THE START OF THE JOURNEY
The mid 1990s
Central Intelligence Agency
Francis Duggan grinned with satisfaction as he watched the small television set in the corner of his small office.
The cause of his delight was the laughing waving man who came down the steps of the US Federal Building courthouse in New York.
Tim Flaherty. Provisional IRA Terrorist. Released by a federal court after two years of being held for extradition to Great Britain for crimes committed in the UK; crimes that resulted in the death of eleven civilians in a spate of indiscriminate bombings on the British mainland between 1991 and 1993.
Tim Flaherty. Irish Republican soldier and hero, decorated by the IRA. A man with a dream and a country to free. Born and bred in the Falls Road; brought up throwing rocks and bottles at British soldiers since he was nine, in a city where violence was the only currency and manhood was bar mitzvah'd when you kicked your first Prod unconscious.
Tim Flaherty. At twenty five a champion to some; a corrupt and vile gangster to others.
Tim Flaherty. Freed from jail on a technical point and free to kill again.
It wasn't that Duggan approved of violence; in truth he was a conscientious CIA analyst who believed in law and order and put his duty before all else. He was a member of the CIA's Counter Terrorist Center which brought together analytical, operational, communications and technical support personnel, drawn primarily from the CIA, but with participation by the FBI, Army, Navy, Air, Marines and Treasury.
But Duggan was also of Irish descent. And like many of his fellow countrymen instinctively saw Ireland as a repressed nation, ruled against its will by the British; ruled with the gun and a Chieftain tank. It was how he had been raised; by Irish immigrant parents from Belfast, with strong Roman Catholic beliefs, who passed their nationalistic views on to their son. He didn't agree with terrorism, but felt an instinctive and hereditary pleasure in knowing a republican freedom fighter had escaped capture. It was not something he would let be freely known, certainly not amongst his colleagues.
'I'm a free man-' Flaherty said, with a Northern Irish brogue, on the screen, '-because of American justice. This is the land of the free because of the battle your forefathers fought against the British. It's my aim, and every free Irishman's, to make all of Ireland as free as this great country of yours. For that I'll endure torture and beatings and death in the hands of the British government, even if it means going back to the concentration camps of Long Kesh in Belfast. Whatever it takes to be free. Long live the Republic of America. Long live the Republic of Ireland.'
'What are your plans now?' asked the reporter.
'That's up to the Army Council. I'm a soldier. I do as I'm ordered. And that is to attack British military targets. And unlike all them false stories about me, all that British propoganda, I don't believe in indiscriminate bombings.'
Francis, for all his emotive support, knew lies and propaganda when he heard it. In the end, they were terrorists and he suddenly felt guilty. Flaherty, a member of the IRA's 3rd Battalion, B Company, had done wrong; there was no justification for the Provo's indiscriminate attacks on the British mainland, especially the recent rash of bombings that had shaken London and other British cities. He thought of his cousins back in Ireland, probably rejoicing at the news. They were all staunch Republicans, believers in the cause. There was a sudden sadness in him that Flaherty had escaped justice for the crimes he committed.
Francis shrugged off his own contradictions and remote-switched the set off. The last view he saw was off Flaherty climbing into a stretch-limo that was parked under a sign for 'Tim Flaherty Corner', a street recently named after the terrorist by the New York City Mayor. Such was the power of the Irish Americans; so important was their vote.
Francis Duggan, at thirty-seven, was not how you would imagine the all-American spy. He was tall, rounded features under a thick red unkempt thatch. It wasn't that Duggan was uninterested in his appearance, just that his wiry hair was impossible to control. Duggan had a 'Deputy Dawg' sort of face, tired and worldly, which was not a true reflection as he had done very little with his life except live in the comfort zone of middle-class America. He was a detached man, not at ease in the company of others. But he was a committed Agency man with a sharp mind that analysed most European terrorist situations faster than the two computers that sat on his desk. That was the main sphere of his responsibilities; the analysis and dissemination of all terrorist activities in Western European countries.
Francis was actually pre-occupied with thoughts far removed from Tim Flaherty and the Agency. His divorced wife, Carmella, had refused him visitation rights to see their two daughters, Samantha at seven and Natalie at nine, over the coming weekend. Her reasoning was that her new fiancé was bringing his own son and daughter to meet Carmella's family that weekend and it would 'just be so gross and unfair if you turned up and ruined our time together', she had grumbled over the phone. He hated her for that; for making him feel their daughters would soon have a new Daddy, a new family. He hated her anyway. God knows what anyone else sees in her ? He was further upset by the fact that he had missed his daughters a fortnight earlier when he had been called away to listen in on a United Nations conference about the exchange of information between countries who were in the front line of terrorism. Which, as Duggan reminded his boss Rob Volger, America wasn't. But the ploy didn't work; Volger had wanted a first hand report on the meeting. All this meant Duggan was now a month between seeing his daughters. Another month for that bitch to cement their relationship with their new father . He spat the last word out. That's what she'd said. ' Their new father .' The images of his girls with another man, teaching them, loving them, them loving him, were too much for Duggan.
He slammed out of the room and went for a walk down the long, endless corridors that wander around Langley.
He wasn't in his office when his direct superior rang to inform him that Tim Flaherty had walked free from a New York court and was now under the constant surveillance of the FBI.
Charley O's Bar and Grill
33 West 48 Street
New York .
Tim Flaherty knew he was being tailed by the FBI. He didn't mind; it guaranteed his safety.
The party to celebrate his release was being held at Charley O's Bar and Grill, one of New York's many Irish restaurants, complete with oyster bar and fish and chips. It had been organised by an American group called the 'Friends of Tim Flaherty.' The restaurant was packed; supporters, hangers-on, press and whoever else was passing by. An Irish band played in the corner, its bouncing jig reflecting the clebration of the moment.
Flaherty, the centre of attention, stood at the bar with a Guinness in his hand. He was surrounded by well-wishers, exuberant and noisy in their praise of the Irishman. Flaherty wasn't a senior member of the IRA; was simply a foot soldier, and not a very bright one at that. But now he was a symbol, a celebrity that could be marketed. Tim Flaherty had become an important man.