You don’t know

“I hate Yanks.”

The words came as if from a dream. Mary tried to drag herself out of the quicksand of sleep.


“You heard. Bloody Yanks. Think you know everything, but you’re ignorant, pig ignorant.”

The accent was British, familiar. What had she been doing last night?

“Where am I?”

She was surrounded by the reek of decay and mustiness. It was dark, too dark to see anything. She was cold and cramped, but she couldn’t move. Her mouth tasted vile. How much had she drunk last night? It was a small pub, the sort you saw in films. Everyone was having a good time, but she’d only had a couple of drinks. Some of the locals had started talking to her. One in particular, about her own age, nice enough looking. Had someone slipped something in her drink? Wait, that was where she’d heard that voice.


She tried to sit up, but she couldn’t. Under a sudden wave of panic she realised her hands were tied behind her. She started to tug and writhe against the bonds.

“Don’t bother,” said Peter. “I’ve tied them tight.”

He was somewhere close, invisible in the darkness. A rip of painful light low in one corner of the room told her it was daylight outside, but she couldn’t make out any details inside.

“Help!” she screamed. Her voiced bounced back from hard surfaces close by. “Help me!”

“Scream all you like; no-one will hear you. Not here.”

“Peter? Peter, please, just let me go, okay? Please?”

“Why should I? Maybe I should just wait here till Bruce Willis comes charging in with the Marines behind him, eh?”

“I don’t understand. I’ve not done anything. Please, please, just let me go.” She let the sobs bleed into her voice. It wasn’t hard. The surface below her was covered in cold mud, it was dark and she was sick with terror.

“Where did you say you were going next week?”

It was such a matter-of-fact question they might have been sitting in a cafe, passing the time of day.


“You heard!” His voice sounded strident, full of anger. “Tell me where you’re going next week.”

“Dublin,” she said. “Ireland.”

“Back to the old country, eh? Back to the land of your fathers. What are you going to do there? Kiss the Blarney stone? Drink Guinness? Listen to stories of how poor Irishmen are suffering under the heel of the English oppressor?”

“I’m just on vacation, that’s all. Just spending a year touring before university. Jesus, Peter, I’m just a tourist.”

Mary squinted into the darkness. She could just make out a suggestion of a shape squatting in the dark. That was one of the most frightening things, not being able to see her abductor, not being able to read his face. Peter, for his part, seemed content to just stay there.

“Where am I?” she asked.

“Don’t know. Used to be a warehouse or something. Nothing left up top now. Just this cellar. Must have thought they filled it in. Only way in is from the river bank. A bit of the wall collapsed sometime.”

Mary felt the sopping wet mud underneath her and smelt the dank mould hanging on the stone.

“The river?”

“Yeah. It’s tidal all the way up to Aylesford.”

“Oh God.”

The shape moved in the darkness. Peter made his way towards the gap in the wall. Mary saw his face highlighted as he looked out.

“You woke up just in time,” he said. “River’s almost here. Give it an hour or two and it’ll reach the ceiling.”

“Oh God, Peter, no. Please, just let me go. I haven’t done anything.”

“Haven’t done anything?” He spun round and Mary saw half his face lit up in an animal snarl. “What about the bombs? What about the innocent lives, the children ripped to pieces, the nail bombs in shopping centres? Was that nothing? The shotgun to the knee and the beating with baseball bats? You call that nothing?”

“What? I don’t know what you’re talking about, Peter. I never did anything like that. I’ve only been here a week.”

He slouched over and looked down at her.

“No, I don’t suppose you do know what I’m talking about. Like I said, ignorant bloody Yank. You still did it though.”

“Did what? Tell me, what have I done?” Keep talking, be more than an anonymous body, make him relate as a human being.

“You’re Irish, right?”

“Irish American.”

“Yeah, they’re the worst type of Irish. All that green beer on St Patrick’s day and bollocks. More bloody Irish than the Irish, but never leaving Brooklyn, eh? Being brought up on all those stories about brave Irish martyrs and English bastards. All those Hollywood films where the villain is always us. And you believe it. Bloody fairy tales and Hollywood, you believe it all. Three generations American and still thinking you’re Irish. All the ignorance of a Yank and all the hatred of the Irish.”

“I’m not like that, Peter. I mean, I’m over here on vacation, aren’t I? I’m going to Ireland to see for myself.”

“No!” He leant over her and stabbed a finger at her face. “No. The trouble with you Yanks is, you think the whole bloody world is divided into America and the rest of us. You come over here and whine that McDonalds isn’t the same as it is in, in, in Nowhereville Tennessee. Well, guess what. We don’t give a toss. And you think everything is black and white. Jews are good and Arabs bad. England is quaint and Japan modern. You even think Ireland is part of Britain.”

“I don’t, Peter. I know Ireland is an independent country.”

“Yeah, but most of you don’t. You know what one Yank asked me? How did we celebrate Thanksgiving. Bloody ignorant Yank. And then, last night, when you said, when you said -” He broke off and turned away from her.

“What, Peter? What did I say?”

“You said we were on the same side.”

“What?” She tried to recall the conversation. What had she said about sides?

“On the same bloody side, as though the bombs had never existed. As though the world had started on nine bloody eleven.”

“Nine eleven? What’s that got to do with me?”

“It’s got everything to do with you. It’s when you suddenly woke up. It’s when you pretended to give a damn so we’d help.”

“Help how?” She could hear the river now, lapping against stones at the edge of the disused cellar.

