The woman looked over Foraker's head to the man behind him. She nodded. In the spiral of one second, the hammer slammed down on Foraker's right shoulder. He screamed in pain. He hung his head down as his scream turned to a moan. "Oh God, please stop," he cried. "Please!"

"Then quit whining like a plonker and spill your tea," the man behind him ground out angrily.

The woman spoke again. "Don't force us to go after your family, you dumb shyte. All we have to do is make one phone call, and your stupid wife and children will be bones in the back yard."

Foraker swallowed. He thought back to that morning when he left home. His wife Jane had kissed him goodbye, and his twin son's Alex and Andrew hugged his legs. They were only six years old, and had no clue what "Daddy" did for a living. Not that they would understand anyway. At the moment, Foraker wondered if he would ever see his little mites again. The entire day had started so typically, except for when he parked his car in back of Branbury's Pastry Shop on Aldersgate Street to get his daily blueberry tart. Despite his years of training to vary daily routines for safety, he hadn't been able to break his penchant Branbury tarts. It was turning out to be the worst mistake he ever made.

He was knocked over the head from behind when he returned to his car. He remembered feeling the pain. Then his senses went numb, and his vision turned black. The last thing he recalled was the skidding sound of his tart hitting the ground as it fell from his hand. Foraker regained consciousness with his body strapped to a chair. It was every agent's worst nightmare. He was being tortured for information, and would likely die whether he gave over what he knew or not.

"Who sent you to Kylemore Abbey to kill the nun?" the man repeated a third time.

Foraker tried to keep his secrets for one more round. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he sputtered. "But please, don't hurt my family."

The woman slapped Foraker hard across the face. "You will rot in hell," she snarled, "but not before your wife is raped and dismembered, and your children burned alive."

Foraker sobbed, the wetness of his tears burning the open wounds on his face. Still, he remained silent. Then he heard the sound of a switchblade knife snapping open. He stopped breathing, listening for more sounds but blind to sight. Then he felt the tip of the knife touching his ear lobe. In one violent motion, the flesh was slashed from his body.

"Talk, you bastard!" the woman fairly screamed. "Or I'll cut your bollocks off next!"

Foraker began choking on his own saliva. He bent over as far as he could to vomit on the floor. He was on the verge of breaking. Nothing was worth the excruciating pain, and certainly not worth threats to his family. And none of it was worth protecting Edward Lancaster.

"I'll talk," Foraker said weakly. "Please, stop, and I'll tell you what you want to know."

He heard the knife hit the floor, and then there was a moment of silence. He looked up and saw the two people regarding him, waiting.

He spoke quickly. "I work for MPS, but the Earl Lancaster - Edward Lancaster - sent me to Kylemore Abbey."

The woman drew in her breath sharply but said nothing. However, the man had plenty of questions.

"Why did Lancaster send you to kill the nun?"

Foraker moistened his dried and cracked lips. "The nun was a relation to another woman, someone the Earl's son once had an affair with. The Earl wanted to send a message to this woman by killing her sister."

"What message?" the man persisted.

"It was supposed to be a warning, to steer her away from the Earl's son Locksley." Foraker hung his head. Now that he was telling the truth, he felt drained. He was also relieved, as if he were unburdening his soul.

"What other errands did the Earl send you on?" the lady snapped, rounding on Foraker as he looked at her from the chair. He could sense her rage.

"The nun was the worst," Foraker whispered. "I actually killed a living person. I've been ill ever since."

"When did you start working for the Earl?" the man barked.

Foraker shook his head, moaning as he did so. "Years ago. I was part of his brigade in Belfast, and when I joined the Metropolitan Police he kept after me to do him favors. He had me watch his son, so I placed him under surveillance. Another time he had me pay off the father of a girl his other son Peter mistreated. I swear to you, I've never killed a person until he sent me after the nun. I've been living with my own shame, the horror . . ."

"I'm not interested in hearing your problems," the woman shouted. "You did what you did, and that's the end of it. If you want to save your own skin, you'll cooperate with us here and now."

