The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep Page 10

I was tired, and my body ached from the cycling. I went through the Hatha Yoga relaxation ritual, relaxing groups of muscles in turn by tightening them and letting them relax all the way. When this was completed I did my deep, measured, breathing exercises. I concentrated on an open white circle on a field of black, picturing this symbol in my mind and thinking of nothing else. After about half an hour I let myself breathe normally, yawned, stretched, and got up from the mattress.

I went downstairs. The turf fire still burned in the hearth. I sat in front of it and let myself think of the gold in Balikesir. My mind was clearer now, and I felt a good deal better physically, with the effects of the whiskey almost completely worn off.

It’s difficult to remember what sleep was like or how I used to feel upon awakening; sensory memory is surprisingly short-lived. I do not believe, though, that sleep (in the days when I slept) ever left me as refreshed as twenty minutes or an hour of relaxation does now.

The gold. Obviously I had gone about things the wrong way. It would now be necessary to approach the whole situation through the back door, so to speak. I would stay in Ireland just long enough for the manhunt for the notorious Evan Michael Tanner to cool down a bit. Then I would leave Ireland and work my way through continental Europe and slip into Turkey over the Bulgarian border. I would set up way stations along the route, men I could trust as I had trusted P. P. Dolan.

Europe was filled with such men. Little men with special schemes and secret dark hungers. And I knew these men. Without asking an eternity of questions, without demanding that I produce a host of documents, they would do what they had to do, slipping me across borders and through cities, easing me into Turkey and out again.

Was it fantastic? Of course. Was it more fantastic than lying on a mattress between the ceiling and the thatched roof of an Irish cottage? No, not really.

I was, I thought, rather like a runaway slave bound for Canada, following the drinking gourd north, stopping at the way stations of the Underground Railway. It could be managed, I realized. It needed planning, but it could be managed.

I was so lost in planning that I barely heard her footsteps on the stairs. I turned to her. She was wearing a white flannel wrapper and had white slippers upon her tiny feet.

“I knew you were down here,” she said. “Is it difficult for you to sleep up there?”

“I wasn’t tired. I hope I didn’t wake you?”

“I could not sleep myself. No, you were quiet, I didn’t hear you, but I thought that you were down here. Shall I build the fire up?”

“Not on my account.”

“Will you have tea? Oh, and are you hungry? Of course you are. What you must think of us, pouring jars of punch into you and giving you nothing to eat. Let me fry you a chop.”

“Oh, don’t bother.”

“It’s no bother.” She made a fresh pot of tea and fried a pair of lean lamb chops and a batch of potatoes. We ate in front of the fire and afterward sat with fresh cups of tea. She asked me what I was going to do. I told her some of the ideas that had been going through my mind, ways of getting back into Turkey.

“You’ll really go, then.”


“It must be grand to be able to go places, just to go and do things. I was going to take the bus to Dublin last spring, but I never did. It’s just stay home and cook for Da and Tom and care for the house. It’s only a few hours to Dublin by bus. Can you ever go back to your own country, Evan?”

“I don’t know,” I said slowly.

“For if you’re in trouble there-”

“I hadn’t even thought of that. I can’t go back now, but when it all blows over-”

“You could stay in Ireland, though.” Her eyes were very serious. “I know you’re after getting the gold now, but when you’ve taken the treasure and escaped with it, why, if you couldn’t get back to America, you could always come to Ireland.”

“I don’t think the Irish Government cares too much for me just now.”

“Sure, you’re a ten-day wonder, but they’ll forget you. And anyone can get into Ireland. It’s getting out of Ireland that everyone’s after, you know. You could come back.”

I realized, suddenly, that she had put on perfume. She had not been wearing any scent earlier in the evening. It was a very innocent sort of perfume, the type a mother might buy her daughter when she wore her first brassiere.

“Are you a Catholic, Evan?”


“A Protestant, then.”

“No. I don’t have a religion exactly.”

“Then, if you wanted to, you could become a Catholic?”

“If I wanted to.”


“I thought of it once. A very good friend of mine, a priest, made a fairly heroic effort to convert me. It didn’t take.”

“But that’s not to say it couldn’t some other time, is it?”

“Well, I don’t think-”

She put her hand on mine. “You could come back to Ireland,” she said slowly, earnestly. “Not saying that you will or won’t, but you could. And you could turn Catholic, though not saying will or won’t.” Her cheeks were pink now, her eyes bluer than ever in the firelight. “It’s a sin all the same, but not so serious, you know. And if Father Daly hears my confession, instead of Father O’Neill, he won’t be so hard on me. Ah, Nora, hear yourself! Talking of the confession and penance before the sin itself, and isn’t that a sin of another sort!”

