Thursday, 29 August 2013

Bat Woman

The lobby was teeming with people, after all, it was eight in the evening. It was a large hotel with several restaurants and a big conference-centre. Behind the desk, two receptionists were dealing with calls and guests.

A woman in her fifties came sprinting through the moving tide of people, cutting a swath through them much like a boat cleaves the water. Perhaps it was her annoyed countenance that moved the crowds so effectively, more likely it was because she only wore a towel. Coming to a sudden halt before a receptionist attempting to check in a honeymoon couple, she slammed the desk with a clenched fist.

"Excuse me, Excuse me!" she called. Her abrupt manner got the attention of all the staff and half the guests within ear shot. "There is a bath in my room!" she said loudly, thumping the desk again with her fist.

"Yes ma'am," said the pleasant girl behind the desk. "We have baths in most of the bedrooms."

"I want it out of my room immediately, " the woman said, getting louder and attracting even more attention.

"We can get you a room with a shower if you would prefer," said the receptionist.

"Not a bath, A BAT! A great big thing with wings, you cretin," she screamed.

"I'll get the manager," said the girl rushing off in the direction of an office. The poor woman strode around the lobby in her towel scowling at anyone that dared catch her eye. She was clearly traumatized by the whole experience. "What kind of place allows bats to go flying around?" she asked no one in particular. Soon the manager and the receptionist reappeared. For some strange reason the manager was carrying a hammer.

"Right so," he said. "Let’s go see about this bat of yours."

"It’s not my Bat," the woman said. "I think you’ll find it is your bat," she said hotly.

"Just a figure of speech, Madam. I didn't intend to say he belonged to you," the hammer wielding manager said, trying to pacify the near naked woman.

"Just as long as you know, I’m not in the habit of going on vacation accompanied by flying rodents," she said, storming off in the direction of the elevators with the manager and receptionist jogging in her slipstream.

When the little raggle-taggle band got to the bedroom, the manager opened the door with his master key. He charged in, holding the hammer aloft. This guy couldn't have picked a worse implement to deal with a flying bat. Firstly, he had no chance of hitting it. Second, whatever he did manage to hit was going to be sorry. Looking around, he couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. "How big was it," he asked the guest, who was still standing in the hall.

"About the size of a big cat," said the woman peeking in the door.

"I can’t see anything ma'am," said the manager, beginning to doubt the whole mad story, after all what bat was the size of a cat? A vampire one?

"Check the drawers," the woman demanded from the hall. "He was hiding in there earlier," she said, not seeming to understand how strange this all sounded.

"In the dresser?" asked the manager.

"For god sake are you a bit slow or something?"  the woman said, shouting again. "That one over there," she said pointing at the dresser by the bed. The manager slowly pulled the drawer open, keeping as far back as he could. When an inch of dark interior was showing, the woman let out a blood curdling scream. The manager nearly jumped out of his skin, swinging the hammer wildly. He connected with the bedside phone, smashing it into a dozen bits. The receptionist took off down the hall screaming and beating the air around her head. The barely covered woman stood howling in the middle of the hall like some demented werewolf.

"Kill it! Kill it for god sake!" she screamed, pointing to a spot near the smashed phone, which was completely empty.

"Kill what?" asked the manager, holding his chest and panting like a marathon runner.

"On the dresser, you moron," she yelled rustling her hair with wild hands.

"No need for that," said the manager, his feeling hurt.

"Quick he is going back into the drawer," the woman shouted, pointing again. The manager slammed the empty drawer shut, trapping the non-existent bat inside. With the demented woman doing pirouettes in the hall, he had time to look around the room. He noticed dozens of pill bottles on the table. He picked up one and read the label. May cause hallucinations, was twice the size of all the rest of the words, in big red letters.

All the commotion had emptied the nearby bedrooms, guests had gathered in the hall, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

"I think the best thing to do, Madam, is to leave him trapped in the locker and take the whole thing out," said the manager, hoisting the bedside locker into his arms.

"Yes, the first sensible thing you've said," she sneered. "Where did you do your training, MacDonalds?" The poor manager wrestled the dresser out the door, still holding the hammer in one hand, when the woman called after him. "You should be ashamed to call this a hotel. I’ll be expecting my bill to be reduced for the inconvenience."

The woman stormed into the room in a flap of tiny white towel, slamming the bedroom door closed. One of the gathered guests asked, "Is everything okay in there?"

"All fine," he said, with a long-suffering smile. "As long as no pink elephants turn up."

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Red Spelling Book

As most of you have seen, my spelling is fairly bad. Thanks to spell check you have no real idea how bad it actually is. I first realised I had a true problem when I was given a red, "Collins Pocket Spelling Book," going into the Master's class.

Our little school bordered the shores of a lake a couple of miles outside Galway city. We had about forty students spread over three classes making up the whole school. Mrs Feeney had all the smallies, first class to third, were taught by the Master and fourth to sixth classes had Mrs Burke. I hated leaving Mrs Feeney's class, but time tide and the school system waits for no man. The master was old and very cross looking. So far I had found school to be easy and great fun. The only thing Mrs Feeney had ever corrected me on was singing. Prior to a visit by the bishop, we were practicing hymns. The whole room were gathered around her desk singing a Christmas song when Mrs Feeney waved her hands and stopped everyone mid song.
"Squid, why don't you just pretend to sing," she said sweetly.  I had been giving the song great gusto but even today I can't hold a note. God knows what racket I was making. Red faced I did as she said. When the bishop came I stood at the back of the group and acted like a goldfish. Who wants to sing for silly men in dresses anyway!

The spelling book was different. The master told us to open the book on our second day in his class. He asked everyone to spell five different words. I got all mine wrong. His face darkened like thunder but he said nothing, I was terrified. That night we had to memorise the first page in the spelling book. I went over and over the words trying to get the letters to stick together in my head but they just would not stay. They were like butterfly's in my brain, they kept flitting around when I tried to remember them. After a long time I got them to sit still. I though I had it cracked. I asked my dad to quiz me, as soon as he asked the first word all the butterflies took flight again. Spell river he said.  "R.i.v.r," I tried. No matter how much I repeated them the letters wouldn't stick in my head. I dreaded going to school the next day.

I tried telling mom I was sick, but she made me go to school anyway. The test came after first break. I stood at the front of the class. The master called each word out loud and clear. I got seven out of eight WRONG. I stood there feeling terrified and stupid.

"Harold, that's not good enough at all," the master scolded. I scuttled back to my desk, sick to my stomach. The minutes to lunch dragged. I couldn't wait to get outside and away from everyone. The school was a three roomed little thing with pebble dashed walls. It was spring time and a wild squall blew in from the lake. The driving rain nearly flew straight across not down. The others kids were huddled in the "shelter," behind the play area. Still smarting from my humiliation, I went around the front of the school.

