by Kate Sweeney
"Are you nuts?" I asked them collectively.
Maureen Costello and Hannah shared hopeful looks. Maggie smiled slightly, reserving her opinion—for the moment.
Costello stepped up. "Ryan, it’s a good idea. If you’d just think about it."
I stared at the freckle-faced Irish pain in my arse. "It’s a horrible idea." I looked at Maggie. "Isn’t it?"
"Kate," Hannah started, "just think about it. Maureen left her home in Ireland, she’s that sure about this. I think she’s got a good idea."
"Starting up a PI business again?" I asked helplessly. I looked again at Maggie for support. Isn’t that what partners do?
"Kate, you need to do what you think is right." Maggie had good sense, which was one of the millions reasons I loved her.
"But you also need to look at the big picture and make sure you’re not having a knee-jerk reaction." Maggie grinned and added, "Sweetie."
Deep down, I knew Maggie was right. I just wished she hadn’t used the word "jerk."
See, here was my dilemma. Maggie, Hannah, and I had come back from Ireland; we realized some disturbing facts while in the cute maniacal village of Malinmore—Bridget Donnelly, whom I thought was dead in the freezing Irish Atlantic nearly a year before, was in fact very much alive and for lack of a better word, stalking me. We met Maureen Costello who was an investigator for the judicial system in Ireland, and Bridget killed her partner, Dr. Rose Clancy, but we still had no concrete proof and didn’t know why she killed her, but Rose had my name written on a piece of paper when Costello found her body, hence the reason for meeting Costello.
After we solved absolutely nothing, we left Ireland but first informed the authorities in Dublin, who had contacted the FBI and, well, hell, it was all a convoluted mess because being my life, it couldn’t be anything else. And we couldn’t do a thing without seeing and/or finding darling, whack-job Bridget. It was all speculation, and it had put us on edge to say the least.
So what happened next? Costello showed up the previous week with a wild hair up her Irish rump; she had this impossible idea. She quit her job, rented her house out to tourists, and moved here to Chicago without any provocation from me, and of course, Hannah had put her up in a hotel downtown for now, the softhearted woman she was. Costello told us then she wanted to start a private investigation business with guess who? Oh, she’d do all the legwork and I’d just be a silent partner and mentor for this young jackass. She’d been pounding at it for the past week.
I said no. Actually, I asked them if they were all nuts, which brings us to the conversation we were having now.
Hannah gathered her purse. "Come along, everyone. We need lunch. I know a nice restaurant on Navy Pier. It’s a beautiful day."
Again with the eating…No one argued when Hannah got that tone in her voice. We all piled in my car without a word.
I looked around the table and had to laugh at the serious look on Costello’s face as she read the menu. Hannah had already ordered her cocktail and an appetizer enough to feed the Third Marine Division that was sure to arrive any minute.
"That will be enough for lunch and dinner." Hannah took off her glasses and sipped her drink. "Okay, Kate. Let’s get down to it."
"Let’s not." I felt the pinch on my knee and winced. "Okay, okay." I took a drink of water.
"Ryan," Costello said softly. "Hannah filled me in on what happened to you and your partner. I can see where you wouldn’t want to go back to that again."
I nodded but didn’t answer her. What could I say? She was exactly right. Why in the hell would I go back to being a PI again on any level?
"But Bridget Donnelly’s still out there," Costello continued. "She killed Rose, and now she’s after you. You know that."
"It’s very disconcerting." Maggie stared at her iced tea glass.
"That’s putting it mildly, considering she’s a nut bag." The server came by with the appetizer, and we silently waited until she walked away.
"The Dublin authorities were stymied. Did you recall the looks on their faces?" Hannah sighed and took a drink. We all dipped into the food—silence ensued for a heavenly few minutes.
"You can’t blame how shocked they were." I swallowed a mouthful of nachos. "I mean, they looked for Bridget’s body for nearly six months on end, finding nothing. They finally give up, and her poor mother had a funeral for her. Then we show up and turn the woman’s life upside down."
"It’s unnerving to sit here and talk about her knowing she’s out there but not knowing what she’s going to do next." Maggie reached over and covered my hand with hers.
"It’ll be fine." Costello tried to sound positive. "The Dublin police are taking care of it over there. I suppose there’s not much the FBI can do unless…" Her voice trailed off, as if not wanting to finish that sentence; she picked the pathetic remains of the food. It looked like we had a feeding frenzy. "Well, let’s not dwell on it."
Hannah agreed and hailed for the check. "Let’s not. And something good came out of our bizarre trip to Ireland. We have a new friend. Maureen Costello."
