The pledge was not of my making and I could have easily walked away without recrimination or guilt. And as much as I detest the futile obligations others might make on the spur of the moment I realized that I was the one who would either fulfill that pledge or fail. And the prospect of failing was not agreeable to either myself or the two other individuals involved in the matter. But if truth be known I would rather not have been involved and the acquaintance who called me friend and deliberately involved me in this matter will soon regret his part.
Sean O’Hara is an Irishman who recently emigrated to this country about four years ago. He told me that his was a member of the IRA and had chosen to leave his country because he was tired of being a soldier doing Sinn Finn dirty work. At least that was his story. I tend to take a reserved view of his claim. But as I would learn there was more than met the eye between him and the IRA. How I came to be involved was when O’Hara ran into some difficulty with his former employer and was significantly out of his depth. John Martin recommended that O’Hara contact me. In fact, Martin practically promised my help in the matter. Well, with so called friends like that, who needs enemies?
I was just sitting down with a good book and a dram or three of scotch when I heard a know on my door. A loud bang would have been a more apt description but I try to be good natured these days. After spending twenty five years in special units of law enforcement I was retired and wanting a quiet and peaceful life. I found being a paid security consultant far more relaxing. I could make my own hours and chose my own clients. So I set my book and drink down and went to the door. When I opened it there was Sean O’Hare burst in. “You George McBride?”
“Yes, and I don’t remember inviting you in my house.”
“Martin said you would help me. So what’s your fee and let’s get on with it. I haven’t time to lose.”
“John Martin, the one who works for First Responder Detective Agency, sent you here to see me? Why? I haven’t talked to him in two years.”
“Martin said you were a friend of his and a regular guy. Said you’d know what to do. Said he talked to you yesterday about it. So come on, I ain’t got time to waste.”
“I just told you I haven’t talked to Martin in two years. Furthermore I have no idea what all this is about. And I choose my clients, not the other way round, and certainly I would not chose you. Good night to you.”
Wait a minute, martin said you’d help. He promised me, he promised. Look you just got to help me. The lives of my wife and daughter are at stake. Come on, we got a deadline to meet. You just can’t let them kill my wife and daughter. We got to go now.”
“Sit down, there. I am not going anywhere until I hear your story and then I’ll decide if I want the job.” I poured im a finger of scotch to calm his nerves. Alcohol acts as a depressant, slows the body’s responses down. “Now take a deep breath and then tell me the particulars in your case.” He gulped the shot down like water and then held the tumbler out as if asking for more. “Only one shot to a customer. Now speak and leave.”
O’Hare was not quite average in size but appeared to be built in that deceptive wiry manner. His movements were nervous, perhaps a little agitated. His red hair gave his creamy complexion the paleness of death with a few freckles thrown in for comic relief. Thin lips, grey eyes, ears that stood out more than average, not what I’d call a prized package but he needed watching. He had the look of unpredictability about him. It is a look I’ve seen far too many times.
“Look, my name’s O’Hara, Sean O’Hara. I come from Cork but I’ve been living in Belfast until the last four years. Some men came to my house here, I live over on Oak and third street, and they started talking to me, threatening me. Said that if I didn’t do a job for them harm would come to my family, I mean my wife and daughter. Well, I sent them away. said I was through with all that and don’t come back again. That was last week. Then yesterday I got a phone call and I recognized the voice. He said that they had my wife and daughter. Said if I didn’t do the job they kill them both. well, I rushed home and saw the door had been broken down and my wife and daughter were no where to be found. That’s when I called Martin and he said to see you. So come on, lets get going. We got to save my wife and daughter.” He stared to rise out of his chair, but I pushed him back down.
“So someone has your wife and daughter. Have you gone to the Police?”
“No, I can’t go the the police. they said they would know if I did and would kill my wife and daughter immediately. Come on, we go to go now.” Again, he tried to stand up and again I pushed him back down.
“You still haven’t told me what’s this job you’re suppose to do and why it’s so urgent.” I was still standing over him.
“Look, I’m suppose to kill some politician in the city. Some bloke named Forsythe. He’s suppose to be banning sales of weapons to Ireland or something like that. They said he was going to go after their organization and that he had to be killed. Look, I don’t even have a gun, so what am I suppose to do? Come on, we got to go now.” This time he remained sitting.
“So what do you expect me to do, assassinate this politician? Do I look stupid? Hell, I won’t even lend you a gud to do it. Get the hell out of here.” I stood aside and pointed to the door.
“But they’ll kill my wife and daughter.” I sensed he was tired, fatigued really. Then he just looked at me as if their deaths would be my fault. He added in a few tears for good measure. I didn’t believe his story, not that it may be true or may not. No, there were too many missing elements.
“Look, you’re going to have to be more forthcoming with information. You see, I really have no reason to believe your story. Number one, who is they?”