I hunkered down behind a low wall. The wind howled, whipping rain in sheets over my head. Down where I sheltered I was warm and dry. The stillness of the air was amazing. I poked my hand above the wall feeling the icy rain sting my chubby fingers. Although I should remember this day for my terrible spelling, the memory that comes back to me most are those magic moments hiding in the lee of the storm. How I was cocooned in my own world. Despite everything I was elated. Now that I am grown I sometimes think of those minutes, mainly when I feel the world crush down on top of me. I wish, I were still small enough to shelter beneath a stubby west of Ireland wall and let the storm rage safely over me.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Pub Grub

As with any story, we have to set the scene. Today, I find myself in a tiny village on the Ring of Kerry. I was in no rush, so I decided to explore and ended up finding a gem. I love villages. They have all you need, but in a handy size. Villagers are the ultimate multi-taskers. O'Brien's Funeral Home, O'Brien's Hardware, and O'Brien's Ladies Fashions, occupied one small building, and of course, only one O'Brien. The epitome of Irish village life has to be the combined shop and pub. A shebeen, (you say it She Bean). For those yet to visit Ireland, I’ll do my best to describe the one I sit in, now.

The front door is brown timber, housing opaque glass, it's split in the middle instead of opening from one side. The window facing the street is crammed with; tins of beans, boxes of cornflakes, dairy milk gift boxes, dog food, light bulbs, to name a few items. High on one corner of the exterior, hangs an ancient Guinness sign, the only hint that a drink lay within.

Inside, the floor is natural limestone, polished to a dull shine by years of shoe leather. The first half of this narrow building is home to the shop. The high counter is made of dark timber worn light by thousands of items passing over it. On the end of the counter is a weighing scales, with stacks of cast iron weights. In the corner, near the door are peat briquettes and sacks of potatoes. Along the back wall, a short bench huddles under a mountain of newspapers.

Behind the mottled counter, a massive fridge dominates the available space. It looks like an art-deco coffin stood on its end. The back wall is shelved, from floor to ceiling. It is not the number of products that is interesting, but eclectic variety on offer. There’s the normal stuff; like bread, tea, coffee, sugar etc. What's with the four tins of white paint, flanked by cigarettes and boxes of nails? Or the motor oil, hair brushes, fly spray and boot polish, that I could see? Clearly, they stocked in accordance to the specific needs of the people who shopped here.

Then, there’s the partition. These shop/pub combos, differ in many ways, but the feature common to all is the partition. It rises about six and a half feet tall, the timber bottom is scuffed from years of boot marks, where feet rested, while chats were held. The top section holds dappled glass, so only shadows of those moving within could be seen. In the past, this partition served to protect the gentle nature of Sunday mass goers from the rowdiness of drinking men. The fact that everyone knew who, and what, was behind the partition, didn’t matter in the slightest.

Walking through the partition door is like Alice walking through the looking glass. Nothing much actually changed, yet things were suddenly completely different. The shelves behind the counter were the same except from this side they were filled with spirit bottles. The counter was the same but now there were high stools and beer taps. Small tables and string topped stools dotted the polished stone floor. The bench covered outside with papers continued its journey along the back wall. Here, it hosted men drinking pints of porter and chatting happily. The bar man bobbed from one side of the partition to the other. Shop-assistant one moment, barman the next. By walking through the partition, you became a member of a different circle, the wilder few. Words that caused scowls the far side of the flimsy partition were welcomed and enjoyed in this drinking den. Eyes twinkled with naughtiness.

As I said, I love these places. They are a remnant of a gentler time. Despite the décor having remained untouched, (thank God), for fifty years, you can't stifle progress. It seeps inwards like an ocean mist seeps into your bones. In the fridge, alongside milk, and bottles of Guinness, nestle cans of Monster energy drink. The bar man, who once would have worn a peaked cap, but now sported an i-phone. Most of the customers still sported wellington boots, but occasionally the bottom of the counter would feel the expensive brush of a Jimmy Choo. What I really wanted to share with you, is a story the bar man told me.

In the mid-eighties, Irish tourism was making its mark. Tour buses were a regular sight on the highroads and byroads of the country. The Ring of Kerry, has always been one of the places to visit when tripping around our Emerald Isle. The bus drivers would stop in this very village, to give the camera toting tourists a chance to click some real Irish people, doing what they did best, posing for tourists. 

Back then, this shebeen was owned by a man called Murphy, and logically was called, "Murphy’s". One memorable day, a few American people wandered in and ordered glasses of Guinness. Murphy was a renowned rogue, and liked nothing more than taking the micky out of his customers. 

Being accustomed to a better service environment, one American lady turned to Murphy and asked, "Sir do you have any food?" 

Murphy lifted his flat cap and itched his shiny head, thinking hard.
"I could make you a ham sandwich, if you wanted," he offered.

"That would be lovely" said the woman. Whatever she had been expecting, it wasn’t what happened next.

Murphy took a full pan of bread from shop, and ripped open the wax paper. Pinching some bread between his meaty, callused, fingers. He tossed them directly on the bar counter, in front of the shocked woman. From the same fridge that still sits in the shop today, he extracted a full pound of Kerrygold butter. Murphy opened the foil with filthy fingers, before dropping the open butter beside the bread. Instead of a knife, Murphy grabbed the hard-plastic spatula he used to scrape the excess head from the pints. He didn’t even rinse it before using it to lather butter thickly on the bread.

On a hook over the fridge hung a full, smoked-leg of ham. Murphy unhooked it and slapped it on the counter, beside the bread. Still having no knife, he pulled lumps of meat off with his fingers, piling them on the greasy bread. The look of amazed horror was nailed on the poor American’s face. As it happened, it was a warm summers day, and flies were everywhere. One scooted down and landed directly on the open sandwich. Murphy stopped what he was doing, and stared at the cheeky fly. He grabbed the greasy peaked cap from his head, and deftly swatted the fly where it stood.

Replacing his cap, Murphy flicked the flattened body of the fly off the ham, before slamming the top slice of bread home, with his filthy paw. Having no plate to hand, he slid the uncut sandwich across the bar towards the horrified tourist. 

Murphy fixed her with a devilish smile. "There you are, Missus. I'm a stickler for the hygiene," he said, with a wink to the locals, holding in belly laughs, up and down the bar.

I am fairly sure that sandwich never got eaten.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Kid's and truth.

Talking to my friend Karie reminded me of a tiny story I felt like sharing. After the long posts of Duggie Finn this will be short and hopefully sweet.

Before I start I should tell you that I have a fairly big gap between my front teeth. I don't notice it any more but I am sure others must. Here we go!!

About a year ago a young mother came into the bar and ordered a coffee and a juice. She was accompanied by her son who would have been 5 or possibly 6. A right little man he was. You should have seen the way he hoisted himself up on a high stool and propped his elbows on the bar counter. I liked him straight away. He seemed very clever and the way he spoke with his mother was quiet grown up. I served the cup of coffee and asked the boy if he wanted ice in his juice.

