The Ferryman had been lounging among the tired and ever-shifting throngs of bus passengers waiting to depart. He particularly liked this place because of the dozens of exits, all leading out of one central room. There was no way an ambush would work here, nor could he be easily cornered.
Today he was wearing jeans over scuffed white runners. He was cocooned in an nondescript jacket from some bargain outdoor clothing company, topped off with a baseball cap, thick horn-rimed glasses and a full size backpack stuffed with nothing more than sleeping bags. He looked exactly like any of the dozen other European backpackers scattered around the place. He flicked through a ninety cent daily newspaper, his eyes trained over the top edge on the six main entrance doors.
At twenty minutes to twelve the same skinny kid who had dropped off his first payment slinked in. The idiot couldn't have looked more suspicious if he tried. The Ferryman noted two security men elbowing each other and following the kid's movements with far too much interest. The Ferryman watched as the kid took out his phone and sent a quick message and instead of taking a seat, the fool stood just inside the door attracting even more attention from the security men. It was galling to have to deal with such amateurs. He found it difficult to understand how a man as powerful as Jimmy Kingston was using kids to do his bidding.
The Ferryman stood and folded his paper, stuffing it into a pocket on the side of his rucksack. He shouldered the bag and threaded his way through the crowd toward a stairs which led into the bowels of the building. Before descending, the Ferryman sent a prepared message to Jimmy Kingston. The message instructed the courier to deposit the cash in luggage locker fifty three, lock it, then take the key back upstairs and wait. As the Ferryman passed the selected locker he stopped, the door was locked and the key hole was empty. The Ferryman slipped on a pair of clear plastic gloves before withdrawing the key he had removed the day before from a small plastic bag, the bag still held a duplicate key. He looked up at the CCTV unit but didn't bother hiding his face because he had already disabled those.
He had selected locker fifty three as it was directly across from the disabled toilet, to which he strode and locked himself inside. He unzipped a pocket on the rucksack and removed long thin cable which had an optical lenses at one end and a display unit at the other. Tactical assault units all over the world use the exact same equipment to see past locked doors. He slid the cable under the door and powered up the small screen.
The Ferryman now had a mouse eye view of the hall, all be it in black and white. Nearly five minutes passed before the skinny kid appeared. He hurried over to the locker and turned the key. The Ferryman watched as he unslung a small backpack and tossed it inside. He then used the Ferryman's own euro to re-lock the door. Someone appeared on the stairs and the young lad froze in front of the locker. This guy was as green as grass. A group of teenagers passed and as soon they were gone the kid race away as if his pants were on fire.
The Ferryman calmly packed away his camera, shouldered the backpack and opened the door. The hall was vacant but he could hear the teenagers yelling excitedly in the toilets. He walked to the locker and inserted his duplicate key causing the coin to drop into the return tray. He fished out the euro and put it in his pocket, a euro was a euro after all. With his gloved fingers he unzipped the backpack which lay in the locker and withdrew the package it held.
What came out of the bag was the very last thing in the world he expected. A tattered edition of the Argos Catalogue rather than bundles of used banknotes. Rage was an emotion he rarely showed, but it was a huge part of his being. It was always there, bubbling under the surface and he had to work hard to control it. Today he was on the verge of losing that control completely. His hands shook as he rammed the book back into the bag and slammed the locker door closed. He heard the door to the toilet open and the group of teenagers exited nosily. Unlike the kid, the Ferryman picked up his bag and trotted up the stairs in the middle of the group, a natural and normal thing to do.
The last thing he expected to see on reaching the top was the skinny kid sitting two rows away, his phone in his hand waiting for instructions. The Ferryman slipped his fist inside his jacket and laid his fingers on the razor sharp stiletto strapped to his belt. He walked around behind the kid and paused. There were wispy hairs flowing down kid’s neck to vanish under his stained tracksuit top. He counted five red pimples on the pale skin and he knew it would only take on pass of his knife to end the kid. His elbow moved and he felt an inch of the blade slide from its sheath. The Ferryman glanced around and saw the two security guards still staring intently in the kid's direction. Rage tried to pull the blade further but his brain kicked in and sent it back where it had come from. Feeling his fingers uncurl from the deadly knife was like having a bucket of ice-cold water thrown on the heat of his fury. The Ferryman exhaled deeply and moved away.
