Riding a Fantasy
Inside Castle Drummond
Near Arbroath, Scotland
Alex was festering with restrained excitement during the fast trip back to the castle. Speeding down the A92, closing his eyes to the potential highway crack-up, he saw the clear image of a battleship-gray Jeep CJ5…a boy and his father driving the non-road up Mt. Moriah… Fifteen years ago, he was nine years old. Ramón Dominguez was driving an old Willys Jeep he’d bought from a war surplus lot.
Half way up the mountain, the radiator erupted—boiling and hissing, steam exploding into the cold alpine air. He saw his father clearly. Flushed with irritation but trying to hide it, pouring the contents of their canvas canteen slowly into the sputtering old-fashioned convection device…muttering curses not meant for his ears…
Why should he think about that long-dead day, his long-dead father?
What was left of the drive to Ethie Wood passed in a blur. Later that night lying next to his lover, drifting into sleep, Alex vaguely remembered only a more-manic-than-usual Rory behind the wheel, the way the Wrangler insisted on balancing on two wheels when they negotiated the turn into Ethie Wood, his shouts and laughter when Rory made a two-point landing in the driveway inside the gate, Kathleen’s wide-eyed horror at how close they’d come to destroying her roses… He grinned in the dark. The day had been fraught with tension, but he could not remenber when he’d been so happy.
But he did recall every detail of their conversation with Kenneth as soon as they entered the castle. The cop that was riveted to his psyche took notes on top of his braincase when he had to, when every detail might solve a mystery later.
The three of them sat in a rough circle facing the fireplace, nursing an amber Scotch whisky. They had not taken the time to shower or eat. Talking with Rory’s father was a high priority.
“Kenneth, tell us more about Andrew MacCallum. Did you know he was a Detective Constable for the Perth P.S.?”
Ken shook his head. “Dand found me one day mucking around the deserted tower, poking in the rubble, trying to reckon how I was going to take care of the property. Or whether I should just sell it outright. We were both gobsmacked to meet by accident. He never said, and I never asked, what he’d done in the twenty-odd years since the war.”
“Tell me about the war.”
“The Falklands. South America, but far from your folks’ homeland, Alex. Colombia is mostly mountains. The Falklands are a southern island chain, close to the Horn, owned by the UK but claimed by Argentina. In that war, you would have been… Bloody hell, you wouldn’t have been born. Not for another eight years.
“That was 1982. I was 20, Dand was 30. I was a private, an air trooper. He was a corporal bombadier. So we weren’t ‘buddies,’ but we knew each other, all part of the Second Battalion regiment that fought the last inch of the battle at Mount Tumbledown…”
His head sank to his chest. Was he remembering, or mourning? Alex did not want to find out. He and Rory both drank silently until Kenneth raised his head and continued.
“We lost eight men in one day of fighting. It ended close to dawn on June 14. The others…I cannot call them the enemy…the other side lost 40 stout lads. That was pretty much the end of the festivities. They called an armistice a few days laster, and I lost track of the other Scots Guards. Until I met Dand that day in the rain. A big bluff fellow with a smile and a full head of ginger, wet to the bone and ugly as mutton pie.”
“Did you two retire to a pub, or…?
Kenneth grinned and tossed down the rest of his glass. “How did you guess, Alex? I had a bottle in the old Rover, and we went inside the tower and sat in the dust and drank, listened to the rain, and talked about the war. Neither of us ever did say much about our present lives. It was as though we had one lifeline to cling to. The mud and the dirt and the blood, but also the camaraderie of being a tough unit in a tough war.”
“You wouldn’t have a recent snapshot of him would you, Father?”
“I wish. I also wish I’d kept in closer contact with him. Dand was a funny and outgoing lad, but never one to be overly intimate. Kept his hands in his own pockets.”
Alex leaned toward Kenneth and sought his eyes. “Anything at all you can tell us that might help us once we get to Gleann Cu? Like where he lived, or any friends?”
Kenneth pursed his lips and scowled. “He was once a piper, I remember that. And he’s been staying at the spittal in Gleann Cu ever since I saw him again. A speck on a fleck. Except for the time when the old place burned down. He moved back in after it was rebuilt.”
Alex scribbled “spittal” and “piper” on his neurocranium to ask Rory about later.
“Tell me about the fire.”
Kenneth shrugged. “Old place, bad wiring. No one was around when it burned, three or four years ago. Whoever owns the property…a trust fund, maybe…someone had it rebuilt with the insurance money. I remember during that time Dand kept sending in his reports, like clockwork. I’ll have Alan look at them, see if he kept the postal envelopes so we can track down the address where he stayed.”
“Father, Rory and I want to explore the tower, after we track down your friend’s last address. We’ll probably camp there. Will you loan us your sleeping bag and tent? And the Defender?”
Kenneth laughed for the first time since they’d sat down. “You don’t want much, do you? The bags and tent are yours, as long as you need them. But my Range Rover? My baby? Just take your own Jeep.”“I think two vehicles will cut our time in half, Father. And one sleeping bag is sufficient.” He grinned.
“You mean you don’t want to tear out the suspension in your fancy Mercedes? You can take the Defender—but only if you give me the AMG while you’re gone.”
Rory winked at him before telling his father, “Och, I’ll have to think about that. Second childhoods can be verra dangerous.”
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The rest of this chapter is more appropriate for my ManinRomance blog, here: https://bit.ly/2u4rQAo