O’Hara slumped his shoulders and leaned forward. “I use to be in the IRA back in Belfast. These people, well three of them are American and one is Irish. The Americans are the ones that do a lot of the money work here. You know, laundering drug and crime money and buying weapons for the IRA back in Ireland. That Irishman is their boss. see, we don’t trust the American Irish to do their jobs well or to have commitment to the cause. Now the Americans may not want to harm my wife and daughter but the Irishman will carry out that threat. So you see, if I don’t do what the boss wants, my family dies. I know Kennedy, I know his type. He takes too much enjoyment in his work. So you see, you’ve got to help me.”
I sat in my chair and took a sip of scotch. It’s hard to tell a man you can’t kill a US senator just to save his family. Martin might have taken the job if there’d been money enough, but I thought him too much to coward to kill in cold blood. When one is in the service killing is usually a matter of kill or be killed, no two ways about it. True, some didn’t think much of it, a few even enjoyed it. Me, I never liked doing it. I just knew it had to be done and left it at then. So I asked O’Hara outright. “Why are you here in this country? Why did you leave the IRA?” His answer didn’t surprise me.
“I got to hating the killing. I mean, its one thing when you face an armed man and he knows you’re there. It’s another when you take them by surprise and they never have a change to defend themselves. And when others are hurt or killed, others who never did any harm. Well, it’s too much. I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. I felt I was going mad.” It was a good sign. I think I can believe him now.
“Yes, I think you were right to get out. Now they need you because they don’t have someone to count on, right?”
“I think you’re right. I don’t think Kennedy trusts the Americans to do the assassination. But I’m not sure I can go through with it. I might make a muck of it, maybe only wound the man. But I’ve got to do something. that’s why I came to you.”
“I’ll take your job but I won’t kill Forsythe. If we can find Kennedy we can make a deal. But you’ll have to trust me on this. any idea where we can find any of these four people? Oh, when’s this assassination suppose to be done and where?”
“Joe Morgan, one of the Americans, told me to call him at this number for further instructions. He said to use my cell phone so as to keep it private. The other two Americans I only know by first name, Pete and Ernie. But I don’t know where they live or work.”
“Sean, if you saw pictures of them would you recognize them?”
“I don’t know, I think I would.” I stood up and went to the closet for my coat. Then I went to my gun safe and picked out a Walthers PPK and put it in my belt.
“Come on, we’re going to my office now. I’ve got some work to do and then we can do something smart about this mess.”
We arrived at my offices in the Westlake building. It’s neither modern nor old but it does have a few features I like. As we passed through the front doors we came to the reception desk. I had Sean walk through the metal detector first. No alarm went off, a good sign. If he had been carrying I would have called the police right then. I then told the guard I was carrying and went around the detector. He started to object. “I’m Mr Conway and we’re going up to my office.” That was enough to satisfy the guard. “Log the weapon for tonight. We like to keep things tidy.”
My offices are on the fifth floor. I have a nice view of the hills when I’m there. The door is locked but I see the code light above and I know someone is working late. I let us in and see Bob Ellis is working late tonight. “Bob, you doing anything important?”
“I’m working on the Wheeling case. they think they have an inside informant.”
“I may need you tonight, can you spare the time?”
“Almost through now, can you give me half an hour?”
“Sure thing. Make some coffee, please, if you would. This is going to take a couple of hours.”
For convenience i sat at one of the agents desks, we don’t use cubicles. then I log into several computers and the associated screens. We love security too. Before I do anything else I make a telephone call on the office land line. I’m connected to the US Marshals office in Washington. They put me through to the officer of the watch and I identify myself and what I want. Lucky for me it’s old Zeb. Zeblon “Peak” Pike. He hasn’t retired yet and likes taking the night watches. “Zeb, I need to access some files we have on the IRA activities, maybe cross reference with FBI and ATF files. Got an in for me?
“What you working on George? You’re suppose to be retired.”
“Think I got a lead on some new activities of the IRA. Want to get Red out of bed, tell him to give me a call in the next hour?”
“You always was a crazy one. George. This is what I can do for you now.” Zeb woke some people up and set my computer links up for clearance. Seems the files on IRA activity had burgeoned in the last year. Red called back about half an hour later and on the speaker was a new guy, Marlon Johnston out of Boston. We discussed the activities with Sean giving his information. Then Red said. “You know Mr O’Hara is on a hot wanted list. We’ve been looking for him for four years.” Sean started to become uneasy, but I motioned to him to be cool.
“Yeah, I figured as much. But he’s clean, no weapon on him. I think he can be of use to us in identifying four of the organization and fingering the Irish head. Think we can get a deal? Maybe immunity and witness protection?”
Marlon spoke first. “We need to make it stick and we’d like more information. Will he spill?”
I turned to Sean. “They want more information, most likely names and actions of some of your Irish compatriots. You got to choose how deep you want to get for being on Uncle sam’s dime.”