"No, thank you." he said politely. I poured his drink and put it on a beer mat for him.

"My name is Sean, what's yours?" he asked, direct and innocent. Something made me want to give him a proper answer, a thing I would not bother with for most adults.

"My name is Harold but my nick name is Squid, that is what most people call me." I said wiping the counter.

"Ok" he said "What's wrong with your teeth" His mother went bright red and looked like she wanted to drop straight through the floor. I smiled. I love the honesty of kids. They call it just like they see it.

"One of my teeth grew crooked so now I have a gap." I said, enjoying this little man and his grown up manner. He thought about that for a minute before saying.

"Why don't you get them fixed. Don't you have the money?" His mother descended into the lowest depths of parental purgatory. Fair play to her she did not stop him or say he was doing anything wrong. She just threw eyes filled with apology.

I outright laughed before saying "If I got them straightened how would people recognise me?" It just came out of nowhere.  I had not planned to say that, it just, came out. The little man said no more and his mother distracted him quickly by asking him about a party they were going to later.

I like my gap, it makes me more ME!! Kids are ok too!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Duggie Finn Part 1

Duggie Finn

Duggie sat on a high stool and waited for the barman to take his order. He knew the barman had spotted him soon as he came in, but wouldn’t hold his breath for a quick service. Duggie was spotted as soon as he went in any place. He was five foot nine inches tall and as skinny as a rake.  His hair was greasy, black, and cut badly. The skin on his face was pocked from a life time of spots and bad diet. On his feet gleamed a set of brand new Nike Airs. He wore a track suite zipped all the way up, despite the heat, and a baseball hat pulled low over his eyes. In short he looked like trouble from the cradle to the grave.

When the barman couldn’t put off serving him any longer, he reluctantly wandered towards Duggie and asked, "What will it be?" his voice dripping suspicion.

"Pint bottle of cider, glass, and ice, bud," Duggie said. Duggie's words were pulled long by his inner city accent, like chewing gum stuck on a shoe. It was a flat, North Dublin, drawl. He got no friendly chit-chat from this barman, who was too long in the business to be innocent. The man would clearly prefer if Duggie were anywhere, other than sitting in his bar. The barman popped the bottle cap and plonked it on the counter before taking the tenner left resting on the counter for him. The barman rang in the sale and dropped the change back on the counter beside the dewing bottle of cider.
Duggie waited a second or two before calling "Hay Bud! That was a twenty spot I gave yea."
The barman glanced over his shoulder and growled "Fuck Off," without even missing a stride. Duggie shrugged to himself, it was always worth a go.

It was early Sunday evening and the bar was busy. There were people all over the place, eating and drinking. Duggie never got the whole gastro pub thing, a pub was for drinking, if you were hungry go to the chipper. Simple pimple. There were all kinds of people here, being in a city centre, you tend to get a real mix of customers. Duggie's eyes flicked over the tables looking out for a soft score. A wallet poking out of a pocket, a jacket left alone, or his favourite, a handbag hung over the back of a chair. Nothing was looking promising at the moment so he decided to sip his drink and wait.

A bellow ripped across the bar "AAAHHH Here, leave it out!" followed by raucous laughter.

The noise was caused by a blond woman who was about five foot two. Her voice so rough, she must gargle with razor blades. She seemed to have only one volume, deafening. Although small in height, she was carrying so much swinging fat, she looked like someone had rammed an air hose inside her tee shirt and inflated several swimming rings. She was waving a pint glass around as she recounted something funny to the rest of her group. There were three couples sitting at the table and they all looked like they had been drinking since breakfast. They were typical Dubs, everything was big, big personality, big hair, big jewellery, you name it. They seemed to be made of too much, far more than could be contained in a human body.

Beside the table was an empty child's buggy. The kid was running around the place without anyone keeping an eye on him. These parents went in for the free range school of child rearing. The floor around the table was littered with new toys and torn cardboard boxes. The little fella looked about four. He began tugging at the blond woman, but she never looked in his direction, she just used her free hand to brush away the annoying distraction around her feet.

"Mom, mom, mom, MOM!" he balled, now annoying everyone else within earshot. In the end, she picked him up and dumped him back in his buggy, before shoving a massive bar of chocolate and a bottle of coke at him. It was clear to anyone the kid was bored, tired, and cranky. The last thing he needed was more junk food. It appeared a four year old had more sense than this mother, as he threw the drink across the floor and roared with frustration while his parents continued to ignore him. In the end, it all got too much for man a few tables away.

"Missus shut that kid up will yea," the man yelled in the direction of the group.

"He is only a kid, what's he doing to you," the mother shouted back, her face scrunched up with indignation.

"He is wrecking my head, that's what he is doing," the man replied. "Flipping do something about it, this is a pub not a crèche."

The blond woman's husband decided it was time to defend his brood, "What are you saying about my young lad?" he growled. His heavily tattooed hands transforming into fists, to highlight his meaning.

"I’m saying nothing about him, you on the other hand, should not be left in charge of a hamster, never mind a child," came the response. You had to admire the bravery of this guy. The kid’s father looked like he ate crushed glass for breakfast. The bar man reached under the counter drawing out a short baton and held it by his leg. None of this was missed by Duggie.
"Hey you lot, cut out the shouting," he called, but far too late.

The blond woman's husband launched himself at the group of men that were complaining. Soon both tables were trading punches, the women pulled hair, none of them giving a shit about the kid. Duggie saw his opportunity and walked by a table lifting a handbag, while the owner was watching the commotion. He shoved it under his top and strode for the door.

On the way out, he took a look back at the scene that was unfolding. Duggie saw the kid crawl under a table while it rained smashed glass, spilled beer, and blood, all around him. It was as if he were looking at himself twenty years ago. He knew the loneliness of a life begun under the shadow of drink and stupidity. Deep down he hoped this little lad wouldn’t end up like him, but didn’t like his odds. Time to scarper, the coppers would land soon.


Duggie walked casually to next laneway, where stripped the cash from the bag and dumped the rest in a wheelie bin. There was an I-phone in the bag worth a bob or two, but they are all tracked these days, not worth the hassle. Duggie ended up clearing nearly two hundred quid from the bag, not a bad result. The driving force behind everything Duggie did was not greed, it was Heroin, Horse, Smack, Gear, whatever you like to call it. Without it, Duggie descended into the seventh circle of hell. He did not like steeling but it was the only way he could survive. When Junk had a hold of you, you did anything you had too, without a second thought for the consequences.

Today was a good day, he’d shot up the last of his gear when he woke up this morning. Duggie had floated through the first few hours without even noticing he was awake. Now, he was on the way back down. He was still feeling okay for now, even so, he was already getting anxious about what was coming, and where he would get the cash for his next fix. He would do anything necessary to feed the monster, what’s a handbag or two to the likes of those people, he thought.