"What do you want me to do?" Foraker asked, frightened they would begin to torture him again.

"You're to get the Earl to a place we designate," the woman said, her voice suddenly steely calm. "You will not be released until this is accomplished. Then you can go to the devil for all I care. You'll end up in hell for killing the nun anyway."

The man in the ski mask had been silent for some time, but now he spoke. "Can you get the Earl to meet you somewhere?"

"I'm reasonably sure," Foraker replied, switching his swollen eyes to the man.

"The sooner you do as we say, the sooner you will be released with your life," the woman spoke once more.

"Tell me when, and I'll do it," Foraker exclaimed.

The woman nodded her head at the man. "Give him the details. I have to step out for a moment." She turned and walked away from them, disappearing behind several large boxes stacked in a corner of the warehouse.

The man started to circle Foraker, walking slowly. "You're going to call the Earl," he said carefully. "Tell him to meet you at Hyde Park, near Serpentine Lake. You have an emergency, tell him, and it has to do with the incident with the nun. You will place the call tonight, and the Earl had better show up tonight. Give him no time to get out of it. He has to meet you tonight in Hyde Park. Do you understand?"

Foraker nodded. "Yes. Will I actually meet with him?"

"Shut your gob and listen," the man snapped. "You will remain here. When the meeting is kept and all goes as planned, you will be released. But remember this," the man bent down so that his face was half an inch from Foraker's. "You will be watched. You won't know when, or for how long. If one word of this leaks anywhere - and I mean, anywhere - you will be taken care of, as will your family."

"I understand," Foraker muttered, averting his eyes.

REMOVING HER SKI mask, Ava was violently ill behind the boxes in the warehouse. She vomited bile as she had not eaten in three days. The nausea had grown worse the longer she interrogated Foraker. She held out her arm, leaning against one of the old musty boxes, taking deep breaths but trying to remain quiet. The last several days had been a terrible ordeal, and the strain was finally eating away at her nerves. This in itself was rare for Ava, and she cursed her weakness. There was a job to be done, and she had to stay strong.

With the help of several English informants, including a secretary working in the Scotland Yard office, the IMC deduced William Foraker was the agent who killed Sophie. It had taken three weeks to obtain the information, but once in hand Ava proceeded with barely controlled anticipation. The man had to suffer, and at worst die, but if there was a root cause to his deed she had to know it as well. The knowledge David's father had sent Foraker to kill Sophie sickened Ava. She knew the Earl was cold and almost subhuman, but she never imagined he would resort to ordering the cold-blooded murder of a nun, her sister.

She stood straight, grateful her nausea had abated. Thank God Tim was back. He had been her strength the last few weeks. He returned from his trip to America a more somber man, but still very much her friend and supporter. He profusely apologized to her for the behavior he displayed before his departure (was it only three months ago?), and he was devastated by the news of Sophie's murder. Tim had been filled with the same cold rage that consumed Ava because he viewed Sophie as part of his own family. Sophie Egan had to be revenged, although Ava was sure Tim hadn't counted on the Earl being the culprit any more than she had.

Placing the ski mask back around her head and tucking her hair up inside, Ava stepped out from behind the boxes and returned to Tim and Foraker, still in debate. Several other members of the IMC were now in the warehouse area. They stood a short distance from the tableau, watching and waiting for instructions.

She walked to Tim, pulling gently at his shoulder so that he leaned his head down. "Tell the lads to wash him up and let him go to the privy. Then he needs to make that telephone call."

Tim nodded, and then looked at Foraker. "You'll be allowed to clean up and go to the loo. Then you'll call the Earl. The rest is up to you."

Foraker glanced from Tim to Ava, and then whispered: "I'll do whatever you say. Please just let me live."

"As I said, the rest is up to you," Tim repeated simply.



CELTIC REMNANTS ©Deborah O'Toole. All rights reserved.

"Celtic Remnants" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Celtic Remnants" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.