Home > The Searcher(6)

The Searcher(6)
Author: Tana French

   “Forty-eight.”

   “You look well on it. Them meat hormones must keep you young.”

   “Thanks.”

   “Either way, but. By the time he’s forty, a man’s either in the habit of being married or he’s not. Women have ideas, and I’m not accustomed to anyone’s ideas but my own. You are.” Mart extracted this and other key vital statistics from Cal on their first meeting, with such near-invisible expertise that Cal felt like the amateur.

   “You lived with your brother,” Cal points out. Mart is at least reciprocal with information: Cal has heard all about his brother, who preferred custard cream cookies, was an awful gom but a great hand at the lambing, gave Mart that broken nose by hitting him with a spanner in an argument over the TV remote, and died of a stroke four years ago.

   “He’d no ideas,” Mart says, with the air of someone scoring a point. “Thick as pig shite. I couldn’t have some wan bringing her ideas into my house. Wanting a chandelier, maybe, or a poodle, or me to do yoga classes.”

   “You could find a dumb one,” Cal offers.

   Mart dismisses that with a puff of air. “I’d enough of that with the brother. But d’you know Dumbo Gannon? On that farm there?” He points across the fields at a long, low, red-roofed building.

   “Yeah,” Cal says, making an educated guess. One of the old guys in the pub is a little runt with a set of jug ears you could pick him up by.

   “Dumbo’s on his third missus. You wouldn’t credit it, the head on him and the price of spuds, but I’m telling you. One of the women died and the other one ran off on him, but both times Dumbo had himself a new one inside the year. The same as I’d get a new dog if Kojak died on me, or a new telly if mine went, Dumbo goes out and gets himself a new missus. Because he’s in the habit of someone bringing in ideas. If there’s no woman in it, he doesn’t know what to have for the dinner, or what to watch on the telly. And with no woman in it, you won’t know what colors to paint the chambers in that mansion over there.”

   “I’m gonna go for white,” Cal says.

   “And what?”

   “And white.”

   “See what I’m telling you?” Mart says triumphantly. “Only in the heel of the hunt, you won’t. You’re in the habit of having someone bringing in ideas. You’ll go looking.”

   “I can get in an interiors guy,” Cal says. “Fancy hipster who’ll paint it chartreuse and puce.”

   “Where are you planning on finding one of them around here?”

   “I’ll import him from Dublin. He gonna need a work visa?”

   “You’ll do the same as Dumbo,” Mart informs him. “Whether you plan on it or not. I’m only trying to make sure you do it right, before some skinny bitta fluff gets her hooks into you and makes your life a misery.”

   Cal can’t tell if Mart actually believes any of this or is just spinning it on the fly, hoping for an argument. Mart loves arguing like he loves his cookies. Sometimes Cal goes along with it, in a spirit of neighborliness, but today he has a few specific questions and then he wants Mart to leave the coast clear. “Maybe in a few months,” he says. “I’m not gonna start anything with any woman right now. Not till I get this place fixed up enough that I can let her see it.”

   Mart squints over at the house and nods, acknowledging the validity of this. “Don’t be leaving it too long, now. Lena could have her pick, around here.”

   “It’s been falling apart for a while,” Cal says. “Gonna take me a while to put it back together. You got any idea how long it’s been empty?”

   “Fifteen year, must be. Maybe twenty.”

   “Looks like more,” Cal says. “Who was living here?”

   “Marie O’Shea,” Mart says. “Now, she never got herself another man after Paudge died, but women do be different. They get in the habit of marrying, same as men, but the women do like a rest in between. Marie was only widowed the year before she died; she hadn’t had a chance to catch her breath. If Paudge had gone ten year earlier—”

   “Her kids didn’t want the place?”

   “They’re gone, sure. Two in Australia, one in Canada. No harm to your estate, but it’s not the kind that’d bring them running home.”

   Kojak has given up on the bushes and trotted over to Cal, tail wagging. Cal rubs behind his ear. “How come they just sold it now? They fight over what to do with it?”

   “From what I heard, they hung on to it at first because prices were going up. Good land going to waste, because them fools thought it would make them millionaires. And then”—Mart’s face splits into a grin of unholy glee—“didn’t the crash come, and they were stuck hanging on to it because no one would give them sixpence for it.”

   “Huh,” Cal says. That could raise some bad blood, one way or another. “Did anyone want to buy it?”

   “My brother did,” Mart says promptly. “The eejit. We’d enough on our plates. He watched too much Dallas, that fella. Fancied himself a cattle baron.”

   “Thought you said he had no ideas,” Cal says.

   “That wasn’t an idea, that was a notion. I nipped it in the bud. There’s no nipping women’s ideas. Cut them down one place, they grow up another. You wouldn’t know where you’d be.”

   Kojak is leaning up against Cal’s leg, eyes half closed in bliss, butting Cal’s hand whenever he forgets to rub. Cal has been planning on getting a dog; he was going to wait till he had the house in better shape, but it looks like sooner might be a good idea. “Any relations of the O’Sheas around here?” he asks. “I found some stuff they might want.”

   “If they wanted it,” Mart points out logically, “they had twenty year to take it. What class of stuff?”

   “Papers,” Cal says vaguely. “Pictures. Figured I might as well check before I throw it out.”

   Mart is grinning. “There’s Paudge’s niece Annie, a few mile up the road beyond Moneyscully. If you fancy taking that stuff to her, I’ll bring you, just to see the look on Annie’s face. Her mammy and Paudge couldn’t stand the sight of each other.”

   “Think I’ll pass,” Cal says. “She have any kids who might want mementoes of their great-uncle?”

   “They’re all gone off, sure. Dublin or England. Use them papers to light your fire. Or sell them on the internet, to some other Yank that wants a bit of heritage.”

   Cal isn’t sure whether this is a jab or not. With Mart, he can’t always tell, which he knows is half the fun of it. “I might do that,” he says. “This isn’t my heritage, anyway. My family’s not Irish, so far as I know.”

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