He sat on the far side of the room and tried to work things through in his head. If the kid knew there was nothing in the bag, why was he sitting around holding a useless key waiting for instructions? If Kingston wasn't going to pay, why go through with a sham drop? Could it be a set up?
The thought rocked the Ferryman and he scanned every inch of the building, slowly and carefully. He marked every face and noted the direction of every eye. It took twenty minutes before he was sure there was nobody watching for him. Even knowing that, the whole situation stank to high heaven.
There was one other reason for the fake drop, it was a deliberate insult by Jimmy Kingston. An insult he would not stand for.
He knew there was a bank of payphones in the corner of the room, relics of a bygone era. The Ferryman walked over and dropped his rucksack by one of the booths using their hoods to mask the sounds in the building and his words from any inquisitive ears. He rang Jimmy Kingston on the disposable mobile. The call was answered on the seventh ring.
"Yes, where do you want the key delivered?" asked Kingston without preamble.
"Jimmy Kingston?" he asked, his voice devoid of warmth or emotion.
"Of course, who do you think it is?"
"We had a deal. You've made an enemy today and I'm coming for you." The threat was delivered without a hint of annoyance, which made it even more chilling. The Ferryman could hear confusion in the gangster's breathing.
"What are you talking about, I've done everything you asked," said Jimmy sounding flabbergasted.
"Where's my money?"
"It's in a locker in Busarus, right this second."
"There's nothing in the bag except the Argos catalogue. Did you think that would be funny?"
"Rubbish! There was twenty grand in used notes in that bag when it left me. I don't fucking believe this. You're better not be trying to do me over!" Kingston said, getting mad now.
"My reputation is beyond question. I consider our deal broken and you can believe I will be seeking retribution in my own particular style," the Ferryman said and took the phone away from his ear to hang up.
"Wait. WAIT!" he heard coming weakly from the tiny speaker. He paused a second then put the phone back to his ear
"What do you want Mr Kingston?"
"It must be the guy I sent to do the drop. He must have taken the money."
"Really not my problem."
"Look give me a few hours to find out what happened. You'll get your money."
"Twenty four hours. Midday tomorrow. If you disappoint me Mr Kingston, you will have signed your own death warrant."
"You'll get your money, don't be so dramatic," the gangster said, the note of haughty annoyance back in his voice.
The Ferryman killed the connection and watched the kid. It was only a second before the phone in his hand lit up. The Ferryman was too far away to hear what was being said but he had no problem reading the panic in the boy's body as he jumped to his feet and rushed down the stairs. The Ferryman abandoned the rucksack and sauntered across the room toward the exits. The kid came running back up the stairs, gazing dismally into the open mouth of the bag, his face as white as a sheet. The Ferryman heard the kid’s phone ring and he maneuvered himself closer.
"I have it. No I didn't look inside. I didn't touch the thing. I have no idea, I swear, I never touched it!"
"Oh Jesus," the lad said at last and took the phone away from his ear before hurrying out the door. The Ferryman lengthened his stride to keep the near running youth in sight. Soon he stopped at a tram terminal and paced up and down as he waited. The Ferryman flagged down a passing taxi and got in the back.
"Where to?" asked the cabbie.
"Wait here please, I'm meeting for someone," and he handed a fifty euro note over the drivers shoulder. The man took the cash and turned the meter on.
After ten minutes the taxi driver started to get anxious, "Listen buddy, if you are just going to sit here, I got things to be doing."
"Is the meter on?"
"Yea, but that's not the point."
The Ferryman knew he had to say something to keep the driver on side. "You see that guy up there, the one in the tracksuit at the tram stop."
"That's my son. He's just out of rehap. He should be going to a methadone clinic but he was being too cagey. I think he might be going to see a dealer. Have you any kids?"
"Two girls," said the cabbie studying the kid intently through the windshield. "He looks in a bad way alright."
"So you understand. You'd do anything to keep them out of trouble. I need your help. I just need to see where he's going. I'll pay double the meter."
"I'm not sure," mumbled the driver rubbing his chin.
"Please, if he sees me, that's it. He'll leave home and I know he'll end up killing himself."
The driver looked at the Ferryman with compassion. "Look, I'll do my best, but traffic is a killer and sticking with a tram is not all that easy."
"Just do what you can, and thanks," said the Ferryman resting a hand on the man’s shoulder.
