The hardest part about any operation was waiting for it to begin. This one was harder still because it was personal. The last time I was in Northern Ireland gun running was what I was after. My assignment had been to observe British intelligence while they tried to shut down a gun running operation. It had been a successful day for the good guys but when you are dealing with a business that is extremely lucrative having someone step up and start anew was just a matter of time. That is how Jimmy Bailey got his start and he had made the most of the opportunity.
I understood Jimmy and his life because I could have easily become him if I had chosen a different path. Growing up in a tough Irish neighborhood gave me many opportunities to choose the wrong side. Luckily a good family and a judge with sense enough to force me into the military gave me better life choices. There was a time when I sent that judge a Christmas card every year. I wish I was still doing it.
“I need another day or two to scope out Glenoe and formulate a plan before we can do anything.”, Pete.
“I am going crazy just sitting around here. I need to do something”
“You can not go anywhere near Glenoe. They know you. Take the car and go down and visit your uncle for a day. I will take Wailer with me and put him to work.”, Pete.
“My uncle! The shock of me walking through the door would kill the old guy. But it will help this empty feeling I have and make my family happy.” My uncle lived about two hours away and it would be a settling thing to do. “I will leave in the morning but you call me and keep me up to date.”
“No problem. Lets get me a beer and I will fill you in on what I have seen so far.”, Pete.
Sean Conor Malone, my uncle and the best man among us. Father Sean Conor Malone; drawn to the church at 22 years of age and he never seems to have any doubts about his choices. Or mine.
He was stationed in Cavan, Ireland; a fairly quiet Irish town that had been his home for almost 20 years. He was always there for the family; whether we were getting married, christening our children or burying our dead. He had married Maria and I and had been there to comfort me when I thought I was burying her. If anyone could settle my mind and give me advice he was the one.
I met him at his church, Saint Patrick’s. I had not set foot inside a church since Maria’s funeral; what I thought was her funeral.
“Been awhile hasn’t Boy?” He always called me ‘Boy’ and he always knew if we had been to church.
‘Not since the funeral.”
“You have the look of a man that could use a drink. Even so I could use one.”, said with that gigantic Irish smile and his patented laugh that I loved as a kid. “Lets go. Your buying.”, another uncle Sean laugh. I already felt better.
Uncle Sean had his favorite places to go and he was a creature of habit. The results of a long life well spent. We settled into a table at Jamesie Mac’s; his favorite pub in Cavan.
With a couple of pints down in front of us he gave me that long look all us Malone kids knew meant ‘Start Talking’.
“Just start at the beginning Boy and tell me it all.”
And that is exactly what I did for the next two hours. He listened and watched me intently saying few words except those to encourage me to continue. This was just like when I was a kid and went joy riding in a car, with Keane, that did not belong to us. The police caught us and after seeing who we were took us straight to uncle Sean, They knew that he would deal with us better than any court. They were right.
After two hours of nearly non stop talking, and I do not know how many pints, I was exhausted.
“That’s all of it. We are here to take it to the next level.”
“Boy I can’t sit here and tell you that what you are doing is wrong. You were taught that family is everything and protecting our family is all our jobs.” His face had a stern look on it that I did not recognize. I think it may have been fear for me. “The loss of life is something we pay for when our judgement comes. I do not condone it but I also can not see a way around it.”
“I have no other choices than to keep looking. There are few people I can trust. The ones with the information we are after do not give it up easily. I wanted to put the violence behind me. I promised Maria that I would. But until this is finished I can not keep that promise.”
“I understand that and I want to help.” I did not want him involved. "There is someone I want you to meet. Stay the night and we will meet him in the morning before you go back north.“ Uncle Sean could always read my mind. “This is family. What else can I do?”
I stepped out of the pub and called Pete, filled him in on what I was doing and got his report. When I went back inside two fresh pints were waiting. “A few more of these and then we get some sleep.” He showed that big Irish smile that I loved seeing as a kid. I always felt at home when Father Sean Conor Malone was close by.