Getting gear was always a problem but it wasn’t his biggest problem today. His big problem was Rob. He had been dealing weed for Robbie for a few months now, it was a handy way to make a bit of money, but the problem was, when Duggie had money, it seemed to just vanish from his hands. The last few times he was due to meet Robbie, he had no money at all left, so he just dodged him. Word was out, Rob had enough of Duggie and was looking to collect, one way or the other. It was a threat looming huge in his mind. Robbie was not the kind of guy a right minded person would mess around.

Duggie spent the next few hours drifting around the city streets. He managed to dip a few more bags in the ILAC Centre and he broke open a cigarette machine in the back room of a bar while the staff were occupied in the lounge. He took as many packs of smokes as he could, as well as filling his pockets with change. He flogged the cigs to people on St Stephens green. By the end of the day he had just shy of four hundred Euro. He was starting to feel sick, his skin was beginning to itch, and the shakes were coming back. It was time for his next hit. Duggie scurried off to James's street flats, were his dealer lived.

When he reached the flats, Duggie went under the brick arch into the inner court yard. Court yard was a very fancy term for a laundry strewn pit of discarded rubbish. Shopping trolleys, old tyres, and a burnt out car were a few of the artefacts to be found littering the area.

"Oh Douglas," called a deep male voice from just behind him.

Duggie spun on his heels, two very large men, also in track suits, were blocking the arch he just come through. Behind them Duggie could see the doors of a black BMW standing open. They must have been watching the entrance, waiting for him to turn up. Duggie knew these guys, they were leg busters for Robbie, and they loved their work.  The Golden rule of live as a druggie is simple, it’s ‘Run!’ The problem was too where? There is only one other exit from the courtyard and it was at the far end of the complex. Duggie vaulted a toppled shopping cart and ducked under a washing line, dragging sheets off it as he passed. The bruisers were right on his heels, but Duggie was built like a greyhound and nearly as fast. He getting away from them as he reached other archway. From the shadows, a figure emerged to block his escape. Duggie had no choice but to stop, it was Robbie, who wasn’t as big as the two behind him, but much more dangerous.

"Rob. I did not know it was you," Duggie panted, jerking his thumb over at the two men who were now directly behind him. "I thought these two were Blanket Bacon," which was slang for undercover cops.
"Never doubted it for a moment Duggie," he said with a smile. "Just step into my office for a minute," he said holding out his arm indicating the darkness of the archway. Duggie guts knotted and he realised his time was up.

"Have you got something for me Douglas?" Rob asked, backing Duggie up against the curved wall, the top of his head making contact with the rough brickwork. Duggie pulled the wad of notes he had accumulated during the day from his pocket and handed it to Rob. Sweat was streaming down his face, partly due to the possibility of death and partly due the cravings starting to rage through his body.

"Your light," said Rob, after a quick count. "Where’s the rest?"

"That is all I have, I swear to God. Give me a few days, I'm good for it."

"This will just about cover the petrol I spent looking for you. Are you trying to screw me over? Do I look like a bitch to you?" Rob said, slapping Duggie hard for emphases. The back of his head bounced off the brickwork.

"I’d never do that Rob, I’d be mental to try anything like that," he pleaded. "Things just got away from me."

"More like you shoved it in your arm, you junkie piece of shit," one of the men chipped in from the side. He had lit up a cigarette and was blowing smoke rings.

"We could drop him out to Wicklow for you, boss?" said the thug with a diamond stud in his ear. The Wicklow Mountains were littered with shallow graves, filled with sad cases just like him and Duggie knew it.

"Jesus there is no need for that, I’m just a bit light," Duggie cried.

"You made me run Douglas and I hate fucking running," said Mr Diamond.

"Now, now, boys. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Douglas here still owes me money. If he’s fertilising a bog, how is he ever going to pay me back? Business first, then pleasure," Robbie said, addressing his hired help, but the message was for Duggie.

"Thanks Rob, I swear I’ll get you every shilling," he said, with relief in his voice.

"You've not heard the terms yet Douglas, don't go thanking me too soon. This-" Rob said, flapping the folded notes, "is a fine for making me come looking for you. I want two thousand more before Friday."

"Two grand. It’s never that much," Duggie said. Rob's free hand shot out and crushed Duggie's face. He slammed the back of Duggie’s head against the arch again, and again, this time the blood flowed down his neck.

"Interest Douglas, Interest. You have till Friday, then it’ll be three grand. You got that?" Rob said, bashing the back of Duggie's head against the rough stone one more time.

"I got it," he mumbled, through crushed lips.

Rob let go of his face and Duggie recoiled expecting to take a dig, but it did not come. The two brutes moved in, but Rob stopped them.

"I think he has the point," Rob said. The look of disappointment on the face of Mr Diamond and Smoke Ring, was comical. Robbie walked away a few paces before turning with a big smile. "Only messing lads, work away."

The first punch caught Duggie high in the stomach, knocking the air out of his lungs. Duggie curled into a ball trying to absorb as much of the beating as he could. It still hurt like hell. He got another good punch under his left eye and could feel it swell instantly. They took turns in pounding on him for a few minutes before Mr Diamond said, "Mat how about doing an O'Gara?"

"Sound," said Smoke Ring, and hauled Duggie to his feet. He grabbed the tracksuit top and pulled it over Duggie's head, so that it trapping his arms, which he followed up with a punch in the solar plexus. Behind Duggie, Mr Diamond was waiting his turn. Duggie's feet were spread wide, trying to keep his balance. They made a perfect target. Mr Diamond drove his foot high and hard between Duggie's legs, smack into the family jewels. The pain was unnatural.

"Right between the posts," laughed Mr Diamond, as Duggie's knees buckled and he collapsed onto the pavement. He vomited anything that was in his stomach, mostly liquid.

"Look at the state of him," said Smoke Ring, backing up from the expanding puddle of puke.
"Let’s go," said Mr Diamond. "Next time Douglas, don't make me run after you." They walked away, confident that no one would say anything, not if they knew what was good for them. The kids in the court yard kept playing, paying no attention at all to the men leaving. To them, this was part and parcel of life. Just another scumbag getting what was coming to him.

Duggie lay in a ball of pain, wallowing in his own puke. At last, the need for a fix got greater than his pain. He slowly, very slowly, got to his feet. Duggie slipped a hand inside his tracksuit bottoms and had a rummage around. Everything was still were it should be, and when he took his hand out, there wasn’t too much blood. He knew he would live. He hobbled back towards town, holding the wall as he went. The search for money had to start again, the search for the next fix. Always searching.

