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 Eight


Dublin, Ireland



NED FERMOY WATCHED Ava and Tim as they took their seats around the table of the Claddagh kitchen. Both of them seemed well-rested for a change, although he noticed Ava appeared a bit thinner than the last time he saw her a few months ago. But her eyes were clear, and her nerves seemed steady. He heard her poke fun at Tim about the shock of blond hair protruding from behind one of his ears.

As other members of the group settled in and poured themselves coffee from the pot on the counter, Ned shuffled some papers in front of him and continued to observe Ava discreetly. She sat straight in her chair, waiting expectantly.

Almost a year ago, Ava's entry into the IMC had been supported by her connection to her father Eamon Egan and the persuasive tongue of his sister, Siobhan. Eamon had of course played a central role within the organization, and his violent death by explosion had been a severe blow to the group. Ava was known as one of Eamon's surviving children, along with her sister Sophie. Fiercely protective of their own, several of the IMC members had volunteered to keep an eye on Ava and Sophie, but after a time Ava retreated to Kylemore Abbey to bear a child out of wedlock. Shortly after the birth, Siobhan contacted Ned to sound him out about adding Ava and Tim to the IMC mix.

It hadn't been as simple as that. There were rarely any secrets within the IMC. Members were closely scrutinized, even those who had been a part of the organization for many years. It seemed unlikely Ava would have anything valuable to offer a large group of men intent on ridding Northern Ireland of British military presence. Not only were members trained to handle firearms and explosives, they were taught surveillance techniques and various tricks of the trade when on the run.

But Ava had been determined and persistent, Ned remembered, refusing to cave or take no for an answer. She had passed the six-week training exercise in Abbeyleix with flying colors. And to be honest there was something different about her, something not tangible to the naked eye yet very present within her. It was steadfast and unwavering purpose, sheer strength of will. Ned had never before witnessed such discreet force of personality in another person, including some of the hardcore members of the IMC. In typical sarcastic, matter-of-fact Ava-fashion, she had informed those opposed to her that where she went, Tim O'Casey followed.

Tim had been the coup de grâce, mainly because of his immense size, but he was loyal to Ava and would not consider becoming part of the IMC without her. Ava had proven herself over and over again through the last year without fault, never having been caught, and never suffering serious injury. Her first "job" had been as a floater, a rather hazardous operation in which several armed IMC members randomly traveled the streets of Belfast in search of a British army patrol to fire upon. Ava could hold her own with a weapon, and she was developing a real talent for handling explosives. She was also naturally intuitive, and possessed a drive kept alive by the knowledge British soldiers murdered her family. It was the same for many of the IMC members who had lost loved ones over the years. In Ava, however, it was like a fiery ember which burned through her like bonfire rage.

"What are you staring at, Fermoy?" Ava finally demanded of Ned, eyebrows arched and arms crossed in front of her as she regarded him over the table.

"I was just remembering your first days in the IMC," he admitted honestly, "and how far you've come. You're an amazing person, Ava Egan."

Ava snorted while Tim laughed. "Ahh, yes," she spoke, tilting her head to one side. "The lone female amidst a group of Irish brutes. Tis amazing I've survived, if I say so myself. It surely helped me along when my first assignment was on a float. If that didn't scare me off, nothing would have."

Ned laughed, but then turned his attention to the dozen-strong group at the table.

"Are we here to socialize, or get down to the business at hand?" Brian Talbot asked gruffly across the table from his spot next to Ava. Talbot brooked no levity, and did not appreciate it in others. Ned glanced at him sharply.

"Settle your knickers, Talbot," Ned snapped. "We're getting there." He picked up a piece of paper from the small file in front of him.

"First, I need to remind one and all, and this is not directed at anyone specifically, that relationships or attachments cannot be allowed to occur while interrogating prisoners. It simply cannot happen. I have to stress this rule a bit because of a message I received from our commander in Bantry. Apparently one of the men allowed himself to fall for a female informant, and nearly got his ass blown off while - how shall I say it? - having a romp with the lady in question."

"Who was she?" Talbot wanted to know.

"She came from one of the orange splinter groups in Belfast, inconsequential, really," Ned said. "The point is, we need to remain emotionally detached from what we do. It's imperative."

Then he continued:

"The next bit of business involves a new contact for our supply of Semtex," Ned began, naming the highly developed explosives the IMC used in operations. "We can get large quantities through Libya. I have given the final go ahead to have the exchange take place in Skerries, just a mile or so from the village of Loughshinny."

"Who's handling the exchange?" asked Mike Creed from his seat on the other side of Ava.

"Buster McKinney from Slane," Ned replied.

Mike nodded. "That sounds logical. His fishing trawler will be good cover."

"Next," Ned continued. "I'm setting up a few cross-border raids on some Brit installations just outside of Belfast." Ned glanced at Talbot. "I'll need you to cover the operation near Ardglass, Brian."

"Righto," Brian agreed. "When and where? And with whom?"

Ned slid another piece of paper across the table toward Talbot. "The particulars are there. If you have any questions, just ask them."

Talbot nodded, taking the paper. Ned pulled out another sheath of paper from his file. He glanced at Tim and Ava. "We've developed a contact in Belfast right across from a Brit checkpoint on Falls Road. I need the two of you to go there and execute a sniper attack. This is just a bit of retribution for the ambush of one of our lads last week in Belfast. Some Brit soldiers arrested our man and proceeded to try and beat a confession out of him."

"A confession to what?" Tim wanted to know.

"A bombing at a Belfast bank," Ned responded. "Our lad kept his yap shut, and was beaten senseless for his efforts. The Brit who hammered him is stationed at the checkpoint I mentioned, and steps need to be taken to assure he doesn't wallop any of our lads in the future."

Ava raised her eyebrows but said: "Understood. Tim and I will get on it."

Ned shuffled the remaining papers, and slipped them back into the file folder. "That will cover it for now, but I need to impart a few words of advice," he said, glancing around the table. "I have been advised that some of our lads in the field have been sidestepping a few of the ethos we preach within the IMC. I'm not naming names, but I would like to remind all of you of a few good points to keep in mind."

He took a slight breath and continued. "The IMC ethos is there for a reason: it has worked for many years, and will continue to do so." He glanced down at the file folder, as if choosing his words carefully. "The purpose of the IMC is to guard the honor and uphold the unity of Ireland and to secure and defend civil and religious liberties and equal rights for all citizens. Our means are based on the spirit of camaraderie, as well as carrying out an armed struggle - if need be - for the freedom of our country from the British government. We are to encourage popular resistance, mobilization and political action in support of these objectives."

Ned paused for effect. His next words came with arresting alacrity: "No informants within the ranks will be tolerated. Such violators will be dealt swift retribution, with obvious final consequence. There are no exceptions to the rule." His eyes fluttered around the room, slowly, and then he finished: "None."



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.