“Oh Jesus. God Almighty. Holy bloody Mary.”
“When did you come over so religious, Joseph?”
“Piss off, Mikey.”
“Calvin Kleins in a knot or what, boy?”
“Christ. This is ridiculous, totally crazy.”
“Calm down man, it’s not like you did a mad Tony Soprano shoot-out or something. Though that would have been cool.”
“Feck off, Mikey.”
The gleaming black merc purred its way through the rolling landscape of the West of Ireland, past the heaving party capital of Galway, and onto the shore-lined stretches that reached on towards Connemara.
“Where are we anyway?”
“I said I’d take you somewhere safe, Joe, calm down man. We’re approaching Furbo.”
“Furbo? Is that a made up name? And it’s Joseph, not Joe.”
Joseph gestured around him. “To cows? Sheep? Barren landscape and roaring, frothing seas? Rocks? Areas of outstanding natural beauty? Rain, rain, rain and more rain? Winds that would rip the eyes from your face? How in the name of all that’s good and holy is that meant to help me? Hey?”
“Calm down, I said,” Mikey took a hand off the wheel and patted Joe’s knee.
“Touch me again and you die,” growled the voice from the passenger seat and Mikey shrugged but complied, he knew what was good for him. He ejected the Beastie Boys CD that was roaring Sabotage, rummaged around in the driver’s door and slotted in Gordon Lightfoot. Summer Side of Life filled the car as the sunset led them further West, Mikey turned up the volume, singing along tunelessly, Joseph stared blankly out of the window.
“Christ,” he muttered, hoping to God and all of his fluffy little angels that the Firm’s Fixer sorted problems out better than he sang.
“You are absolutely shitting me, Mikey. Here? What are you on?”
Mikey smiled a cherubic smile, showing teeth that belonged more to a creature of the night than one of the light. His fatly be-ringed hand swept through his dark curls and he turned his black eyes on Joseph.
“Solitude, Joseph. Ever heard of it? It hasn’t been used by the Firm in recent memory, but you need to disappear and in these parts it’s still a thing. ”
Joseph slowly sank to his knees and stared out at the barren landscape that surrounded them, the knees of the trousers of his 2,000 euro Versace three season’s old suit getting decidedly wet.
“Is it ever dry in this country? At least I wore my old duds,” he muttered under his breath to nobody in particular. Then, “if this ends up like that time in Camden Town I swear to God, Mikey.”
“Be calm, my man. Take a chill-pill. Besides, I was sick that day.” Mikey shot his cuffs. “Little Angelo took that job on. It was his first and there were bound to be casualties.”
Joseph stood and brushed the dirt of his trousers.
“There’d better not be any messing with this, Mikey, it’s too big.”
“And so the Big Man is looking out for you, Joe. Joseph.”
“God help me. And what does he want in return, I wonder. I’m not used to owing things to people, I’ve been freelance for too long.”
“You never leave the Firm, Joseph, you know that.”
“I know.” Joseph bent his blond head, blue eyes regarded the tip of his only recently purchased Alexander McQueen boots, and he wondered how easy it would be to get the muck out of them.
“Now let me tell you all about solitude, my friend, and in this place where the great and sainted Roger Corman made movies, called Inverin – the place, not the movies I mean – we find it,” Mikey placed a heavy hand on Joseph’s shoulder, and walked him in a circle around the ancient, ruined landscape as he laid out his plan.
Some time later, as the bats came out the and birds disappeared for the night, the good little children said their prayers before sleep, and the morning star became visible in the inky sky above, a great cry rent the solitude in two and a dog set to barking.