Duggie Finn Part 2

Duggie spent the rest of the day moving from bus shelter to door way, letting time cure his aches. It was no good trying to dip bags like this. His movements were too slow, he stood out far too much. He would have to wait until dark. Night was his friend, it cloaked the honest and dishonest, with equal efficiency.  Even in the dark, he avoided the plush suburbs and well to do areas. Just walking along those streets was enough to get him pulled in by the coppers.
No, Duggie felt safest among his own kind. Duggie-boy was no Robin Hood, he stole from his own, to keep it himself. He would have ripped off his own Mum, if she gave him half a chance, not that she would.  Tonight, he made his way along a row of older council houses just outside city centre. He dismissed most of the houses out of hand, as they had alarm boxes mounted high on their outer walls. Eventually he came across one with no alarm and old timber windows. He knocked on the door and waited. No barking dogs, no answer. Duggie slipped around the side and was blessed to find a small bathroom window, tucked away from prying eyes.
With a swift jerk of a pry bar followed a sharp snap and the window sprang fully open. Just like that he was inside. Duggie wore plastic gloves he had taken from a supermarket deli earlier. He stood with his eyes closed in the dark bathroom, listening for movements in the house. None came, his eyes were still closed, waiting for them to adjust to the night time gloom inside the house.  When he opened them, he could see the room painted in shades of grey. He had to be quick and quiet. The first time he did a burglary he had frozen, stopping every time he made the slightest sound, imagining each as loud as crashing pots.
His first break in had been long ago, and now he moved with the practised grace of a dancer. Gliding lightly from room to room, testing doors and drawers, leaving the ones that were too stiff or too noisy, but tonight the owners were out and the house was empty. He quickly filled his pockets with jewellery, mostly cheap tat, but some gold rings and chains would at least see him right for a fix. He picked up a game boy, a play station as well as a gym bag to put them in. There was a gent’s watch that would get him about forty Euro even though he knew it was worth about ten times that much. He only ended up snagging a little cash. The most valuable thing he came across, were the keys to a car. He never once thought of the family coming home, finding the house ransacked. The fear that he was bringing into their lives.
The hunger born of his addiction had driven all compassion from his mind. There was no room left in his brain for anything but gear, getting gear, getting money for gear, the fear of not having gear. Now, he went about his work like a farmer bringing livestock to the abattoir, immune to the coming pain and suffering of others. 
Once he was back on the street, the heavy gym bag slung over his shoulder, he pressed the key fob. A seven year old ford fiesta chirped in response, parked a few feet away from the gate. He loaded the bag into the boot of the car, and was on his way, thankfully the tank was already half full. One way or the other he couldn’t go cruising in a stolen motor, eventually it with would be reported. If he was caught, it was would be a five year stretch for him, no question. He had to cloak the motor and Duggie knew just what to do.
Driving around, he eventually found the same model, make, and importantly, the same colour car. It was well past midnight and the streets were quiet. Duggie pulled up alongside his target. It only took a few moments to whip off the number plates and be on his way again.
Duggie found a quiet spot with no cameras to change the number plates on the car for the ones he had just stolen. The chances of someone reporting a stolen car was high, reporting stolen number plates? Come on, get real. He was confident now, driving past traffic cameras and even squad cars. The recognition soft wear they used wasn’t going to sound alarm bells. With enough money for a fix filling his pocket Duggie went to score.
Later that night, Duggie cooked up on a dirty spoon. Sucking the disgusting but vital liquid through the tiny needle. Digging deep for a vein, he eventually found one he could use, and let the plunger drive the happiness into his blood. He felt the drug moving through his body like a living creature. Sometimes if he really concentrated hard he could actually tell the moment the first atoms of the drug hit his mind. Exploding in happiness and peace. Duggie sank back in the seat of the stolen car, the needle still stuck in his arm. Nothing mattered he now he was home.

Nothing could hurt him, he was where he was wanted, like he was never wanted in reality. Duggie lay half awake, half asleep in a cloud of bliss, outside the Omniplex Cinema. That was where he spent the night, dry, safe from Robbie, safe from everything. Early in the morning a loud banging roused him.

“Hay Man!” The butt of a torch hammered on the driver’s window. “Hay, wake up there,” the security guard shouted.
“Alright, alright,” Duggie said sleepily, trying to figure out where he was.

“What do you think this is, fucking Holiday Inn? Go home and sleep it off.”
Normally Duggie would have given this fella a right mouth full, but sitting in a hot car, it did not seem wise. Anyway, it wasn’t the guard that he did not like the look of, it was the flipping huge Alsatian he had with him.

“I’m Go’n, alright give me a minute,” Duggie shouted, searching for the keys which were still hanging from the under the steering wheel. Duggie saw the guard recognise the cook up spoon, baggie, and lighter, thrown in the passenger foot well but could do nothing about that now. He started the engine and carefully drove out onto the main road.

The traffic was quiet, the fog of sleep was wearing off and his problems with Robbie surfaced in his brain again. How the hell was he going to get two grand in six days? No amount of handbags were going give him that much.  Duggie reckoned that even with what he got in an average burglary, he would have to break into at least five houses a day to get even close. All that without even taking anything for himself. What he needed was to get two thousand all in one go. He was so caught up with is worries he failed to notice the van in front of him indicate left. He nearly ran into the back of it. Duggie Leaned hard on the horn as the green Post Office van turned into a dive way. The driver’s arm appeared out of the window, and give Duggie the finger. It was times like this that you nearly could believe in fate. A plan hatched in Duggie's drug riddled brain as he accelerated away from Dublin and into the lush green countryside.

Duggie was at best a ‘D’ student, for the few years he managed to stay in school. Not even the most misinformed newsreader would ever refer to him as a 'Criminal Mastermind'. Everyone but Duggie knew he was as thick as two short planks. The only one that didn't seem to realise this important fact, was Duggie.
 Nearly hitting the post van got him thinking about all those old age pension books he had lifted from handbags around the shopping centres of Dublin. If he hit just one post office, it was like picking hundreds of pockets, all at once. Even Duggie wasn’t stupid enough to try and take the GPO on O’Connell Street. If he went in there mob handed, with shooters all over the gaff, he’d still come out with nothing more than his dick in his hand. 

