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-One

April-June 1993

Ireland & England



NED FERMOY SAT at the kitchen table in the Claddagh flat. Tim and Ava regarded him warily, if not a little hopefully. It was apparent to Ned that his two best operatives were extremely hostile to one another, aside from the fact they had blazing rows practically every day. The air about them was fraught with tension and laden with anger. It made Ned uncomfortable being in the same room with them, he who was used to commanding an organization with the size and power of the IMC.

It was the first day of April, but there seemed to be no relief in sight for Tim and Ava. The investigation into the death of Clive Bender was still ongoing, and the intensity of it had not abated. Ned knew something had to be done to alleviate the turmoil between Tim and Ava. If he didn't, one day he would walk in and find one of them dead. He was sorely disappointed in both of them.

"I've known the two of you for a number of years," Ned began, letting his eyes rove between them equally. "You have handled some of the toughest assignments within the IMC, and you have accomplished these goals together. Please notice I emphasized the word together," he continued, his voice becoming crisp. "You have been holed up in worse places than this, although I grant you not for such a length of time. To boot, you're both adults. I don't understand what the hell is going on between the pair of you, but I can tell you I don't like it. Not one bit."

Tim looked irritated, and not the least bit regretful. He was angry, and he didn't care if Ned knew it or not. "Everything was fine until Ava contacted Locksley," Tim said stubbornly. "We were grand until then. The bastard has been nothing but trouble since the get-go, but Ava won't let up on him."

Ava flushed with her own anger and leaned forward to retort to Tim's comment. Ned, however, held up his hand. "Please, Ava, hold that thought," he commanded. "You'll get your say." Then he turned his full attention onto Tim. "So, O'Casey, what do you suggest I do about the situation?"

"I need to get out of here," Tim replied empathetically. "I can't take another minute in this place. Send me anywhere - the Middle East, Switzerland, the States - just get me the hell out of this damned flat."

Ned regarded Tim thoughtfully for a minute. Ned had known the situation would come to this, and he was prepared. Ava looked stricken, despite her anger with O'Casey.

"We can try and get you to a safe house in New York," Ned stated. "We'll need to make the necessary arrangements first, and you must change your appearance a bit. Dye your hair or something. That fuzz on your face will help, too."

Tim looked relieved. "Anything you say, as long as I can leave." He refused to look at Ava.

"Would you like to go, too, Ava?" Ned asked.

She shook her head, her mind already set. "No. I don't want to leave Ireland for a long period of time. It's bad enough I can't see Chee, but at least I'm close by if the opportunity presents itself."

Tim glared at Ava. "You mean if the opportunity to see Locksley presents itself."

She exploded, rising from the table so quickly her chair fell back to the floor. Ned closed his eyes, and decided to let the spat run its course. It might be the last one Tim and Ava would ever have.

"You bastard," she screamed at Tim, her face flushed scarlet and her eyes wet with angry tears. "I'm tired of your whining; I'm tired of your accusations and innuendos, but most of all, I'm sick to death and tired of you! I never thought I'd see the day when I hated the very sight of you and your motoring gob, but that very day has arrived. Go to America, and I hope you never come back." She choked on a sob, then whirled around and ran into her room, slamming the door behind her.

Tim looked drained. He glanced at Ned nervously. "I wish it wasn't like this," Tim spoke softly. "I hate it when it's like this between Ava and me. I'm telling you, I've turned into a real gobshite. I can't stand being inactive, day after day. Ava's always been the reader, the one who figures things out, but she's changed since Locksley entered the picture again and I don't like it. It's as if she's lost the fight in her."

"Maybe she has or maybe it's just taken another direction," Ned pointed out. "It's not for me to say. Ava is one of the best, always has been, and my opinion hasn't changed."

Tim nodded. "I know. Ned, she's like a sister to me."

"Perhaps you shouldn't leave things as they are, then," Ned suggested, sensing he was making some ground with O'Casey. "You never know what might happen one day from the next in our line of work."

Tim hesitated. He was a stubborn man, and very proud, but he loved Ava like his own flesh and blood. And he knew Ned was right. Yet Ava was equally as stubborn, and if he were to try and talk to her she would probably fling it back in his face. "I'd just as soon leave it as it is," he finally said. "When do you think I'll be able to go?"

Ned hid his disappointment. "Probably in a day or two. I'll let you know."

"Thanks, Ned."

"Try not to argue with Ava during the time you have left," Ned advised. "It does neither one of you any good."

"I'll try, but I can't control Ava."

"Stubborn to the end," Ned thought wryly. Aloud, he said. "That's all I ask. I'll be in touch, Tim."

"I'll be here."

TIM LEFT THE Claddagh a day later, sooner than Ned planned. Tim was ready, though, and he left without a backward glance. He refused to talk to Ava, and she in turn avoided him like the plague. Tim botched a bleach job on his hair, and ended up having to shave himself bald. Ava knew he would never be recognized. Even though they had pointedly ignored one another for a day, it was also a blessed relief their arguing had stopped.

