The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep Page 6

“She wouldn’t get something like that wrong. Nobody forgets the name of his home town.”

“I suppose not. Evan-”

“Anything could have happened,” I said. “The Turks could have found it, some Armenians could have known about it and gone back for it, the new owners of the house could have remodeled and found it, but still-”

“You think it’s still there.”

“I think it’s possible.”

“Would it be very much?”

“Figure that a British sovereign is worth ten or twelve dollars today. Figure they had about half the actual volume of the hiding place filled with gold. Judging by the size of the porch as she described it and just estimating roughly, yes, it would be a lot of money.”

“How much?”

“I figured it out a little while ago. I can’t really estimate it-hell, I don’t really know that it’s there or that it was ever there in the first place.”

“How much?”

“A minimum of two million dollars. Possibly twice that much. Say three million dollars, maybe.”

“Three million dollars,” she said.

The next morning I went downtown and applied for a passport.

Chapter 4

It had all seemed magnificently simple then. I would fly to Istanbul and find some way of getting to Balikesir. I would work my way through the city-the present population is 30,000-until I found the house Kitty’s grandmother had described to me. Her description was almost, but not quite, as good as a photograph. A very large house, three stories tall, on an elevation not far from the railroad station, and blessed with that extraordinary porch. There could not be too many houses of that description in Balikesir.

If I found the house, I would have to investigate to see if the porch was still intact, then provide myself with an elementary metals detector and determine if there was anything inside. And, if the gold was there, then it would be simply a matter of digging it out and taking it away. A difficult matter, no doubt, but one that could be puzzled out later.

It struck me as very likely that the gold was no longer there or had not been there in the first place. Still, one does not conclude that the grapes are sour without even attempting to see if the vine is within reach.

Three million dollars-

Just a portion of that wealth could do extraordinary things for the League for the Restoration of Cilician Armenia. Another chunk of gold would facilitate a vital worldwide direct-mail campaign for the Flat Earth Society. And more, and more. There was all that gold-perhaps-doing nothing for anyone, lying unattended and unknown, and here were all these marvelous groups able to make such good use of it.

So I had to go.

And it seemed such a facile matter, at least the first stages. I would go to Turkey and work things out from that point on. There was every reason to go and no particular reason not to. Cudahy’s silly thesis was finished and would be accepted readily enough. I had completed my paper for the Jacobite Circle and mailed it off to their offices in Portree on the Isle of Skye. Most of all, I wanted to go. I feel that whenever possible one ought to do the things he wants to do.

How was I to know the damned Turks would arrest me?

Mustafa was poor company. He stayed with me like a summer cold and tried to shepherd me straight to the plane. I made for a newsstand and looked hungrily for something in English while Mustafa tugged at me. He could not have pried me loose with a crowbar. “Your mother was blinded by gonorrhea,” I told him reasonably. “If you don’t let me get something to read, I’ll kill you.”

The selection in English was dismal. There was a Turkish guidebook, a sort of anthropological sex manual by Margaret Mead, and four Agatha Christie mysteries. I bought everything but the Margaret Mead and let Mustafa get me onto the plane.

We sat in the tourist section. Evidently the Turkish Government intended to reroute spies as economically as possible. I had the middle seat between Mustafa and a fat schoolteacher-from Des Moines, I believe-who asked me at once if I was an American. I shook my head. She asked me if I spoke English, and I shook my head again. Then she put on her earphones and went to sleep.

The ride to Shannon was long, choppy, uncomfortable, and supremely dull. I was wedged between the sick-sweet lavender scent of the schoolteacher and the awesome pungence of Mustafa, who evidently had never been taught to bathe. I read the Turkish guidebook-there was hardly anything in it about Balikesir-and I read the four Agatha Christies. I’d read three of them before, but it didn’t really matter. After nine days in that cell I’d have read the Johannesburg phone directory and enjoyed it.

The food was good, at least. It was tasteless, naturally, but there was a fairly large piece of some sort of beef on the tray, far more meat than I had had in nine days. There were also some plastic green peas and a crunchy green and purple salad. I ate everything but found myself missing the pilaff. I might never have pilaff like that again, I thought, and then I realized how I could contrive to eat that pilaff in the future. All I had to do was go to Turkey. I would be instantly arrested and instantly jailed, and I would be fed toast and pilaff and pilaff for the rest of my life.

Except, of course, that I would never be able to return to Turkey. The Turkish Government would revoke my visa and never grant another, and the U.S. Government would probably cancel my passport. It was unfair. I had done nothing. I had simply gone quietly and legally to Turkey, but they take people’s passports away from them all the time. Which meant not only that I would not be able to go to Turkey again, but that I very possibly would not be able to go anywhere.

And throughout all of this there would be interrogation-endless interrogation. Why had I gone to Turkey? Who was I representing? What was I plotting? Who? What? Where? When? Why?