“You know what it was like here? Do you? Of course you don’t. You don’t know anything. You know where I grew up? The Conservative Club in Maidstone. Look at you. You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you. Conservatives? They’re like your Republican party, right? So it’s like a bar for people that support them. We lived over the top, because mum and dad worked there. Me and my three brothers. You know what the IRA called us? A legitimate military target, that’s what. Just an ordinary working family, and they wanted to bomb us. They did too. A Conservative Club in London. I saw it on the news. Two blocks from us they blew up the Hare and Hounds. It was just a pub, you know? The explosion rattled our windows. A friend three miles away phoned me up because she was woken up by the explosion. Just an ordinary family, and we had to live under that threat.”

“It must have been awful.”

“Shut up! You don’t know. Don’t pretend you do. Robin, he – you have no idea. We didn’t have much money, four kids and working all hours, but my mum and dad, they brought us up right, you know? They taught us about being a family, looking out for each other. Taught us right from wrong. Robin, he was the oldest. He was like a second dad to us, when mum and dad were working downstairs in the bar.”

Mary shivered as a sudden cold trickle of water hit her ankle.

“They sound good folks, Peter. But the IRA, that’s nothing to do with me. God, I’ve not even been in church for years.”

“That’s not the point. The point is, the point is….” Peter moved back to the hole in the wall. Tears streaked his face. Mary wasn’t sure he knew what the point was.

“The point is, America supported them, that’s what the point is. All those years, blowing up innocent people, kneecapping people, driving families out, it was funded by America.”

“Some Americans, maybe, Peter, but not America.”

“Bullshit. Some senator was in charge of fundraising for the IRA. Your courts gave convicted murderers, terrorists, political asylum. Political asylum, because if they were returned to the UK they’d serve a jail sentence handed down by a British court. How does that compare to Guantanamo, eh? Some married into politicians’ families so they couldn’t be deported. Not America? Bullshit.”

“But that’s changed, Peter. The IRA don’t bomb anymore. We don’t support them anymore.”

“Yeah? And why’s that? Because of nine eleven, that’s all. You were quite happy to fund terrorism all the time you weren’t on the receiving end. Then suddenly it’s all, ‘let’s stand shoulder to shoulder.’ ‘Let’s fight terrorism together.’ ‘Let’s conveniently forget all the blood on our hands.’ ”

The water was making its way along her back, soaking into her clothes.

“Look, Peter, there were plenty of people in that pub last night. They’ll find you. You must know that.”

“Let them.”

“You’re right, Peter, you’re right. It was awful, people didn’t know what the IRA was really about. But that’s nothing to do with us, is it? You and me? We’re just two people, Peter. The past is over. We know better, and we shouldn’t be punished for the sins of our fathers, should we?”

Peter remained silent. Mary tried to fight down the rising panic. If she was to get out of here, she would have to make a connection with him.

“Peter? You said your mum and dad taught you what’s right. You must know this is wrong. The innocent shouldn’t be punished.”

“The innocent?” he screamed, running over to her. “You want to know about the innocent, what’s right? Robin, he knew what was right and wrong. He knew. When he found that package, he could have just run. He could have phoned the police and just got out of there. That’s what most people would have done. But no, he sounded the fire alarm. He screamed at people to leave. And because there were women and children in there too, you know what he did? He crouched over the bomb. Everyone else running past and he shielded them. He was still there, still crouching, when, when….”

“Oh God, Peter, I’m so sorry.”

“Sixteen. He was just a kid, and he was better than any adult on that day. Ten years ago, and I wasn’t even in high school. Ten years this week, and there you were, and you said, you said, like it never happened, like you never supported them, like it wasn’t your fault, and you being so proud of being Irish.”

He was almost incoherent, the words escaping in great sobs.

“Jesus, Peter, that’s awful. I’m sorry. But he wouldn’t want you to do this, would he?”

“Shut up!”

“But he wouldn’t, Peter. You know he wouldn’t.”

“I said shut up!” he screamed. “You never knew him, you don’t know.”

The water was at least a couple of inches deep now.

“Peter, please. Please don’t do this. Please don’t let me drown. Jesus, Peter, don’t throw both our lives away.”

She could see him now. Her eyes had grown accustomed to the gloom. He was on his knees beside her, sobbing silently. The water touched her ear, and she shook her head with the shock of it.

“Peter!” she screamed, panic taking over.

Suddenly he moved. She saw something in his hand. He rolled her over, and she kicked and fought as her face pressed into the water.

And suddenly her hands were free. She pushed her body up, away from the suffocating mud and water, as she felt him cut the bonds on her legs. She rolled over onto her backside and scrabbled backwards until her back hit the wall.

“Go,” he said.

“Peter – ”

“Go!” he screamed. Mary turned, slipping and sliding towards the patch of light in the corner. The hole was only a couple of feet high, and narrow too. She scrabbled over the wet stones and bricks into the outside. In front of lay the river. Behind her the bank was a concrete wall too high to climb. She looked around desperately. A couple of yards to left a ladder built into the wall led upwards. She struggled through the cloying mud and grabbed the rungs slippery with algae. Gasping, gripping painfully hard onto the rusted metal, she clawed her way up. She threw herself onto the concrete wasteland of what had once been an industrial site, but had long since been bulldozed level. A hundred yards away ran a high fence. She rose to her feet and started running, her breath coming in short sobs. She headed towards a large double gate. It was padlocked, but the rickety gates and loose chain meant she could squeeze through, expecting to feel the knife in her back at any moment. On the other side she stopped, leaning against the cold metal and looking back the way she had come. He wasn’t there. The wasteland was clear.

It hit her suddenly and with absolute certainty that Peter was joining his brother.


About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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