After Tim had gone, Ava resigned herself to the fact she would be alone in the Claddagh flat. After the last months of acrimony with Tim, it was a welcome isolation for her. She could read in peace, and she could continue studying the IMC files without caustic and drunken remarks from him. She thought she would be happy, but there was a hollow, empty feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Ned stayed behind at the flat for s short while after Tim left. O'Casey was in good hands with a fellow IMC member who was used to going back and forth to America. Ned was mainly concerned about Ava. She seemed unusually quiet and introspective, so he joined her for a cup of coffee in the kitchen before he left.

"Will you be all right alone?" he asked her as they sipped their coffee, regarding one another.

"I'll be fine," she insisted. "Anything is better than the incessant arguing with Tim. Maybe this trip to America will restore his former humor."

Ned laughed. "Tim's former humor wasn't too uplifting, either, as I recall."

She had to smile. "He's always been an old bear, but being stuck inside made it seem worse."

"True. I'm hoping when this Bender thing blows over, Tim can return and the two of you can continue on as before."

"And when will that be?" she asked him.

Ned shrugged. "I don't think much longer. It's not as if Bender was some rich and important man. He was a private dick with a gambling problem. The investigation will remain open, but I'm sure the intensity of it will die down."

"And in the meantime?" she wanted to know, her tone cryptic.

"You'll stay here and reap the benefits of the administration files," he teased her.

"When can I see my daughter?"

Ned was quiet for a minute, which alerted Ava. She was still, waiting for him to speak.

"The abbey is being watched," he finally replied, scratching the side of his face, avoiding her eyes. "I suppose the police assume you'll try to get to Chee somehow, or have her sent to you, so they are watching Kylemore. There's no getting around it for the moment, I'm afraid."

"Damn," Ava swore. "Here I sit, in the same country as my only child, and I can't even see her, or pick up the phone to call her."

"I know, Ava," Ned tried to soothe her. "It can't be helped right now. We simply can't take any chances."

She looked away from Ned, the e-mail she sent to David flashing in her memory. It had been a stupid thing to do, and she wondered if she should tell Ned about it. Common sense said she should, but her heart stubbornly refused. She felt it was her private affair. Ned and the IMC didn't have to know every bloody detail. She decided not to tell him.

"I must have been born with the patience of a saint," she muttered, trying to adopt a light-hearted tone. "How else could I possibly cope with all of this?"

Ned looked at her carefully, smiling at her remark. He knew Ava Egan, and he could tell when she was holding something back, or trying to flash attention off herself and the subject at hand. He was tempted to pursue his hunch, but decided against it. He would wait and watch, like always. It had served him well over the years, and with the exception of Jeff Mullen's defection, it had never failed him. Whatever Ava was hiding would come to light sooner or later.

Ned stood up from the table. "I'll leave you to the files, then. How much have you managed to get through?"

"The master list and the weapons inventory," Ava replied, relieved she seemed to have thrown Ned.

"I'll be back in a few days. I have to make a trip to London tomorrow, but I should return fairly quickly. Do you need anything before I go?"

"No. I'm fine." She looked puzzled. "Are you sure it's safe for you to go into England?"

Ned grinned. "I'm not wanted by the law like you and Tim at the moment. You see, that's one of the benefits to being behind the lines, so to speak. The police can't really tie me to anything. I'm not involved out in the field in the physical sense, so they have nothing on me."

"How would it be?" she asked sarcastically.

"Very nice indeed," he winked at her with humor.

"Why do you have to go to England?" she continued, curious.

"I'm meeting with a possible supporter to our cause. Don't worry, it's all very up and up. I'm hoping they'll donate arms or money. I'll take either or both."

"Where in England?"

Ned arched an eyebrow at her, surprised by her questions. "London," he said simply, although Ava heard the finality of his tone. He'd answered enough questions.

"Be safe," she said lightly. "I'll see you when you get back. I'm sure I'll be right where you left me, parked at the table going through files."

Ned smiled at her. Then he turned and left the room.

Ava sighed deeply, and then exhaled with a groan. She hadn't displayed her true feelings in front of Ned - what good would it do? She was so tired of being cloistered over the Claddagh and ready to go stark, raving mad. She knew she had more emotional control than Tim in the same situation, and was grateful for her own perseverance. Where would she be without it?

She rose from the kitchen table and stretched briefly. She was hungry for a change and decided to make herself a sandwich before burying herself into the IMC administrative files again. Her mind wandered to David, but she willed herself to stop. What purpose would it serve to think about him, to wonder what he was doing at this exact moment?

Then Ava felt a flash of guilt assail her. She should be thinking about her daughter instead of David. Losing her appetite all of a sudden, she sat back down at the kitchen table and pulled out the IMC files. Nothing erased and replaced self-torture better than a good run-through of perfectly boring clinical reports which told her what she already knew: her life was mapped out for her now, and there was no going back.

Not even for David.

DAVID CALLED JADE at home the morning after the Scotland Yard visit. He told her quite plainly he had caught cold, and wouldn't be in for a few days. He gave her simple instructions to keep the work flowing smoothly, as if she didn't already know the routine by now.

