Two days later Ben and Eileen were standing inside Dublin Airport. Eileen was tired because getting to Dublin had been stressful. Ben had insisted on taking the train, because now that they were about to get away, he had begun to be very paranoid. Eileen had to carry her large suitcase herself. They took the first train leaving Cork and arrived in Dublin two and a half hours later. The airport was busy, since Dublin was crowded with tourists. Spring season. It was the first of May. Ben was wearing a black suit and looked very business-like; Eileen had gone for a wine-red dress, which she was wearing together with her favourite beige trench coat. After finding out which airline they were taking, they checked in their luggage and went to get another coffee. Eileen felt as if she'd been living on coffee since her father's death one week ago. So much had happened since then. They weren't talking much, but Eileen didn't object. Earlier that day they had had a fight, because Eileen didn't understand why they weren't leaving from Cork Airport. That would have been so much easier. Secretly Eileen had wished to say goodbye to the city from above after the plane took off, but Ben had thrown a spanner in her plans. He was the police guy, he got to decide. This was the new rule Eileen had to accept. She didn't. As soon as they would arrive in Maria Alm, she wanted to do whatever she wanted to!
After her final cup of Irish coffee Ben and Eileen went through the security check and found their seats. She had a window seat and was happy with that. One stewardess showed how to behave in case of a plane crash, but Eileen wasn't paying any attention. She thought that if the plane crashed, it was Ben's job to get her out safely. She had never left Ireland before and she was rather uncomfortable on the plane because it was the first time she sat in one. And when they took off into the air she was surprised by the looping sensation she felt in her stomach and she felt the most displeasing pressure in her ears. The first half of the flight Eileen spent watching the clouds and reading the board magazine, but at one point she got so bored, she started talking to Ben, and not about the weather, but about private stuff, her life.
Eileen: "So, Ben. You told me you are from England? Which part?"
Ben: "Brighton, Sussex. It's beautiful. It's at the seaside, a lovely landscape with a stony beach. But a lot of tourists, you know."
Eileen: "Why did you leave?"
Ben: "My Parents immigrated to England when I was six years old. We used to live in Kinsale and I wanted to return to Munster, so that's what I did. One year ago I got a really good offer and I moved. "
Eileen: "Oh god, I love Kinsale. It is so lovely. When I was little, my grandpa took me there a lot, because his brother is buried there. I love the old port ruins! The myth about the white lady always interested me. Once, I dressed up like her on Halloween. Ha-ha. And after grandfathers death I've been there a few times with my ex-boyfriend. But you know, studying eats up a lot of my time, so I haven't been there in, I think, two years."
Ben: "O, what are you studying? And why ex-boyfriend?"
Eileen: "I study English and literature at Cork University. I have always wanted to become a librarian. And ex-boyfriend, because things between Keith and I just didn't work out in the end."
Ben: "Not bad. Sorry because of Keith. When I was 10 I wanted to become a computer expert, but then I started to lose weight and wanted to be a police man."
Eileen: "So you were fat? What did you do? Go on a Diet?"
Ben: "No, Karate. I started when I was 10 and I still love it."
Eileen: "Really? Me too! I started at 12 years old! I did it because of Fergus. I knew he wanted me to be fit and to be able to defend myself. I think he, as a police officer, had seen too much bad stuff happening. And he wasn't really impressed by his little ballerina. So I started Karate."
Ben: "You are a ballerina?"
Eileen: "Not anymore. I mostly did it for my mom. She used to be a ballerina and so I became one. But it's not like I didn't enjoy it, I did, but I liked Karate much more, and when I was 16 I had so much to do for school so that I couldn't fit in both my hobbies into my week. So I quit Ballet."
Ben: "Are you still doing Karate?"
Eileen: "Sometimes, but as I said, University got though, so I rarely have time left. But I still do the stretching and warming up every day, I don't want my muscles and bands to rust.
They landed in Salzburg five hours later. Eileen found the airport there most disturbing, because suddenly there were only 5% of English speaking folks left.
Magically a black car, the same model Ben had been driving in Cork, awaited them outside. They had been driving for five minutes when Eileen peered out of the window for the first time. The sight was stunning and for a Cork girl absolutely overwhelming. For the first time of her life she saw real mountains. They were massive and appeared to be dark blue with a snow white topping. Eileen couldn't take her eyes of these huge giants. The wide valley in front of her consisted of green meadows spotted with colourful flowers and big trees forming a dark forest in a magnificent display of colours. She opened the window of the car and breathed the fresh air which seemed different from home. It all felt pure and healthy. Ben and Eileen had been driving for almost an hour, and during this entire time, they didn't talk. Eileen was busy observing Austria's – to her – unknown beauty. In the end Ben drove through Maria Alm and went up a hill to the right. Eileen thought the streets were ridiculous, because they weren't straight at all. They were made up of one curve fol-lowing the other in order to reach the top of the mountain.