No, he needed a small place, a country Post office would do just fine. Duggie wasn’t greedy, he only needed two grand, four at the most. The way he figured it, they wouldn't be ready for a raid. In Duggie's mind, he saw himself walking in all mean and nasty, scary gangster. Some little blue rinse old woman with snot and tears running down her face throwing wads of cash at him just to get out.
All those country bumpkins were soft as shit, it was going to be a push over.  Duggie changed the plates back to the originals before pulling into a petrol station.  He waved in at the girl behind the counter before casually filling up the tank. He even waved at her again as he got back in his car and drove away without paying. Ten minutes later he was back on the stolen plates and as good as invisible once more. He had dumped his baseball cap and took of his top in case the girl gave his description to the coppers.
Plan in place, Duggie headed out into the wild green yonder.  He made his way through Wicklow and down near Wexford before turning off the main road. He followed country roads and lanes until he arrived in a tiny village. It was so small, it didn't even register on the sat nav. At one end of the village under a green sign was a tiny post office. It looked like someone’s front room which had been converted, leaving the rest of the house for living in, ideal. Only five miles to a main road. Once on that he could head anywhere in the country.
It was afternoon and his last fix was wearing off. He drove out of town and found a quiet spot to sort himself out. He cooked up, just a small dose to keep him going through the job, but not enough to actually get him high. He needed his wits about him. He was stepping up into the big time and despite everything, he was excited.  Forty minutes later he strolled casually into the Post Office.
He had planned to pretend to buy some stamps, to look for his opportunity to jump the counter and do a swift bash and grab. As soon as he went in to the post office, this plan went out the window. First, the place was packed, people were queuing up, waiting for the one person behind the counter to serve them. Duggie had no choice but to join the queue or look like some total space cadet. Second, there was no way to jump this counter. A glass and timber partition went from floor to roof in front of the teller. The glass looked bullet proof, it was defiantly Duggie proof. The door leading behind the counter was grey steel covered with posters but it too looked remarkably sturdy. Trust Duggie to pick the fort Knoxx of country post offices.
“Your turn lad,” said the man standing behind him, this guy must have been a farmer because he was stinking of cow shit.  Duggie had been so caught up with his disappointment and checking out the place, he had not noticed the old woman ahead of him finish her business and walk away from the service hatch. This revealed the last and final deterrent to a raid on this particular post office. Nowhere to be seen was a little old blue haired granny that Duggie hoped to encounter. Instead, seated in her place was a guy in his late thirty's, bald, who looked like he bench pressed cars in his spare time. It was not his size that mattered to Duggie, he had seen guys bigger than this fella break down in tears when the shit came down. It was his eyes, you see. Some men have this wild streak that you can see glinting just behind a friendly smile. They walk through strange towns, hoping some doped up scumbag tries to mug them. This man was just like that, his stop button had been disabled and was one dangerous mother, he might even be worse than Robbie. One thing was for sure, Duggie was not going to find out. Instead, he asked for a book of stamps and came out leaving twelve euros of his money behind the counter that he would never ever see again.
Duggie sat in the car fuming, having drove half way around the country he was no closer to getting the money he needed, and twenty four hours closer to a shallow grave in the mountains. Maybe he should just keep going, settle somewhere Robbie couldn’t get him. Deep down, he knew that wasn’t going to work. Ireland was a small place. If you ran in the circles that Duggie and Rob ran in, it was even smaller. Besides, he knew nowhere but Dublin.

Duggie had to get the money, there was nothing else for it. With the chance of one big score gone down the sink hole, Duggie went back to what he knew best, pick out the weak and pounce.

For the next while he watched people come and go from the post office. At last he saw an old man pull up on a small red tractor. In his hand, Duggie recognised the pension book he had seen so many times before. This was the one. Duggie watched the man when he left the post office while he walked stiffly to the shop across the road. He came back soon laden with bags. All this was good. This fella looked like he only came to town now and again. He was more likely to have cash lying around the house, and live further from the village.
Duggie had been told by other lags when he was inside that some of these old farmer's had thousands in cash, shoved in holes or under pots. You just had to get them to say where. A few slaps normally did the trick.
The old man loaded everything on the back of the little tractor and did a 360 on the road, heading back the way he came. Duggie watched until as the tractor drove out of the village, before starting the car to follow. The problem with tailing a tractor is, it goes too slow. Duggie had to keep stopping every time he caught up, pulling over to let it get away again. He listened to the sound of it dying away in the distance, trying to gauge whether it turned or slowed. He used the sat nav to see when roads were coming up ahead. He nearly lost it when the tractor turned to the right, up a small lane with grass was growing in the middle of it. Duggie drove on past the lane twice, before taking the turn. He followed track a short distance with his head hanging out of the driver window listening for the sound of the tractor ahead. Soon he heard it. Duggie kept the little tractor barely in sight, seeing it pull into an isolated farm yard. 
Duggie pulled over and waited a while, no other cars passed. At last he got out of the car and opened the bonnet. He loosened one of the terminals on the battery and closed the bonnet. He walked towards the farm taking in all he could see. No cars, the only clothes on the washing line were men's and all looked old fashioned. Duggie waited for the barking of dogs that would act as warning of his approach, but none came. He knocked on the front door and waited. No one answered. From the side of the house a head popped out.
“All right, what do you want,” said the old man Duggie had seen driving the tractor.
“Sorry to bother you sir, but my car’s broken down and I’m a bit lost. Do you think you can help me,” Duggie said, in his most innocent voice. He had left the tracksuit top and baseball hat in the boot of the car and now he just was wearing a black tee shirt over the track suit bottoms and runners. He could be on the way to football training except for the scummy haircut.

“Where is it?” the old man asked.

“Just down the road a bit. I know nothing about cars. This is my first one,” Duggie said telling the near truth for once.

“Come on so you better let me take a look. Where were you going anyway,” the farmer asked walking across the yard towards the road.

“I was on my way to Waterford and thought I’d go cross country from Wicklow, but got lost. I was trying to get back on the main Waterford road for ages,” Duggie lied, but he knew he wasn’t far from the main road. It was the one he had planned to use as his escape route after knocking off the post office.

“Is that your car down there?” the old man said, pointing to the Fiesta pulled in off the lane.
“Yea that is it, I stalled and it just would not start again.”

“Give me the keys till I have a look,” the farmer said. Duggie handed over the keys. He could never have done this if he had hotwired the thing. The old man eased himself into the driver seat with difficulty. Duggie could tell he was hardy, but age was making his movement painful. All this was good news. The old man turned the key a few times and nothing happened.
“Perhaps I can get your wife to call a tow truck or garage?” Duggie said.

“I don’t have a phone,” the old man said. “And if you are looking for my misses, you better get a shovel,” he said without a hint of humour.
"Sorry to hear that,” Duggie said. “If you just point me in the direction of the next town I can walk,” Duggie offered.

“Just pop the bonnet and let me have a look first,” the old man said, struggling to get out of the car. Duggie did as he asked.
“Ah there is your problem. The battery is loose and one of your cables has nearly come off." The farmer shoved the cable back into place with a gnarled hand. “Give it a go now.”

Duggie sat behind the wheel and started up the engine.

“Drive it up to the yard and I'll tighten up that battery and cable,” the farmer said.

“There is no need really thanks very much,” Duggie said.

“Don’t be silly, it’s no bother. If you go driving over these rough roads you will be broken down within two miles,” he replied and would not take no for an answer.

Duggie let him tighten he cables and give him directions to the main road, before leaving with a wave. Duggie tried to give him twenty Euro for helping, but the old man shook his head and refused, saying he did nothing, he was glad to help.