Costello grinned and raised her glass around the table. "Thank you, Hannah."
Maggie laughed and looked at my glare. "True," Maggie said. "You just give her a hard time because she’s so much like you, Kate."
Costello laughed along with Hannah. I glared at my treacherous paramour, who mouthed a pathetic "sorry."
"I’m not like you," I said to Costello. "You’re reckless and have no regard for authority."
"But you both have a love of investigating," Hannah said with a wide grin.
"Oh, please, don’t bring that up again," I said.
"Why not? I think it’s a great idea." Hannah looked at Maggie for help.
Maggie shrugged and patted my hand. "It’s Kate’s decision."
"Thank you." I glared at Hannah. "And I said no."
"Oh, ya did not. You said you’d think about it." Costello stood. "I’ll be right back. Beer is only rented."
I watched her walk toward the restroom as the server set the bill down and scurried away as if not wanting to get involved—smart woman. Hannah glanced at the bill like she was interested in the prices—as if. She placed her credit card down and hailed our server, who dashed to our table, probably salivating over the tip.
"I think you should at least consider it," Hannah said. "She moved here from Ireland and has no one. If you can help her get started with a PI business..."
"Who asked her to move here?" I suddenly felt very petulant. I liked that word. "I don’t need to get back into the PI business. I’m through with that. I haven’t done anything in over five years. I’d have no idea where to start. Besides, I’m a photographer now and I love it. I get a regular paycheck, and I don’t have to worry about getting killed." I sat back, feeling angry and very anxious. Why? I’ll tell you why, damn it, because ever since that young Irish jackass proposed the possibility of starting a PI firm with me, it was all I’d been thinking about. Part of me itched to get back into investigating.
"I love my job."
"So you say." Hannah adjusted her hair as the server placed the bill next to her with a huge smile and "thank you." Hannah signed it with a flourish. "You were a delightful server, dear."
I took a deep breath and looked at Maggie, who was playing with her spoon. "And what do you have to say about this?" I didn’t mean to sound so angry. But when Maggie seemed so calm and collected, well, it really irritated me. Petulant, petulant.
"It’s your decision, Kate."
"Not really. I thought we were partners. What I do affects you. Do you want me to go back to being a PI? Running all over the place at all hours of the night, lurking in shadows?" I leaned close to my gal for effect. "Carrying a gun?"
Maggie looked at me and smiled. "According to Maureen, she’d do all the legwork. You’d be there as a mentor, so to speak. You really wouldn’t have to give up your job with the magazine. And you wouldn’t be in harm’s way. And I trust you with a gun." She stopped and looked very serious. "Would it be loaded?"
I glared at her and Hannah, who tried to look innocent and not laugh. She turned bright red from the effort. I rubbed my forehead so hard, I thought I’d draw blood. "You two are as insane as Costello. I’m too old to start this again. Costello is almost twenty years younger."
"Nonsense." Hannah waved me off. "She’s what, seventeen years your junior."
I stared at Hannah. "That’s almost twenty."
"Oh, don’t be such a Negative Nellie," Hannah said.
"I give up."
"Kate, if you don’t want to do it, then don’t," Maggie interjected. "But you have to admit, you have a mind for it. I’ve watched how you’ve handled yourself. You can teach Maureen a great deal. And it’s not like you haven’t been in these situations since we met."
I grunted. "You started it," I said gruffly, then chuckled. "Nice going. You got me back into this mess. If you hadn’t been riding on that insane horse."
"You knocked me off of it."
"Minor point." I reached over and took her hand.
"Tell me you haven’t thought about what Maureen said," Maggie said softly. I noticed Hannah, sitting back and not saying a word, which had to be killing her.
I shrugged. "I have. Maybe." I looked at Hannah then. "You’re too quiet, Hannah. Say what’s on your mind."
Hannah smiled. Man, she and Maggie looked so much alike. Both had beautiful blue eyes and a killer smile. I’ve said it many times, but if this is what Maggie would look like in her golden years, I was indeed a lucky woman.
"I want both of you to be happy. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do what’s in your heart and in your blood, Kate. All I will say is this. There’s a link between you and Maureen now because of Bridget Donnelly. Though we have no proof, we all know she killed Maureen’s lover. And it’s connected to you." She stopped for a moment and looked out the window at Lake Michigan. "Bridget is still out there. I think you need Maureen Costello as much as she needs you. Margaret is right, you can teach her a great deal." She looked back at me and smiled again. "That’s what I think."
I felt Maggie hold my hand tight. "I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to talk more in depth with Costello about this if she ever gets out of the bathroom." I looked at both hopeful faces. "Just talk."
Who was I kidding?