On top of the hill they parked in front of a little alp farm. And that was her new home. From the outside it looked very rustic, made of stones and wood. In front of it there was a little yard and next to the yard was a beautiful garden with lots of flowers and chickens puckering. Eileen and Ben went inside. It was all very narrow, but made with love. The little living room and the dining room were connected by a green and orange cockle-stove, the next room was an old wooden kitchen, and next to the kitchen was a little store-room for food. A slender staircase led up to the bedrooms. She decided to go for the smaller one because she liked the view from the window, plus she had a little private bathroom, just as in Cork, and she really liked that, even though it meant Ben got the bigger room. Next to Ben's room was another bathroom, this one was big and had a huge beautiful bathtub. After unpacking her clothes into the small wardrobe next to the heater, she put on her yellow rubber-boots and went to explore the garden and surroundings. She really liked the garden with all the multi-coloured flowers. There was even a swing. Years ago she used to go to a little playground near the Bennett house with her grandparents each Saturday, but that was before they passed away, before her mother passed away and before Fergus passed away. Behind the alp there was an angular shed filled with wood for the cockle-oven and tools for the garden, there was a lawn-mower, rakes, trowels, shovels. On the other side of the yard Eileen spotted a little hen-house for the chickens, and Eileen wondered how you could catch them and lock them in for the night? She went back to the veranda in front of the living room and sat down. She watched fluffy clouds and treetops dance with the wind and looked at the snow on the mountain peaks and thought about hiking up there and making snow angels and having snow ball fights with Ben. It had been six years since her last white Christmas, because even though it was raining a lot in Ireland it was hardly ever cold enough in winter for snow.
Today was a warm day, the sun was shining and after a while Eileen dozed off, but not for long. Something jumped on her and she screamed.
He came running. Eileen started to laugh, because the thing that had startled her was a little hairy fur ball.
Ben: "Eileen?! Are you okay?"
Eileen: "Ben! Look! It's a kitten! Oh look! It's so cute!"
Ben: (angry) "Please don't scream because of a baby cat, will you? You almost gave me a heart attack. Screaming means you are attacked by bad guys with guns or wild bears running around. Ok?"
Eileen: "Yes, okay, okay. Oh look! There are more!"
Three kitties and two grown-up cats, one tomcat showed up. They all looked very skinny.
Eileen: "AAAAAAAH, I want to name them, can I?"
Eileen: "Help me identify the sex, please." (short pause)
Ben: "Those two are male."
Eileen: "The tiger cat is male too. So, how about Finnbar for the grey boy over there and, haha, Kinsale for the black boy?"
Ben: "Eileen, you are kind of crazy, you know? But yeah, that would be nice. But let's call Finnbar Finn, alright?"
Eileen: "Yes, sir."
Ben: "And the tiger?"
Eileen: "You chose."
Ben: "How about Cara the cat?"
Eileen: "Cara? Isn't that the Gaelic word for friend and friend-ly?"
Ben: "Yes, it is. One of the few Gaelic words I can recall. My gran sometimes sang to me in Gaelic."
Eileen: "Of cause I learned it in school, but I didn't like it much. So complicated. But I was actually good at it. My best friend Clarissa sucked. I had to give her private lessons once a week for three years. To be honest we talked about books most of that time but still. She passed her final Gaelic test, and I attribute that to me."
Ben: "Ha! What is Clarissa doing nowadays?"
Eileen: "She is studying English with me; she wants to become a teacher. English and Art… You know, I'm going to miss her."
Ben: "Hmm, yah."
Ben: "Do you want to go to Maria Alm? We need to buy some food for us …"
Eileen: "And for the cats!"
Ben: "…yes, and for the cats. I've checked the living room. We have a television, but no DVD-Player, so we can buy one if you want. Actually, we will buy one, because I want one. And I want to install internet, so we need to get to a Do-It-Yourself Centre."
This first night Eileen had an unsettled sleep. The next day it wasn't as disturbed as before. The day after that she only woke up twice during the night. On her fifth morning, she awoke rested and relaxed.
Eileen spent the next two days at the B&B, sleeping off her jetlag. It took her a while to get used to the time difference. When she felt normal again, she studied the map of San Fran-cisco and talked to her host, Mrs Hernandez.
Roberta: Miss Catherine! I was just about to put away the breakfast. Would you like to have some tea? Or maybe a toast with peanut butter?
Eileen: That would be nice, Roberta.
Roberta: So my dear, what are your plans for today? The weather is great today, isn't it? Not too cold and not too warm.