Duggie spent the next few hours driving around the roads in the area. Making sure he could find his way back to the farm with ease. When he was happy he had a good map of the area in his brain, Duggie found his way to the main road and a busy lay bye. Sometime the best place to hide is in plain view. He settled down to wait until night. Catching up on sleep like some tired commuter.

Duggie Finn Part 3

Pat watched the little car drive away. He didn’t like the look of that guy, one little bit. The story about getting lost going cross country was total rubbish. A city boy looking as sick as he did, was up to no good, of that Pat was sure. Whatever his story was, he was gone now and good riddance. Pat went back to his kitchen and finished putting away his groceries.

Pat looked out over the rolling grassland of his little farm, letting his mind wander. It must be a sign of getting old, as these daydreams were happening more and more often these days. The Mann family had been farming this land for over one hundred and sixty years. Soon all that would come to an end. His wife, God bless her soul, had given him one son, James, who was the apple of her eye. It broke Pat's heart when James looked beyond the ways of the country for his happiness. James was a good boy, perhaps too good of a boy. He visits, now and again, but the look of boredom hovering behind his eyes is undeniable.

The last real tie James had with this farm ended when Annie passed away, that was five years ago. Cancer had taken her, the fags did the damage. Pat hid it as best he could but he was broken with the loss of her. Every morning, first thing, he would turn to her photo on the dresser and say "Well Annie love, time to get a move on," just as he had said to her every morning of their thirty eight year marriage. Pat talked to Annie without noticing she was no longer there, as if she were still sitting by the range. Annie was no ghost in this house, she was as real as she had always been. Pat couldn't imagine even a moment without her essence in his life, what would be the point in going on without her.

After she died Pat felt so hollow, he was sure he would follow her from grief alone. It didn't happen, no matter how often he wished for it. Time has a way of just passing, a minuet at a time. Before you know it an hour is gone, then a day, soon a week has passed. After that months and years seem easy, life is relentless. No matter how much you think you can't go on, time ignores your needs and ploughs ahead regardless. One thing is sure, everyone owes a death.

Soon he would run out of time. The only one left to pass the farm too was James. Pat was sure it would be sold rather than kept as a Mann family farm. Pat felt disappointed, this land was important, it was what made a man a man. Pat's parents and grandparents had fought and died for this land and now his seed would just give it a way for a fist full of silver. Any dreams his ancestors had of this place passing from generation to generation into the mists of time, were but a fantasy.

Pat shook of his daydream off and set about finishing his chores. The back door lay open, allowing the sounds of birds and insects to drift into the house on a gentle summer breeze. Early in his life, the quiet of the country seemed stifling, but these days he liked the way it laid gently on his ears. Once he had been young, wild and idealistic, though it was hard to guess by the bent old man he had become. Deep inside the fire that had burned so bright, glowed still.

Pat had sought out excitement, bucking the system, and striving for what he thought was right. Pat had attended meetings in the dead of night, planned actions and hid guns to help unify a country he felt was still under occupation.  He listened to the rhetoric, and was carried away by stories of hero's fallen for a greater good. He had struggled against occupation and had lived to see peace come to his land. How quickly the masses forgot, how quickly they thrown away all they had achieved. People were all the same, he now realised, as were governments, Irish, English, whatever, it made no difference. It was as if all his efforts, all the sacrifices, were just forgotten, but he still held on to his truth.
"Ah, what's wrong with me Annie?" he said, to the empty room. "I'm getting maudlin in my old age. I think we will be seeing each other soon love, but till then the cattle in the top field still need water"

Pat walked stiffly towards the small tractor and the never ending list of jobs waiting to be done.


Meals in the Mann house were never going to win culinary awards, frying pans loaded with meat, plenty of lard, with a mountain of spuds boiled in their skins. Pat dumped the potatoes on newspaper, laid directly on the kitchen table. Once peeled they were sloshed around in the congealed grease, bubbling in frying pan, before being wolfed down. Pat only bothered with a plate if there was going to be company in the house. Tonight's feast of chops and spuds happened to be served on chipped white plates because Michael Ryan had called round for a chat.

"Have you enough chops Michael?" Pat enquired landing a bloody lump of meat swimming in artery clogging grease onto his plate.

"More than I will be able to finish thanks, Pat. Are those your own potatoes?"

"Yep sure are. Dug a fresh basin just this morning," he said.

"I knew it, they had to be," Michael said. "Balls of flower they are, not like the soapy things you get in the shops. You know, I heard they all come in from Spain! Can you credit that? Flying spuds all the way from Spain to Ireland. Sure isn't Ireland where they first found the spud growing," said Michael, in between chomps, pits of potato flying across the table with each word.

Pat was fairly sure that potatoes actually came from America, but he said nothing. Michael was a grand chap, even if not the brainiest in the world. Like Pat, Michael had been born and breed not a mile from here. They hadn’t know each other as boys, they’d first met when Pat began doing little jobs for the republicans. Pat was only a runner, where Michael had been fully committed. It was best never to know too much about those times, a philosophy that the organisation encouraged and Pat followed with determination by never asking anything. If you needed to know, someone told you, otherwise keep yourself to yourself. Michael had a fiery temper all his life, but after a few midnight trips in the late seventies, he became completely unhinged. There was damage deep down in that man for sure. Pat liked Michael, and any company was good company. Pat spent too much time creaking around this old place by himself. He only went into town for shopping or the odd trip to the pub. A lot of his friends were taking up plots in the church yard these days. Only a hand full were left alive.

For the rest of the evening they drank whisky and Guinness. They discussed politics, the way things were changing, they shared news, and stories. In short they had a grand old night but soon it was dark.
"I better put some road under my shoes Pat," Michael said, getting to his feet unsteadily.
"It's fair late Michael. Why not sleep here?" Pat asked. It was nice having company."Jame's room is all made up."
"Well, I could, I suppose," Michael said, plopping back down in the chair. Pat reached across, sloshing a shot of whisky into Michael's glass.
"Twist my arm why don't you," Michael laughed.
"Go on tell me again how you think that gob-shite Kenny is doing a good job running the country," Pat teased, delighted his friend was not leaving just yet.


Duggie woke up before midnight. He got out of the car and stretched his legs. He stood where he was and peed copiously without trying to hide from the passing traffic. He opened up the boot, lifting the carpet lining to get at the spare tyre. Inside there was a small tool kit. Duggie put a screwdriver in his pocket as well as taking the tyre iron out before replacing carpet. He still needed to cover his face with something but he had nothing to use. Duggie was hungry, but that would have to wait until later. He had a more demanding need to attend to first. He only had half a wrap left, but it would have to do until he got back to civilisation. He only barely felt the drug hit his system, the cook-up was so weak.

He started the car and turned back toward the village, and the farmer’s lane. On the way he made a quick stop at a house with washing hung out in the garden. He grabbed a pair of women's tights, and a tee shirt and jeans belonging to a teenager. Duggie was so thin he could shop in the children's section. He found a quiet spot and changed his clothes, putting the tracksuit in the boot along with the stolen stuff he hadn’t gotten round to fencing yet.

