I read the literature that came with the card – the kind of stuff you normally never read. And it was even better than I had expected, especially considering my new situation. It included the information that under separate cover would come a pin number and logon to allow me to access my account information online. The wonders of technology. I could check my balance on a PC anywhere in the world! The limit on the card was suitably generous – I could draw up to 50,000 euro into the red - although of course I didn’t need a penny of that as I was intending to draw on the stash I had lodged to the account in the past few weeks. I reckoned the account on which I was going to draw was approximately 600,000 euro in the black at this point. That bit of plastic was valuable – definitely worth the trip and all the hassle! Of course I still had another 450,000 euro or so marking the pages of my Grand Canyon coffee table book and earning interest at the same time. In addition and so as not to put all my eggs in one basket, like Old George Redmond seemed to do by transporting his cash back from the Isle of Man, I did have an extra backup position. I had left some more cash behind in Castlebar concealed very carefully in a special hidey-hole beneath my old house in Castlebar. As Mary my ex would ‘inherit’ this house and a big chunk of insurance money she was unlikely to sell the house. If necessary I could return to reclaim the cash if needed to at some later stage. I still had the key to the front door!
Tomorrow I would stash the bearer bonds temporarily in a box in the local Budapest bank. I didn’t trust them too much here, but until I could get them to Switzerland or a more secure offshore location this would have to do. My friendly bank man in Castlebar had assured me that these bearer bonds were excellent investments and all I had to do was clip the coupons periodically in order to claim the interest. Completely anonymous just like cash. Better than cash even because they generated a fair rate of interest. None of your old bogus non-resident accounts here. The interest cheque could be posted to any address on the planet and any number of different names – regardless of who they were first registered to – and no one would be any the wiser. The minister for finance could whistle for his tax. At least that’s what my banker friend told me when he organised the purchase of these security bonds for me originally.
He had warned me that bearer bonds were being phased out in favour of registered bonds which have the name of the owner printed on them. Not much use to me I had thought at the time. They had been discontinued in the US back in 1982 because of the tax evasion possibilities that they opened up! Older ones were still negotiable though. I had been told that the biggest reason for phasing them out was the advent of really good colour photocopiers – fakes were making bearer bonds less useful because bankers were liable to ask where you got them in order to ensure that they weren’t dealing with a forgery. The Nigerians were getting into this scene in a big way with their email frauds. I was assured that these ones had all the latest anti-forging holograms, etc. so that they were as good as cash – very ‘fungible’ or something is what he had said to me. He had also said that I should carry some old collectible bearer bonds that you can buy for 20 or 30 euros on the web. I had some 1914 Russian Railway Bonds sitting on top of my stash to make it look like they were mere collectibles to the casual glance – not much more than Monopoly money in other words.
But where did all my money come from in the first place? And well you might ask. Firstly it was all mine – I hadn’t robbed a bank or something. This money was effectively my pension. I had built it up over a long, tough career in politics and local government. Every penny was hard earned – hard graft! Of course I had to speed things up in the collection department over the past month or so and as a result I probably didn’t realise quite as much of my assets as I should have. My ‘pension’ was somewhat telescoped and depleted as a result – because of this time pressure. I had to compromise on a few deals here and there due to the ‘legal’ time constraints I had been working against.
The sands had been running out fast in my egg timer coming up to the court case. My ‘clients’ realised all too well that my future was uncertain once they realised that I had a serious court case in the offing. The fact that I had actually already been in jail and linked to Murphy and his crew down at Turlough with the ‘hemp’ growing facility didn’t help either. The only saving grace was that we had actually got a grant from the County Development Board for growing the hemp and this had helped to swing some people into believing in my innocence. I was the innocent victim – a non-executive chairman of a company that I thought was completely legitimate growing hemp – why else would I have gone looking for a grant if I had thought it was involved in illegal activities growing cannabis? It didn’t make sense to advertise now did it?