I have never liked being questioned. In all my sessions with the Federal Bureau of Investigation I have never enjoyed myself at all. I don’t like having some competent young man sit down in my apartment and ask questions about my friends and my associations and my ideas and all of the rest.

But in each of these sessions-and there have been many of them-I have had one ultimate weapon. I have always told these officious oafs the truth. I have never lied to them. Since they cannot find any sense or logic in the way I live my life, and since I don’t break their damned laws, they wind up going away and shaking their heads and clucking to themselves.

How could I tell them the truth now? How could I tell those people about the Armenian hoard?


I simply could not return to the United States. I simply could not land in Washington.

I looked over at Mustafa. He had his earphones plugged into the wax in his ears and was listening, expressionless, to a medley of folk songs performed by the Norman Luboff Choir. If only there were a way of ridding myself of Mustafa, perhaps I had a chance to avoid returning to Washington. But how? Even if he dropped dead on the spot, if one of Norman Luboff’s singers hit high C and burst a blood vessel in Mustafa’s little brain, I was still stuck on the damned airplane. How could I pry him away from me, and how could I pry myself off the flight?


We would be landing at Shannon. Shannon Airport in Ireland. Not Turkey, not the United States of America. Ireland. And we would have two precious hours between planes. We would get off this plane, Mustafa and I, and we would wait in Shannon Airport for two hours before it was time to board our flight for Washington. I would have two hours to rid myself of Mustafa.

I almost shouted at the beauty of it. I knew people in Ireland! I received mail from Ireland every month; almost every week. I was an active member of the Clann-na-Gaille and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. If I could find some of those people-any of them-I was safe. They would be my sort of people, my spiritual brothers. They would hide me, they would care for me, they would conspire with me!


I closed my eyes, tried to bring the map of Ireland into focus. Dublin in the center of the extreme right, Cork at the bottom, the Six Counties of Hibernia Irredenta at the top, Galway at the left. Below Galway, Shannon Airport. And near Shannon, what? Tralee? No, that was farther down and farther to the left. Now what was the city right near Shannon?


Of course, Limerick. And I knew someone in Limerick. I was sure I knew someone in Limerick. Who?

Francis Geoghan and Thomas Murphy lived in Dublin. P. T. Clancy lived in Howth, which was just north of Dublin, and Padraic Fynn lived in Dun Laoghaire, which was just south of Dublin, but there was someone in Limerick, and I merely had to remember his name.

Wait, now. Dolan? Nolan? I knew it, it was coming back, it only took thinking.

It was Dolan, P. P. Dolan, Padraic Pearse Dolan, named for the greatest of the Easter Monday martyrs who had proclaimed the Irish Republic from the steps of the Post Office in O’Connell Street. And he didn’t live in Limerick City but in County Limerick, and I remembered his whole address now: P. P. Dolan, Illan-oloo, Croom, Co. Limerick, Republic of Ireland.

Where was Croom? It couldn’t be far from Limerick itself. The whole county was not that large. If I reached him, he would hide me. He would welcome me and feed me and hide me.

If only I could get rid of Mustafa.

I looked at him, sitting contentedly while the music was piped into his ears. Dream on, I told him silently. You’ll get yours, little man.

Istanbul is about 1,500 miles from Shannon. We made the trip in about three hours, and the time zones canceled out the flying time almost exactly. It had been close to four o’clock when we left Istanbul and it was about that time when we dropped through the cloud cover over Ireland.

I wasn’t prepared for the greenness of it. The whole country is a brilliant green, cut up by piled-stone fences into patches of lime green and Kelly green and forest green, with thin swirling ribbons of gray road threading through the patchwork of green. There was a body of water topped with mist-the mouth of the Shannon? And there was green, miles and miles of green. I looked down at it, and something most unusual happened to me. All at once I was thinking in a rich brogue. All at once I was an Irishman and a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. It was my own home grounds we were coming to, and Mustafa did not have a chance.

We landed, taxied, stopped. I left my five books on the plane and walked at Mustafa’s side into the small one-story airport. Our luggage had been checked through to Washington, so there was no real customs check. We stood in one short line, and a pleasant young man in a green uniform checked our passports. Mustafa handed both passports to him, and the man returned them, and Mustafa took them both and pocketed them. He seemed very pleased with himself. He had my passport, after all, so where could I go?

Indeed, where could I go? Mustafa led me to a bench, and the two of us sat side by side upon it. I looked around. There was a door that led to the Shannon Free Shopping Center, where one could buy things at ludicrous prices before departing. I hoped Mustafa would buy himself some scented soap. There was a booth where two beautiful, green-clad girls dispensed travel folders and sold tickets for the Bunratty Castle tour. There was a men’s room. There were a pair of ticket counters for Pan Am and Aer Lingus, the Irish line. There was a ladies’ room. There was a coffee bar. There was-

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