Luke reached An Chéim Bhriste planning to do violence.
If I can’t have her by hook, I’ll have her by crook.
A screwdriver jammed into the lock of her French door would provide easy access. He would break in when she and that night’s pickup were sleeping, give the man a bang on the head with a rock from her heather bed, and then have some fun with Máire. He would tie her up afterwards and be gone to England on the boat by the time the alarm was raised on Monday or Tuesday.
As he waited in her dark and silent garden, thinking about the consequences, his desire for immediate revenge cooled. There was no point in being hasty. In the bushes behind her house a plan came to him — a better plan, one which did not involve giving up everything to flee. A plan where pleasure would be maximised and risk minimised.
There would be no third party. Just him and Máire. He would break in on a Friday night wearing proper gloves, a balaclava, shoes and clothes he would dispose of afterwards. He would have some fun with her into Saturday morning, tie her up good, lock down the house, and return after work on Saturday evening for a whole day with her. Then she would disappear. He knew lots of places along the tracks where a body could lie undiscovered for years. Her car could be driven to any number of lonely coves along the mouth of the Shannon to make it look like she had ended her own life. He could even wear the wig he had bought for Farrah while he drove her Subaru, in case anyone spotted him.
It would be a busy weekend with lots of details to get right — exhausting, but exhilarating. If planned and executed correctly he would get away scot-free. If the gardaí suspected him at all, he would be far down the list. Would they not go after the string of men she had slept with in the last few months? The only worries were Senán, Trish and Farrah. They knew he had been following Máire. But their silence could be guaranteed by the usual method. He had something on all of them.
The cut of the man Máire brought home that night added insult to the injury of her rejection. He was what Francie would have described as a “butty little man” — short and overweight. It gave Luke no pleasure to watch him cavort with Máire on her couch. She clearly found him to be a wonderful lover, and hilarious to boot. He had never seen her laugh so much during foreplay. She screamed with laughter as the little fat man tickled her with tongue and lips, and when he performed cunnilingus and she climaxed he could hear her screams through the French doors.
In the bedroom the man was much more passive than any of her other lovers. He lay on the bed and let her do what she pleased, the coup de grâce being her straddling him and screwing him slowly until he orgasmed. It was out of habit rather than arousal that Luke masturbated as he watched this. His ejaculation into her flower bed was done with disgust instead of the usual feeling of triumphant relief.
Afterwards he walked quickly down the Peafield Road feeling cold and tired and looking forward to getting home, having a warming cup of tea and collapsing into bed. He would have a lie-in until mid-afternoon — there would be no visit from Farrah, after all — and not leave the house all day. He would watch a box set while his grandparents were out, review the new videos of Máire and think about what he was going to do.
He was deep in thought when he arrived at Walsh’s car park, and between this and his tiredness he wasn’t as wary or alert as he normally would have been. The other car in the walled-in space did not attract his attention, and as he opened his boot to put his rucksack inside, it was far from his mind that he might be jumped. But before he knew what was happening, a pair of men had grabbed either arm and were dragging him roughly to a small graveyard up the road from the pub. Protest was made impossible by a sharp punch to the solar plexus from a third man.
As he struggled for breath and the men clamped his arms to his sides he heard a voice, male, deep and husky.
“What have you been doing in that woman’s garden?”
Luke’s silence earned him another punch in the gut.
“Now,” said the voice. “Too many punches like this aren’t good for you, so you’d better start talking.”
Luke didn’t know the voice, but he knew the accent. Country. Tipperary. A bit like Senán’s accent, with a lilt at the end of each sentence.
“Senán,” he gasped to his left, guessing that he was one of the silent men holding him. “Senán.”
Another punch came.
“Shut the fuck up, Peeping Tom.”
Luke saw blue flashes dancing over the glow of the city’s lights. He retched.
“Listen. I’ll save you the effort. We know you’ve been stalking that woman. Looking in her windows. And pulling your wire.”
The man paused for effect. Luke looked up, squinting, and saw a Donald Trump mask. He had sold quite a few in the shop at Halloween. The man’s breath smelled like cigarettes.
“We have it all on candid camera. Here — take a look.”
The man took a phone out of his pocket and played a video for Luke. It was a high-quality night-vision recording of Luke masturbating outside Máire’s bedroom window. He knew from his attire that it was from that very night. Someone must have hidden a streaming night-vision camera in the garden.
Senán, he thought.
“You’re fucked if we send this to the police. We’ve a whole week’s worth of these. You do a lot of wire-pulling, don’t you? You’re fond of the aul’ wanking?”
The man to his right sniggered. This man was definitely not Senán.
“The penny’s dropped with you now, Lukey boy. You know we’ve cameras in her garden. And we’re watching the other girl you’re stalking too. You know who we mean.”
It has to be Senán, he thought, it has to be!
“So your stalking days are over. D’ya hear me?”
This time the man gave Luke a dig in the groin. His legs collapsed from under him, but the other men held him up. His interrogator lit a cigarette and smoked through the air hole in the mask while he waited for Luke’s rapid breathing to subside.
“Now. We know you’re not a stupid young fella. A twisted pervert, maybe. But not stupid. So you’ll listen. You’ll stay away from that woman up there and you’ll stay away from the other young one. Forever. Got it? No more sniffing around them.”
The man waited until Luke grunted an affirmation.
“This,” said the man, holding up and tapping his phone, “is our insurance policy against Lukey-Luke misbehaving himself. Got it?”
Luke managed a yes.
“Good man. Now. What does behaving yourself mean?”
The man looked at Luke awaiting an answer. Luke couldn’t get any words out.
“I know you’ve problems speaking so I’ll tell ya.”
There was another snigger to Luke’s right.
“You never show up around here again. If you’re seen in that woman’s garden or even on this road, the cops are getting these videos. And the world wide web as well. Also, if you bother the other young one in question, you’re in for the same treatment. And as well as the guards getting involved, the three of us will give you a good seeing-to into the bargain. Got it?”
The man threw his cigarette to the ground and shot a hand towards Luke’s throat, which it gripped with ferocious strength. Luke instinctively kicked out at the man and received a punch to the temple for his efforts. The man squeezed for ten or twenty seconds before letting go.
“You deserve to have seven shades of shite beaten out of you, you sick fucker, but we’ll leave it at this. Drop him, boys.”
The other men released their grip on Luke and he fell to the ground, his hands arriving too late to save his face from banging into the gravel. He lay prone, listening to the footsteps retreat. He pulled himself up after he heard the car engine die away.
When Luke arrived back to his car, walking woozily and with a sick feeling in his stomach and cold throbbing in his groin, the boot’s hatch was still aloft. Gingerly stretching an arm up to close it, wincing from the pain in his diaphragm, he saw that his rucksack was missing. He cursed Senán and the other two men. He would have screamed if he had the strength, would have pounded on the glass of the hatchback and roared into the night. As it was, he barely whispered.
“I’ve lost everything,” he said to the cold night air.