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The phone rang. For some reason its peal stilled him. He lifted the handset slowly. The sacred heart lamp was guttering. He’d have to get a new one next time he went down the road.
The voice on the line had a hint of American. ‘This is Patrick O’Carolan?’
‘It is, sure.’
‘Hello, Mr O’Carolan. Your code word is Dan Breen. Could you confirm you understand me?’
There was something else under the American note in the voice, a hint of something deep and dark. Pat’s tongue felt double the size, his voice thick. ‘Yes.’ Damn his hesitancy, it sounded like he had a stutter. He mustered his wits; his eyes squeezed shut to block out the nightmares of the past. ‘Yes, I confirm.’ As he spoke, his mind shrieked: No, tell them no. Tell them you don’t know what the fuck they’re on about and to leave me and my niece alone.
It all started with Sarah's uncle Pat. He's a mild-mannered, gentle man who keeps a small herd of milk cows on a wee farm up on the margins of the Cummermore Bog in South Tipperary. He likes tea. As a younger man, he was a bit of a Republican. The Irish kind, not the looney gun-totin' American type. Being a bit 'green' as a lad hardly marks you out in South Tipperary, you understand.
I've long teased Sarah with dark mutterings about how uncle Pat's sitting on an IRA arms cache. It's amusingly incongruous if you know Pat.
And then one day it hit me. Hang on. What if he WAS? And what if bad people came calling? Really bad people. And what if he had a past? And what if...?
I started to throw the idea around and pick it up by its ears to see if it squealed. I did a little research and yes, it could work. I worried a bit about what I was setting out to do to Pat, the placid, kind man with a Pioneer badge who'd done nothing to deserve being turned into a gun-toting leviathan. And then I got over it and started writing. That's the trouble with this writing thing, it tears away your morality and leaves you stealing people, plucking this trait from here, that sentence from there.
Don't ever chat to a writer. Seriously. You just can't trust 'em. You never know where your unplucked nasal hair, kipper tie and Bootle accent is going to turn up next...