It was obviously all a big mistake and this black nigger guy, Forde, was just a raving lunatic grief-stricken because his wife and son had been killed in the Twin Towers attack. Not a reliable witness. I was out on bail wasn’t I? In the event I did actually succeed in prising the money that was due to me out of quite a few of my clients – mainly on the strength of past gains due to my interventions and the promise of more in the future if they stayed on my good side. I could be very persuasive when I got going. I hadn’t been re-elected five times for nothing. The people of Mayo loved me really. And to paraphrase the Pope on his visit to Galway ‘People of Mayo I Luv U 2’.
The people had provided me with my ‘pension’. I had been honoured to serve them and I was getting ready to live in the lap of luxury from now on taking my well-earned retirement fund with me.
I walked around the apartment reacquainting myself with the lap of luxury that I had purchased here some years back. It wasn’t half-bad I thought. I could easily spend a week or two here. I suddenly realised that I was hungry – very hungry. I hadn’t eaten since that morning as I was too preoccupied on the flights. Hungry in Hungary! The cupboard was bare too – I hadn’t been here for at least a year. It was too late to buy groceries so I had to eat out. Damn! That meant having to pick my way down through an indecipherable Hungarian menu and probably end up with goulash and paprika which I hated with a passion having been caught with that rubbish food a few times here previously. When they say ‘mild’ or ‘not spicy’ they are just barefaced liars. But, there was some hope, I remembered something new that I had noticed on the way from the airport. On the other side of the Danube, just near the Chain Bridge I was sure that I had seen a new Irish pub. I had not noticed it there before – a year ago I was pretty sure that it wasn’t there – but in the taxi I had seen a big Guinness sign outside. I reckoned I could walk there in 20 minutes and grab a bite of Irish style bar food.
Sure enough an Irish Pub on the banks of the Danube. Wonders will never cease. I pushed in the door and glanced around to get the measure of the place. This wasn’t Johnny McHales on Newline. This wasn’t Byrnes on the main street of Castlebar, nor McCarthys and not the Humbert either. It had an Austro-Hungarian Empire feel to it even though it proclaimed itself to be an Irish pub. I was beginning to have my doubts. Hesitantly, I pointed to the Guinness tap – which to my eye at least looked like the genuine article – and made a drinking motion. I assumed the barman was Hungarian Irish pub or not.
"A pint of Guinness then?" the barman said in a real drawl of a Wexford accent. I nodded with a grunt, not willing to reveal my Irishness yet. It was good that he spoke with an Irish accent though I thought. There was some chance that the food would be Irish too. I put a few coins on the counter and waited – I still can’t believe how cheap a pint is in Budapest pennies - in comparison with Johnny McHales even!
For the first time in ages I relaxed. Taking a few swift gulps from the bitter black stuff I picked up the bar food menu from the counter and to my surprise it was printed in English first with Hungarian subtitles alright; but not only could I read the English I understood the food that was on the menu. Coddle, Bacon and Cabbage, Irish Beef Burgers, Bangers and Mash, Cod and Chips – wrapped in Newspaper no less – and even some Irish Sirloin Steak. Not a mention of goulash or paprika to be found. Yikes! Sure I was at home! All I needed now was a good woman!
I was still a bit wary of being spotted – especially since I had left my moustache back in the apartment. I pointed to the Cod and Chips in Newspaper item on the menu. ‘Greeaat Chooice’ The barman nodded approvingly. ‘Ya knooow daaat coooms wraaped in nooospaper?’ he said. I grunted. ‘Like the Iiriish Tiiyymmmes?’ he said holding up a local Hungarian tabloid to show me what a newspaper looked like. I grunted again nodding my head. ‘Ookaaay, a waaan awwn waaan den’ he said approvingly looking at me to see if I had understood. At this stage I was beginning to wonder if he really was Hungarian then it clicked – a one on one – fish and chips. Just like Cafollas.