Eileen: Er, maybe I'm going to the Pier today. Maybe check out Alcatraz, or walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. And I have to stop by somewhere and get me a pancake!
Roberta: Ah dear, you should definitely do that. But don't go to get the pancakes. I'll make you some tomorrow morning. Would you like them with Nutella or with Maple Syrup?
Eileen: Are you sure you don't mind? Thanks a lot, Roberta! I would prefer Maple Syrup. And er, Roberta? Could you please tell me how to explore San Francisco best? By bus? Or bike?
Roberta: Oh, Catherine, don't take the bike. It is too exhaust-ing! All the hills of SF… No, take the bus, it's cheap. Did you know that the Pier is only a, hmm, about 30 minute's walk?
Roberta: Yes, Catherine. I recommend you to go there. Take your cam with you and just enjoy the streets of San Francisco!
So she put her cam, a smaller map of the city and her current book into a blue handbag and after saying goodbye to Roberta, whom Eileen began to like very much, she left Bush Street walking downhill towards Market.
The first time she'd drove through SF in the cab she was very sleepy and her eyes hadn't really absorbed anything of the city. Now she saw SF as if for the first time: The city was beautiful. Eileen was awed by the beautiful houses, the warm weather, the people and she was shocked by the dimension of San Francisco.
It was 10 o'clock right now and Eileen wondered what Ben would be doing. Had he left Maria Alm, had he gone back to Cork? Or was he staring at the note she had left him not to follow her, like in these movies? Eileen shook her head. She didn't want to know. She didn't care. Though, maybe that was a lie. Perhaps that kiss they had exchanged had been more important than she thought it had been. After all, they had been drunk. It had happened on a Friday. Stephan, Christina, Ben and her had gone out to a place called Party Meadow. And as Eileen and Ben usually never drank, the alcohol influenced them to do funny stuff. They danced all night long and had so much fun. Later that evening Eileen kissed Ben out of an impulse – or Ben had kissed her? She didn't remember that all so well. Anyways, they had never talked about it, but Eileen had realized that Ben had been staring at her with a new intensity since then.
A few days after the kiss, Eileen found something strange in her room – a huge brown envelope. She opened it and found a very interesting file. It was the file concerning her father's death. Pictures of his blue-lipped face. Eileen thought she was going to throw up. And there was more. The suspected mur-derer of Fergus. LIAM SMITH.
RH-Association: Criminal organisation in the USA, CA, San Francisco. Known for stealing from the wealthy, especially in the Richmond district
Suspected to be involved in the assassination of Fergus Beckett
Eileen had never heard of this before. And what did RH stand for? Why would a theft organisation out of San Francisco kill her father? He didn't have anything to do with international crime, did he?
Her head was spinning. By the way, how had that file ended up in her room, for god's sake? It hadn't arrived by post; it had been lying on her bed, waiting for her. That indicated that somebody had been here, in her room. She looked around in panic but didn't find any hint for a break-in.
This whole thing didn't happen just by coincidence. Eileen had to do something. She wanted to know the truth. The truth about how, and – most of all – why her father was killed. She had a right to know. She couldn't stand sitting around here any longer, waiting for the police to act. Eileen wanted to act herself.
And that's how Eileen ended up here, in the United States, San Francisco, on her way to the seaside. She took some pictures of the amazing houses in the streets and promised herself that one day she would own one of them.
When she arrived at the pier she ordered some tickets to cross the sea and visited the former prison Alcatraz. The lady, who had sold her the ticket, told her that the next boat would go in one hour and so Eileen went off wandering around the pier. She looked at the seals, there were lots of them. She took a ride on a carousel and bought herself some ice cream and a golden necklace with the name Catherine written across it in an artistic way. She sat down on a bench and enjoyed the feeling of warm sunlight against her white skin. At about seven pm she was back at the Bed and Breakfast. She went into her rooms and looked at her photos again, when Roberta knocked on the door.
Eileen: Come in!
Roberta: Catherine! Good evening. How was your day? What did you do?
Eileen: I went to Alcatraz and to a little park somewhere nearby.
Roberta: What do you think of our city?
Eileen: Oh it's wonderful. There are so many things to discover!
Roberta: Oh yes. I came because I wanted to ask you whether you would like to have dinner with me.
Eileen: Yes I'd love to!
They went downstairs into the dining room. Eileen hadn't noticed how hungry she was until she saw the lovely fried potatoes waiting for her in the kitchen. Afterwards she went to bed early and slept very good.
The next week Eileen explored the rest of San Francisco. She spent time at the beach, the museums, the shopping mall, Chinatown, the huge city centre, the Golden Gate Bridge and on the "Hippie" streets. Every day, after returning to the B&B, Roberta took good care of her. Eileen had a great first week but she knew that now her fun time would be over and she had to begin with the work she came here for.