Eileen didn't open her eyes at first although she was awake. Something was wrong. There was a strange noise, as if thou-sands of little nails were thrown against her window. Wait, was it raining? Rain in San Francisco?
Eileen blinked and sat up. Suddenly she realized that this wasn't the room in Roberta's pension anymore. She was in Cork, in her house, in her room again. Everything came streaming back to her mind again.
Eileen went downstairs, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down in the old, familiar armchair. As expected, Ben was lying on the sofa, still sleeping. When Eileen switched on the TV he woke and looked at her with an expression, partly angry, partly relieved. She had known he wouldn't drive home this night.
Eileen: "Good Morning, Ben."
Eileen: "Why did you stay? I won't run off again, don't worry."
Ben: (harsh) "Eileen Beckett, this is not funny."
Ben went off to the kitchen. Well, he was a bit mad at her. But honestly speaking, Eileen understood where he was coming from. He probably got into trouble with his boss over her splitting, and even worse, he surely felt betrayed in some way. So when Ben came back with a slice of Nutella toast, she tried to explain her situation to him.
Eileen: "Ahm, Ben?"
Eileen: „Ah, I just wanted to say…I mean, I wanted to apologize. For what I did. I know I caused you a lot of trouble and I'm so sorry for that."
Ben: "Yeah, you did."(pause)
Eileen: "You know, it's just…when I found that file I felt like doing something. (silence)
Ben kept chewing his toast without looking at her.
Eileen: "Ben, you don't know this feeling when your father is dead. Murdered. It feels as if you have to burst because you're so angry at this person who destroyed your life."
Ben looked up at her now.
Ben: "Yeah, you're right. Of course I don't know how it feels. I understand that much, Eileen. But tell me, what was your plan? What did you intend to do once you found the RH-Association? Avenge Fergus? Kill them? Deliver them to the police? What was this whole thing for? This could have been dangerous!"
Eileen realized that Ben was absolutely right. What would she have been able to do? She had been blind of hate and anger.
Ben: "You were so selfish, Eileen. I've almost lost my job. My boss screamed at me for hours. But that wasn't the worst thing. Can you imagine how worried I was? I blamed myself for not watching over you enough. Of course we thought you were kidnapped at first."
Eileen: "Ben, please stop. I know. I know you're right and I' sorry. Okay?"
Ben: "Yeah ok. I was just so frightened, you know."
Eileen got up and sat down on the sofa next to Ben. She looked at him and suddenly realized how much she had missed him. But she also figured out that her whole feelings for him were just friendly. Nevertheless she put her arms around him and hugged him gently and after a moment, he laid his arms around her, too. They sat there for a while. And as if Ben had read her mind, he broke the silence and said…
Ben: "So, ah, don't you think we have to talk about… er, you know, the thing that happened in Maria Alm?"
Eileen: "Oh, the kiss. Well, Ben, there is Liam, you know and…Well, ah, I like you. But as a friend, I think and…
Ben: "Eileen, let's not talk about it again, okay? Well, the time in Maria Alm was brilliant and my feelings for you are more brotherly actually."
They looked at each other closely and started to smile.
Eileen: "Oh thank god." (laughing)
Ben: "Hey, would it be that bad to be in a relationship with me?" (laughing)
Ben and Eileen decided to celebrate their reunion with a rich lunch. They roasted sausages with some vegetables and Eileen realised how much she had missed good and solid Irish food. They had great fun together. Eileen laughed a lot this afternoon; she felt so relieved and happy to be home again. Later Ben left, but they planned to go out on Friday.
When Eileen was alone, she began to think again about Liam and Amy. Should she call or text them? It was weird not to be in contacted with them for hours. In San Francisco she had spent almost her whole time with them, especially with Liam of course.
Eileen: (thinking) No, first of all I have to get a grip on things here, in Cork.
So she picked up her phone and typed in Stark's number. After one and a half minutes of monotonous peeping in her ear she accepted that he wouldn't pick up. What was the matter with him? Why didn't he answer her call?
It was now 6 pm and Stark hadn't answered any of Eileen's calls yet. She was so furious that she jumped into her car and drove off to Stark's house which was on the outskirts of town. While she drove Ben called and asked whether she wanted to meet this evening instead of Friday, because he wanted to visit his parents then. Eileen told him about Stark and apolo-gized.
Stark's car was parked in the yard but all the blinds were down.
Eileen hesitated briefly, then got out of the car and walked through the little yard. She rang three times before she no-ticed movements behind the door. Stark opened. Eileen nearly screamed out of shock. She almost couldn't recognize him anymore. His bushy blowsy beard hid half of his face, his hair was even longer than normal, his eyes were red and glazed as he looked as if he hadn't slept for days with his face pale and transparent.
Stark: "Eileen. What do you want?"
Stark's voice was scratchy and croaky.
Eileen: "Hey. Ah, well, I was worried about you…and for good reasons as it seems.
They were standing there for a while. Stark seemed to have forgotten how to speak.
Eileen: "So, can I come in?"
Stark: "Oh, right, yes…Yes, of course."
His house looked horrible. Cans of food and bags of chips were spread all over the floor in the living room. In addition, it strongly smelled of Whisky. Eileen went towards the window and opened the blinds. Stark blinked into the light. He seemed even paler now.
Eileen: "Stark, what's the matter with you? Your flat looks like a pigsty and look at yourself!" (angrily)
Stark: "Eileen, you don't understand…"
Eileen: "That's right, I don't. So tell me."
Stark: (sighs) "Do you want to have some tea?"
Eileen: "If you'll find any in this chaos."
Stark: "Sit down."