Duggie found the lane easily enough. He opened a gate and drove the car into a field out of sight, before walking the rest of the way up the narrow roadway. Soon he could clearly see the farmyard. All the lights were out but it was only just after one in the morning. It would be better to wait a while longer, to make sure the old man was in bed. Duggie climbed into the ditch, taking up a position out of sight. It was nearly two when he was happy and he climbed down onto the lane once more.

Duggie rolled the tights down over his face, then he picked up the tyre iron and scurried across the lane. He crossed the yard as quietly as he could and tried the front door. Locked. Moving along the building, checking windows as he went, all locked. Duggie moved around the back of the house to the kitchen door. It opened easily when he lifted the latch. Duggie couldn't believe his luck.

The kitchen smelled of frying and farts. Dishes were piled in the sink. On the sideboard was a half empty bottle of whiskey. Duggie unscrewed the cap and took a big swallow.  He needed something to top off his buzz. From overhead came the deep steady snores of the farmer. Duggie began to search the kitchen. In the coat hanging on the back of the door he found a wallet with about a hundred euro in it, but little else. It looked like he would have to get the farmer to tell him where his stash was. Duggie took the screwdriver out of his pocket and pushed the door leading upstairs slightly wider.

Duggie took each step quietly, timing his steps with the deep snores of the farmer, masking any creeks. The bedroom door stood ajar, he could see the shape of the farmer under the blankets. He looked much smaller than he had earlier in the day. Duggie appraised the weapons in his hand. If he hit the old lad with the tyre iron he might end up killing him. Duggie didn't want to be facing a lifetime stretch, just because some old bogger could not take a slap. Better to scare him with the screwdriver, if he needed persuading, his fists would do the job nicely. Duggie left the tyre iron on the carpet outside the bedroom door before going in. He wanted the element of surprise. He didn’t want to give the old codger the chance to pull a twelve gauge from under the bed.

Duggie was standing over the old man looking at his sleeping, snoring face, it was now or never. Duggie grabbed the farmers face covering his mouth with his right hand while holding the screwdriver about a foot away.
"Where is the money?" he snarled. The farmer’s eyes shot open and tried to lift himself off the bed.
Duggie jumped on top of him, straddling the old man. Duggie punched him hard in the side of the face which hurt his hand something rotten. "Where is the fucking money?" Duggie yelled no longer needing to be quiet.
"In my jacket down stairs," the old man said in shock. Duggie punched him a few more times. "I am not talking about a few notes, you dipstick. Where do you keep the real money? Tell me now or swear I will shove this fucking thing right through your eye," Duggie said, brandishing the screwdriver an inch from the frightened farmers face.
"I have no money. Leave me alone," the farmer cried, trying to cover his face. Duggie leaned back and swung the screwdriver down hard on the farmer’s leg. The tip bit, but didn't go in to far, the sheet took most of the punishment. The Farmer screamed in pain,
"Aha Jesus you stabbed me!" The old man's eyes rolled in his head before again coming under control, he took a few rasping breaths and said, "I told you he said I have NO MONEY!"

Duggie punched him again, "This is the last time I ..."

Right then the world went black for Duggie Finn.


Michael pulled the prone body off Pat, and swung the tyre iron a few more times. He felt it thud softly into different parts of the unmoving man.

When he stopped, he was panting. "Are you Okay Pat?" Michael asked standing there in his underwear.
"He flipping stabbed me in the leg," Pat winced, through split lips.

"Give me a look," said Michael, pulling back the bed sheets."It's sore looking, but not deep.”
Michael wiped the blood away with the corner of the sheet. "We will stick a bandage on it in a bit," he said.

Pat pushed himself out of the bed to have a look at the man lying on the floor. He leaned over and yanked the tights off Duggie's head. "That's the same lad that broke down out on the lane today. Remember I told you about him earlier?"

"You said he was a scumbag, looks like you were right," Michael said, tapping the tyre iron against Duggie's unmoving leg.

"Do you think he is dead?" asked Pat.

"Don't know for sure. I cracked him a good one around the back of the head. He could be," Michael said.

"Do you think we should check?" asked Pat.

"Sure," said Michael. He hit Duggie an unmerciful slap with the tyre iron across the hip. Duggie let out a groan of pain.

"Looks like he's alive," said Michael with a straight face. "What will we do with him?"

"I don't know. Let me put some clothes on." Pat said. They tied Duggie’s hands behind his back with a belt, and his feet with an old tie that was hanging in the wardrobe. Then they got dressed themselves. Once dressed they gathered around the scobie robber again.

"We should call the Gardaí?" asked Pat.

"You don't have a phone," Michael said helpfully. "Are you going to leave this little shit alone here while we go to the village? He would have the place turned inside out by the time we get back."

"Fair point," said Pat, rubbing his throbbing face.

"Anyway how are you going to explain who hit him? You know they are still trying to pin half the bank jobs in Wexford on me. I’m not saying a word to them," said Michel. He had a thing about the guards, he was convinced they were still after him. It might have been true at one stage, but now Pat doubted if they even knew Michael existed. You won't convince Michael of that.

"What about you?" asked Michael.

"What do you mean, What about me?" Pat asked, confused and a little bit cranky.

"You’re always hearing about things like this. Some scrot breaks into a house, ends up falling down the stairs. What does he do but sue the fella that owns the house for thousands," Michael said.

"I don't have thousands, what would be the point of suing me?" said Pat.

"He might end up getting the farm if you couldn’t pay him," reasoned Michael. "Anyway look at him, he hardly fell down the stairs, we battered the shit out of him."

"You battered him, not me," argued Pat.

"Makes no difference. It's your house, Pat. He might have brain damage or anything," Michael said, tapping Duggie in the forehead with his shoe.

"I’m going to have to think about this," said Pat. He was worried because he thought Michael might be right. He had heard those stories too.

"One way or the other I am not losing the farm," he said, at last. "We will have to hold on to him until we see how bad he is."

"We can't leave him here," said Michael.

"We will use the bunker," suggested Pat.

During the time he was hiding guns for the 'Boys' he had converted the back of the milking shed into a bunker by building a fake end wall. One of the grain holders swung out on hinges, a hidden door. It was as safe as houses. A small vent in the roof let in air but there were no windows. Duggie was beginning to come round, Pat grabbed his shoulders and Michael his feet, lifting Duggie like an old rug.

"Jesus he is as light as a feather," laughed Michael "How did you let a little shite like this get the better of you."

"I was asleep, you donkey. I didn't get chance to get a slap in before you were rearranging his brain," Pat laughed. Sometimes you just had to laugh. Down the stairs they went. The two old men slagging each other while Duggie’s drugged and bruised brain tried to make sense of what was going on.

Final Part