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  • The Irishman cautiously exited the crypt. His heart was pounding and his breath labored. The recent stint in Amsterdam had softened him up a bit. And he had not expected the attack. He had come to the ancient basement mausoleum, with its mummies that had stimulated the alcohol-fueled imagination of Bram Stoker, to engage in a romantic agenda. He had been anticipating an occultish, hopefully erotic encounter with a wayward writing student from Trinity College. He had worn the sword and carried the torch mainly for effect.

    St. Michan’s Church was on Dublin’s north side, tucked away behind the Four Courts, in a less than savory old neighborhood that was just beginning to be renovated. It was a bit off the beaten path. The tourists who visited the place generally had a taste for the macabre. He should have tumbled to the setup when it became obvious that he’d been stood up. But by then he was captivated by the spell of the place and decided to explore a bit.

    The ambush caught him off guard yet he was not surprised by it. He recognized his opponent’s fighting style and wondered what the hell was going on. The Irishman had encountered the professional assassin Hassan Savak from time to time over the years but quite frankly had thought he was long since dead. Well the son of a bitch was dead now.

    Who the hell had Savak been working for? Who was the Mützî dart wielding assassin’s employer? Why was he evidently lying in wait for Rafferty in the bowels of St. Michan’s? And did this mean that Fifi Chardonnay had sold him out to whoever had hired Savak?

    Damn! Now he’d have to find and interrogate then most likely kill the silly bitch.

    This might have something to do with that mess at the Paradiso Hashish House. Or that shipment of stolen Vanguardia paintings, which were supposedly en route to Havana. Going to Amsterdam had initially seemed like a good idea. Now, five hundred miles and more than a month later it was beginning to seem like a near fatal error in judgment. He could still hear the Abbot’s words the day that Rafferty had announced he was leaving the monastery.

    “If you stay here and do nothing you won’t get in trouble.”

    Rafferty shook his head ruefully. Words of wisdom he wished now that he’d heeded.
    He made his way around the old church and was relieved to find his bicycle was exactly where he’d stashed it with his duffle bag against the stonewall behind a hedgerow not far from the gate. He slipped the sword into the bag then mounted the bike. He pedaled leisurely out the gate and down the lane.

    Rafferty rode along Church Street and crossed the Liffey. He made his way to the Brazen Head, parked the bike in the alley. Inside, standing at the bar, he ordered a pint and a small one.

    Dublin had grown during the days of the Celtic tiger. An influx of immigrants from Europe and Asia had transformed durty old Dublin town into a cosmopolitan metropolis and an international destination.

    All in all a good thing for the city but there were certain not so subtle transformations that didn’t sit well with lifelong Dublin Jackeens like Rafferty. One of them being the preponderance of foreign-born bartenders finding employment at some of the city’s finest pubs. This was not the case at the Brazen head, where a man could still order a pint of Guinness without having to teach a Chinese student how to pull a pint.

    As he sipped his libations he began to plan his next move. He needed to find Fifi, determine her role in whatever the hell was going on. Did she hire Savak to kill him? And how the hell did Texas fit into the picture?

    He sighed as he drained the whiskey shot then tilted back the last swallow of stout. He never should have taken the gig in Amsterdam. It was beginning to look like it had cost him much more than his precious shillelagh.

    Rafferty wondered what the Spaniard was doing. The Irishman was going to need his Catalonian compadré to back his play on this escapade.
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