I shut up. I told you pride is my special little challenge. He didn’t want to hear me? Fine, I didn’t want to waste my breath on him, anyway. “Where were you born?” I asked.
Barrons stopped short, turned around and looked at me, as if bewildered by my sudden spate of talkativeness.
I raised my hands, bewildered too. “I don’t know why I asked that. I had every intention of shutting up but then I started thinking about how I know nothing about you. I don’t know where you were born, whether you have parents, siblings, a wife, children, or even exactly what it is you do.”
“You know all you need to know about me, Ms. Lane. As I do about you. Now move. We’ve precious little time.”
A dozen yards later, he motioned me up the rungs of a steel ladder bolted into the wall and, at the top of it, I became instantly, deeply nauseated.
There was one extremely potent OOP—dead ahead.
“Beyond that, Barrons,” I said apologetically. “I guess we’re kind of screwed, huh?”
“That” was what looked like a bulkhead door. You know, the kind they use on bank vaults that are several feet thick, made of virtually impenetrable alloys, and open with that big spinning wheel thing like on submarine doors. It was just too bad “the handle” wasn’t on our side. “Don’t suppose you have a convenient stash of explosives on you somewhere?” I joked. I was tired and afraid and I was getting a little slap-happy, or maybe it was just the general, ever-increasing absurdity of my life that was making it difficult for me to take anything too seriously.
Barrons eyed the massive door a moment, then closed his eyes.
I could actually see the internal analysis he was performing. His eyes moved rapidly beneath closed lids, as if scanning the blueprints of Dublin’s sanitation system as they flashed across his retinas, Terminator-style, while he targeted our exact position, and searched for a point of entry. His eyes flew open. “You’re sure it’s beyond that door?”
I nodded. “Absolutely. I could puke right here.”
“Try to restrain yourself, Ms. Lane.” He turned and began walking away. “Remain here.”
I stiffened. “Where are you going?” A single flashlight suddenly seemed grossly inadequate company.
“He’s counting on natural barriers to protect it,” Barrons tossed over his shoulder. “I’m a strong swimmer.”
I watched his flashlight bob as he hurried down a tunnel to my left and disappeared around a corner, then there was nothing but blackness and I was alone in it, with only two batteries standing between myself and a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. I hate the dark. I didn’t used to, but I sure do now.
It felt like hours, although according to my watch, it was only seven and a half minutes later that a dripping-wet Barrons opened the bulkhead door.
“Oh God, what is this place?” I said, turning in a slow circle, transfixed. We were in a rough-hewn stone chamber that was crammed with yet more religious artifacts displayed side by side with ancient weapons. It was evident from the high-water marks on the stone that the subterranean structure flooded occasionally, but all of O’Bannion’s treasures were mounted well above the highest, suspended on brackets bolted into the walls or displayed on top of tall stone pedestals.
I could just see the dark, handsome, psychopathic ex-boxer standing here, gloating over his treasures, the frightening gleam of religious fanaticism in his heavy-lidded eyes.
Wet footprints led from an iron grate low in the wall, beyond which lay deep black water, straight to the door. Barrons hadn’t even paused to look around when he’d entered.
“Find it, get it, and let’s go,” Barrons barked.
I’d forgotten he couldn’t know which item it was. Only I could. I turned in a slow circle, stretching my newfound Spidey-sense.
I retched. Dryly. Fortunately, it seemed I was getting a little better at this. My supper stayed in my stomach. I had a sudden vision of O’Bannion coming down to discover his artifact missing, with neat little piles of puke all over the place and wondered what he would make of it. I snickered; a measure of how completely freaked out I was. “That.” I pointed to an item mounted just above my head, almost lost amid the assortment of similar items surrounding it, and turned to look at Barrons who was standing behind me, just outside the bulkhead door. He was staring down the corridor. Now he turned slowly and glanced in.
“Fuck,” he exploded, punching the door. “I didn’t even see it.” Then louder, “Fuck.” He turned away. His back to me, he snapped, “Are you sure that’s it?”