Sean thought for a while and then asked Marlon. “What do you want to know?” We spent the next three hours digging through photographs, intel accounts, and cross references.
Finally Marlon spoke. “I’ll talk to Jason in DOJ. You’ll get asylum and witness protection. Now George, you got a plan?”
“Yeah, I’ll have Sean make the call and it’ll be recorded. I have the equipment here in the office. Then we make to drop or whatever arrangements. That’ll tell us when, where, and how. Out window is short. Meanwhile, Red, can you contact Forsythe and his people? we will need their cooperation. Finally, Marlon, Kennedy is the key. We may not be able to take him directly. That means a deal like expulsion from the country. Are you willing to go that far?”
None of us were very happy about the possible outcomes. Sixteen years as a US Marshal had taught me the there were no neat outcomes. Not at this level. Criminals were easy, they either went along or were shot and killed. Foreign intrigue was a different dog. These guys were never easy, never neat and many times you lost. But we had a chance to do some damage and break up one IRA cell. A small victory, but a victory.
I set up the electronic equipment and Had Sean call Morgan. We captured the call, the information and Morgan’s location. Then I had a local Marshal cruse the area where Morgan’s call came from. What would have taken thousands of man hours in the old days now took minutes. We were closing in on the cell. Things looked promising. Morgan would drop off the rifle used to kill the senator and we were able to place a gps transmitter on his vehicle. The IRA plan was simple enough. Forsyth was to give a speech on the steps of the library at one pm Friday afternoon, two days from now. well, make that a day and a half as the time was closer to five am. Of course Sean was the sacrificial lamb since he was not expected to get away without detection. Most likely hie wife and daughter would also be killed shortly after the attempt on the senator’s life. What we needed was a break, a slip up on the part of the American members of the IRA cell. It’s a thin line between life and death when one must depend on the mistakes of others.
The police were alerted to be on the lookout for the three Americans. We had photographs of them. Kennedy was the only one we had no visual evidence. Sure, Sean could identify him but that was the problem, no one else could. The British we of little help as well. This guy Kennedy was more like a KGB mole, buried deep in the body politic of America. On the other hand we had the location of several places of known IRA activity and each was under surveillance. It was a question of time. Meanwhile the senator was informed. Initially he did not want to play any part in our game of charades. Politicians, for all their bravado are really cowards. But I was personally able to convince him that he stood to gain public stature, we would cut him in on the story and make him a hero. The last was too much to for him to resist. Time for some special effects.
To rescue the wife and daughter the senator must appear to be at least shot if not killed outright. Blanks in the rifle would do the trick and hollywood would supply the exploding bullet wound with blood. Simple enough. Ellis would supervise Sean and his rifle fire. Two shots were to be let loose and then Sean would be allowed to get away. The senator would fake his own death for channel seven news. Then the race would be on to find Kennedy and the hostages. What seems simple often is complicated and prone to mistake. One slipup and we would give away the plot.
I am please to say that for once, everything worked beautifully. The senator died as expected, Sean eluded the police, and the four Americans in the IRA cell were identified and followed. They led us to a townhouse in the more ritzy part of town. Unfortunately for us, we were not able to observe the man we thought might be Kennedy. the four were kept under surveillance while Sean contacted Morgan. “Okay, I did your hit. Now where are my wife and daughter?”
We could tell that Morgan was surprised that sean had gotten away. “Uh, you will be contacted where they are to be picked up.” That was the end of the story. I feared that both women were dead or were about to be executed. Sean was getting desperate, hard to hold back from becoming rash. But I had at least one more card to play. The four Americans were picked up and taken to a near by police station for questioning. The good cop, bad cop routine usually gets results as does the threat of accessory to murder. Give people an out and they will sing a song. It may be crooked but it is information.
So we had two locations where we might find Kennedy. It was now a cat and mouse game. Only Sean could identify him and yet Kennedy knew what Sean looked like. The first man to spot the other wins. I wanted better odds. with a little help from a makeup artist we could neutralize Sean’s identity. It proved to be the edge we needed.
Kennedy is not unknown but neither is he conspicuous. If I were a foreign agent that is how I would wish to appear. Morgan had given us a clue to the whereabouts of Kennedy. That one mistake paid off, or so we thought. We found Kennedy in the downtown area known as the Freedom Plaza Condominiums, very high society. Sean id’d him and we followed him to his condo. The hostages were not there. I took out my automatic and threaten to blow his brains out, personally. I even threatened to make the last hours of his life the most painful he had ever known. “You Americans think you are very cleaver. The woman and child are dead. You’ll never find their bodies.”
With that announcement Sean leaped at Kennedy ans started to choke him. Kennedy just grinned. I could have stopped him, but why bother. I pledged to help Sean and I saw this as the help he needed to come to terms with the grief that followed. As for justice and Kennedy? Who gives a damn?