He thought he would have felt better after a good night's rest, but he was still emotionally drained. He had fallen asleep on the sofa in front of the fire the previous night, and Bart left him there, covered with a blanket. Sometime during the course of the evening, David had risen and sought his bed, where he slept several hours more. He could not account for the empty, almost shaky feeling he had inside.

Shortly after calling Jade, David retreated to his study with a large cup of coffee. The hearth was ash, but he was in no mood to begin another fire. Instead, he drew the curtains open to let in the gray light. It was raining again, coming down in a steady drizzle. He returned to the sofa and sat down, draining his coffee in several swallows. All he really wanted to do was go back to bed, but he fought the urge. He would lie on the sofa, and try to regain some semblance of normalcy. He was half-ashamed of his weakness, and tried to rationalize he was simply under a great deal of stress, anticipating what was going to happen next. How could Ava have lived for years with the daily uncertainty? His mind was a jumbled mess. He knew he'd better sort it out quick.

It was early yet, just half past six o'clock. David did not expect Mrs. Kindersley for another hour. That was just enough time to lay prone on the sofa and think of nothing; to be nothing. But it was impossible. No matter what he did - or attempted to do - Ava came rushing into his head in one form or another. It consumed him with guilt as he felt he should also be thinking of Chee and what she must be going through, but he couldn't help himself.

The knock on the front door annoyed David. His first thought was Mrs. Kindersley had forgotten her key. Then he assumed it was Scotland Yard back again, and he felt his blood begin to boil. Leaping off the sofa, he strode out into the entryway of his townhouse and flung open the front doors.

There was a man standing outside, and for a brief second David thought he must be related to Tim O'Casey. The two did not necessarily resemble one another facially, but the man standing at his front door was tall and bulky like O'Casey except for the red hair and hard blue eyes. His nose was bulbous and padded, indicating it had once been broken. He regarded David coolly, almost arrogantly. David was immediately on the defensive.

"Can I help you?" David asked, not bothering to hide the annoyance in his voice.

"Maybe," the man answered, and David was instantly alerted to the Irish accent. His demeanor changed, and he became slightly less irritated.

"Are you David Lancaster?" The man asked. "Also known as Locksley?"

"Who are you?" David responded with his own question.

The man was silent for a moment, regarding David. Then he leaned closer and spoke softly: "I'm a friend of a friend."

"Indeed." David scoffed, suspicious at once. "The friend of a friend, really? Or are you on special assignment for the Yard?"

The man smiled, seemingly not offended. "Not quite. I'm here from Dublin for a visit. I was wondering if we might have a word? Inside, perhaps?"

David tried to think fast. The man was either from Dublin and in Ava's camp, or it was a pathetic attempt by Scotland Yard to entrap him. Which was it?

"Come in," he finally said. "But this will have to be quick. I'm rather busy today."

The man looked over his shoulder toward the street, and then stepped into the townhouse.

David shut the door. He whirled to face the red-haired man. "All right, please tell me who you really are and what you want," he snapped.

The man became equally blunt. "My name is Ned, and I come from Dublin. I'm here to take you to someone you know rather well, or think you know. Are you game? Will you trust me?"

"Take me to whom?" David prodded, although he already knew the answer.

"Ava," Ned said simply. "You're going to have to trust me."

David was dumfounded. His inner instinct told him to trust no one. But the other part of him, the part which was desperate to hear anything about Ava, proved to be the stronger of the two.

"I trust you," David said. "Did Ava send you?"

Ned shook his head. "No. You're going to be quite a surprise for her."

David was stunned. "You mean, she has no idea?"

"None. All the better though," Ned continued. "She needs something for her spirits, and I think you'll be just the ticket."

"She's not ill, is she?"

"No. Just going a bit stir-crazy. Look, you'll see her soon enough, and then you can ask her all the questions you like. I'm afraid I can't let you take very much with you, perhaps a small overnight case."

"How long will I be gone?" David wanted to know, suddenly concerned. "I've had Scotland Yard at my office, and God only knows if they're watching my house. Won't they notice if I leave for any length of time?"

Ned nodded. "I'm aware of what goes on with you Locksley, never fear. I have my own ways of getting information about the activities of the Yard, and it's probably more reliable than their own inside network. They are likely keeping their ears open, but they don't really think you have anything to do with a bunch of Irish terrorists. It must be the mysterious class system you belong to, and that I have yet to understand."

"I'm sure," David said dryly.

"You'll only be gone a day or two," Ned responded to his first question. "If anyone asks, you were here all the time and ill with the flu."

David had to laugh. "I called my secretary this morning, and told her I was ill. I'd say that was good timing, although my ailment was solely the result of a visit from the Yard yesterday."

"You'll have to tell me about it on the way over," Ned said. "You really need to get ready now."

"My housekeeper is due to arrive shortly," David spoke up. "What shall I tell her?"

"Call her and tell her to take a few days off."

David was unsure. "I've never done that before. She might think something is amiss."

"Call her anyway. Look, do you want to go with me or not?"

He could sense Ned Fermoy was fast losing patience. "I can be ready in ten minutes," David replied without hesitation. He wasn't about to let an opportunity to see Ava slip through his fingers again.



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.