We kissed. She sighed gratefully and set her head on my chest. I ran a hand through her black hair. She raised her head and our eyes met.

“Tell me lies, Evan.”

“Perhaps I’ll come back to Ireland, and to Croom.”


“And perhaps, God willing, I’ll find my faith.”

“You’re the sweetest liar. Now one more lie. Who do you love?”

“I love you, Nora.”

We crawled through the trapdoor to my little crow’s nest between ceiling and roof. I retrieved the ladder and the panel and closed us in. No one would hear us, she assured me. Her father and brother slept like the dead, and sounds did not carry well in the cottage.

She would not let me light the candle. She took off her robe in a corner of the room, then crept to my side and joined me under all the quilts and blankets. We told each other lies of love and made them come true in the darkness.

There had, I found, been other liars before me, a discovery that filled me at once with sorrow and relief.

Afterward she slept, but only for a few moments. I held her in my arms and drew the covers over us both. When she awoke she touched my face, and we kissed.

“A tiny sin,” she said, not very seriously this time.

“Hardly a sin at all.”

“And if I’d been born to be perfect, they’d surely have put me away in a convent, and then who would care for Da?”

She left me, found her robe, opened the trapdoor, and started down the ladder. “Now,” she said, “now you’ll sleep.”

Chapter 7

In the hours before breakfast I read a popular biography of Robert Emmet and several chapters from The Lives of the Saints. Around five-thirty I stepped outside the cottage. A mist was rising from the countryside and melting under the glow of false dawn. The air had a damp chill to it. It was not raining, but it felt as though it might start again at any moment.

A few minutes past six Nora came down and started breakfast. She wore a skirt and sweater and looked quite radiant. Her father and brother followed a few minutes later. We ate sausages and eggs and toast and drank strong tea.

Before long I was alone again. Tom had gone to return the bicycle and retrieve my suit and passport, Nora was off for church and then a round of shopping, and Dolan had left to join a crew mending a road south of the town. I sat down with a pad of notepaper and a handful of envelopes and began writing a group of cryptic letters. It would be well, I felt, to leave as soon as possible and it would probably not be a bad idea if some of my prospective hosts on the continent had a vague idea that they were about to have a clandestine house guest on their hands. I couldn’t be sure what route I might take, what borders would be hard to cross or where I would be unwelcome, so I wrote more letters than I felt I could possibly need. The intended recipients ranged as far geographically as Spain and Latvia, as far politically as a Portuguese anarcho-syndicalist and a brother and sister in Roumania who hoped to restore the monarchy. I didn’t expect to see a quarter of them, but one never knew.

I made the letters as carefully vague as I could. Some of my prospective hosts lived in countries where international mail was opened as a matter of course, and others in more open nations lived the sort of lives that made their governments inclined to deny them the customary rights of privacy. The usual form of my letters ran rather like this:

Dear Cousin Peder,

It is my task to tell you that my niece Kristin is celebrating the birth of her first child, a boy. While I must travel many miles to the christening, I have the courage to hope for a warm welcome and shelter for the night.



The names and phrasing were changed, of course, to fit the nationality of the recipient and the language of each letter was the language of the person to whom it was sent. I finished the last one, sealed them all and addressed as many envelopes as I could. I couldn’t remember all the addresses but knew I could learn most of the ones I was missing in London. Almost all my groups have contacts in London.

I couldn’t mail the letters from Croom, of course, and wasn’t sure whether or not it would be safe to mail them all from the same city, anyway. But at least they were written.

When Nora came back to the cottage she kept blushing and turning from me. “I’m to have nothing to do with you,” she said.

“All right, then.”

“Must you accept it so readily?”

I laughed and reached for her. She danced away, blue eyes flashing merrily, and I lunged again and fell over my own feet. She hurried over to see if I was all right, and I caught her and drew her down and kissed her. She said I was a rascal and threw her arms around me. We broke apart suddenly when there was a noise outside, and the door flew suddenly open. It was Tom. His cycle-or mine, or Mr. Mulready’s-was in a heap at the doorstep.

“Mr. Tanner fell down,” Nora began, “and I was seeing whether he’d broken any bones, and-”

Tom only had time for one quick doubting look at her. He was out of breath, and his face was streaked with perspiration. “The old woman at the pub found your suit,” he said. “Went to the gardai. They traced you to Mulready, and the fool said you were bound for Croom, and there’s a car of them on the road from Limerick. I passed them coming back.”

“You passed them?”

“I did. They had a flat tire and called for me to help them change it. Help them! Two of them there were, and having trouble changing a tire. I asked where they were headed for, and they said Croom, and I said I’d be right back and give them a hand, and I came straight here. They’ll be here soon, Evan. They’ll ask at the tavern and find out you went there for directions to our house. You’d best go to your room.”

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