Eileen searched for a passably clean spot on the couch and sat down while Stark went into the kitchen. She thought about what could have dragged him down like this. Was it Fergus' death? Probably yes. They had been best friends for so long. It wasn't easy for him as well. Now she was ashamed she had been so mean to him before. She should have comforted him. Stark was still noisy in the kitchen, Eileen got up and looked around. It really seemed like nobody had cleaned here for ages. And all the empty Whiskey bottles on the desk… Eileen couldn't believe Stark had been to work lately. Her eyes wandered around at the desk. She sat down and opened one drawer after the other to see if she would find even more empty bottles. She was really worried about him, probably she would have to register him on some Anonym Alcoholics group. Eileen opened the last drawer, and found Liam's pic-ture staring at her. The same one that had been in the file she had gotten in Maria Alm. At the same moment her phone vibrated. It was a text massage from Ben.
Get out of Stark's house. Do not trust him, Eileen. It is him.
Eileen read the text at least five times. It is him. It is him. She heard Stark coming back from the kitchen, closed the drawer noiselessly and went back to sit on the couch.
Stark: "Here's your tea, love."
She decided to behave as normal as possible, drink the tea and then get out of here. But something inside her wanted to know the truth.
Eileen: "Thank you."
Stark sat down next to her and sipped his tea.
Stark: "So, tell me, how are you?"
Eileen: "Well, I'm ok. Ah, I…I've been away for a few weeks."
Stark: "Really? How did you manage this with your studies and stuff?"
Eileen: "I've got permission to go on leave for a while."
Stark: "Ah, alright. And where have you been?"
Eileen: "As if you didn't know that already, Stark."
Eileen regretted this sentence as soon as she had said it. But she felt like she now understood what Ben had meant. It is him. He was my father's murderer.
Panic flamed up her throat.
Stark: "What do you mean by that?"
Stark seemed a bit nervous now.
Eileen: "Didn't you send me that file?"
He looked at her in shock. Eileen tried to shut her fear out. The fear of a man who she had always thought she loved.
She got up because she couldn't stand sitting next to Stark anymore. Eileen went towards the window and quickly turned around again because she was afraid of having him in her back.
He looked at her with empty eyes, his body stiff as if he had turned into stone.
Eileen: "Stark! Explain for God's sake!"
Stark: "Eileen, it was an accident…"
Eileen: "Don't you dare!"
Eileen was so angry now she wanted to burst.
Eileen: "You murdered him?! Are you serious?"
She started to tremble, tears flowing into her eyes.
Stark: "They forced me…please, Eileen…"
He raised his hand as if he wanted to touch her. Stark's face looked so lifeless as if he was already dead.
Eileen: "They forced you? Who forced you?"
Stark: "The…the Americans."
Eileen: "What?! Which Americans?"
Stark: "Eileen, you remember? I was a member of the FBI once."
Eileen: "Yes, yes, of course I remember. But what has this got to do with my father's death?"
Stark: "Well, I had to flee because I took bribes. Corruption is a big problem in the US. And I was young, and poor. The money attracted me. A few of my colleagues found out about it, but swore not to tell. Nevertheless I feared getting arrested."
Eileen still didn't understand, but remained quiet. She was too shocked at the situation at hand.
Stark: "Well, I came to Ireland in order to begin a new life. I changed my name and my identity. I got a job in Cork's police force and got to know Fergus there. We were friends from the very beginning."
Stark set his cup of tea on the table in front of him. Then he closed his eyes. It appeared as if he couldn't stand looking at Eileen anymore.
Stark: "Last year a few of my colleagues came to Cork in order to give the police a lecture on an association in San Francisco, an organization of thieves which are about to spread all over the US and soon into Europe as well. The RH-Group as you now know. After this lecture we went out together. We drank a lot. And at some point the whole thing escalated a bit. We found the idea of breaking into a house enormously funny. So we did. We placed finger prints of Liam and Amy Smith onto some of the furniture inside the flat and took all the money. As if by miracle, Michael had them with him, still in his briefcase from the lecture."
Eileen couldn't believe it. She had never realized how few she knew of Stark's past and generally of his character. How could he have fooled everybody all these years?
Eileen: "So you think alcohol is an excuse for this?"
Stark: "Of course not. Bloody hell, why am I so weak…"
Stark buried his face in his hands and started to sob. But Eileen couldn't feel any pity for him whatsoever. She felt nothing but rage.
Eileen: "Go on. I want to know the rest of your story."
Stark: "Well, the next morning we saw how stupid this whole thing was and decided to report the break-in to the police ourselves but we didn't take the blame since all the hints pointed to the RH-Group."
Eileen: "Fergus found out, didn't he?"
Stark: "Of course he did. Fergus knew this case was kind of weird. He never just looked at the facts. He read through thousands of files and compared the break-in methods of the RHs and the ones of this case. They were completely different, of course. Fergus was a fantastic policeman, Eileen."
Eileen was grossed out. How could he dare say something like that?
Eileen: "So what was the damn reason you killed my father for?!"
Stark: "Eileen, please…" (sighs) "Fergus talked to me at first. And I told my American friends that he knows. They teamed up against me and said I had to kill Fergus. Otherwise they would uncover my corruption case. I got frightened like hell. Corruption and break-in. My future would have been forfeited."
Eileen: "And the murder of your best friend has made your future any better?"
Stark: "I tried to delay my arrest a bit. Well, actually, I hoped this would never come out. What a stupid plan."
He laughed a fake laugh, which made him seem real crazy. Stark got up and suddenly started pacing around the living room, seemingly searching for something. He opened every single drawer, gustily rummaging around.
Eileen: "Who are you? I don't even know you anymore, Stark!" (screaming)
He didn't pay her any notice but kept looking around. At last he found what he was searching for: A bottle of whisky lying under a newspaper-page. Stark gulped it down like water. Then he rushed out of the room without looking at her.