Top O' the Mournin'

Chapter 1

The guidebook says the weather in Ireland is normally wet, except when it isn't, which can be often, or not often at all. The sun can shine, mostly when it's not raining, but it rains most of the time, except when it doesn't.

In other words, the weather in Ireland is a metaphor for my life.

I'm Emily Andrew, twenty-nine-year-old once-married working girl with a degree in theater arts, currently employed as escort for a bank-sponsored group of Iowa senior citizens on a ten-day tour of the Emerald Isle.

Going back to my weather metaphor, my life had been sunny when I'd moved to New York City after receiving my B.A., married fellow actor, Jack Potter, and landed a part in a Broadway play. The rain started when Jack began wearing my underwear. The deluge hit when he left me a note one night telling me he was running off with his leading man's understudy.

When the shock wore off, I did what any native Midwesterner with no money to pay Big Apple apartment rent would do. I moved back to my hometown of Windsor City, Iowa, had the marriage annulled, and found a job where I could use my acting skills. Phone solicitation.

For three years I was the premier fund-raiser for Playgrounds for Tots, until the president of the organization was arrested for fraud because there was no organization.

He went to jail. I went to Europe. Not as a fugitive from justice. I had a long-standing commitment to be my grandmother's companion on a seniors' tour of Switzerland, so off I went, hoping to ease my jobless woes by experiencing the vacation of a lifetime.

It turned out to be an experience, all right. We were promised temperatures in the seventies. Spectacular views of the Alps. Gourmet cuisine. What we got was bone-chilling cold. Dense fog. A steady diet of cornflakes. And three dead guests.

The one ray of sunshine on the trip was that I met the man of my dreams. Etienne Miceli, the police inspector who investigated the three deaths. He's everything my first husband wasn't. Forthright. Dependable. Heterosexual. We've been communicating by phone and e-mail for eight months now, and you might say our relationship is at a crossroads. It's too intense not to be together. But he lives in Switzerland. I live in Iowa. See what I mean about my life? Rain. Sun. Rain. Sun. Not unlike the weather in Ireland.

"Dublin's nothin' like I imagined," said my grandmother. Her voice vibrated as we jounced down one of Dublin's most traveled thoroughfares in the back of a horse-drawn carriage. Nana was known as "a sport" in her retirement village back in Iowa. She'd won millions in the Minnesota lottery the day my grampa passed away, so in her golden years, she had the means to go anywhere and do anything, and she was taking full advantage of the opportunity. "Is it like you imagined, Emily?"

"I imagined rain." I peered skyward in search of storm clouds, but found only a brilliant wash of blue. Windex blue. Like Etienne's eyes. I sighed with the thought. In Dublin for five hours and already I was suffering the first pangs of loneliness. I needed to snap out of it, else it would be a very long ten days.

Our hackney driver tipped his head to the right. "Shaint Shtephen's Green," he said in a lilting brogue. "Firsht enclosed in 1664. Twenty-two acres of manicured lawn, ponds, and quiet in the middle of Ireland's busiest shity."

Cute accent, but he could use some speech therapy for the lisp.

"Remember that statue a Molly Malone?" Nana whispered, referring to the shapely