A few minutes later a tram pulled in and the bag carrying kid got on.
"Right, we're off," said the driver starting the engine. Luck was with them and they kept the tram in sight for four stops, the kid never got off.
"What's his name?" asked the driver over his shoulder.
"Your son, what's his name."
"Billy, my oldest," said the Ferryman trying to sound sad and yet proud.
"Those drugs are a killer, he's lucky to have you," said the driver accelerating hard in an effort to keep up with the tram. Out of a side street a car appeared cutting them off. They lost ground on the tram and then a light caught them on red while the tram trundled away from the far side of the junction.
"I know the route, we will catch them up in no time," said the taxi driver, the addition of mystery making the man eager to please. No time turned out to be three stops later.
"Should I keep following?" asked the driver, not sure if the kid had gotten off already.
"In for a penny, in for a pound," said the Ferryman and the driver made the car surge forward until it was directly behind the tram.
Two stops later and Billy or whatever his name was, got off the tram and hurried across a green area toward a block of flats.
"Bingo! Sorry to say but it looks like you're right," said the driver indicating the tower block the kid was heading for. "That's a right rough place, nothing but scumbags and drug dealers. What are you going to do?"
"I'm going after him," said the Ferryman with determination in his voice. He popped open the back door and pulled out his wallet. "How much?"
"The Fifty more than covers it," said the man reaching for his change belt.
"You keep it, and thanks," said the Ferryman closing the door and cutting off the man as he said Good Luck.
The Ferryman followed as close as he could behind the kid who raced across the trash littered green area. He lost sight of him as the kid rounded a corner so he broke into a trot until he reached the same spot. He looked around the edge of the building but the weed strewn parking lot was deserted. He had no choice but to keep walking. Out of the corner of his eye he watched the landings. Right on the top floor he spotted the kids head bobbing above the parapet before he vanished somewhere around the third or fourth door.
The Ferryman kept walking and crossed the parking area to exit through a rusted gate. He scanned the road and picked out a spot he could see most of the tower block from while not being actually inside the complex itself. He leaned against a wall and made a show of inspecting his nails.
Twenty minutes later the Ferryman saw a dark coloured BMW aggressively pull into the gate of the tower block. Jimmy Kingston was in the driver seat and the bulk of Pete Byrne filled the other seat. After a few minutes both men appeared on the top balcony and stopped by the forth door. The Ferryman saw Kingston bang on the door twice before a blond haired woman appeared and the two men barged past her, slamming the door behind them.
The Ferryman had seen all he needed so he walked off toward the main road. It would appear that Jimmy Kingston had been telling the truth, he did believe the young lad delivering the bag had taken the money. But why would the kid have come along to the drop if he had? Surely he would have run or at least make it look like something else had happened? In the end, none of that mattered, what did matter was that Jimmy Kingston had intended to pay so he was sure of getting his money tomorrow. It was time to plan the next drop.
Jimmy was beyond livid during the drive back from the airport hotel. What else could go wrong this day? First the Griffin's had a mole on his crew, then a hit-man from hell told him he was as good as dead and now it appeared Joey had robbed him. Trouble always comes in threes they say.
As soon as the Ferryman had hung up he'd called Joey. He had to hand it to the kid, if he was lying then he was doing an Oscar winning job of it. Still, saying he knew nothing on the phone was one thing, face to face was completely different. Jimmy pulled into the grotty block of flats and Pete pointed out an entrance at the far end. They climbed to the top floor of the shitty tenement and Pete indicated a spray painted door about half way along the landing.
Jimmy knocked, then knocked again. He heard the lock click and the door was opened by a woman who had to be Joey's sister.
"Who's looking for him." she said, her face saying she didn't like the look of them.
"Fuck this," said Jimmy, shoving the woman aside and barging into the apartment.
"Hay! You can't go shoving your way in here, this is my home! Get the hell out of here before I ring the cops," she shouted and rushed after Jimmy. Pete followed and closed the door.
"JOEY!" he yelled throwing open the door to a tiny box bedroom which was empty. A bathroom door stood ajar and he could tell nobody was inside. Joey appeared at the entrance to the sitting room clutching the backpack to chest. His face was ashen.
"Jimmy, I swear to God, I never touched the stuff. I did just as you said." said the boy in a trembling voice on the verge of breaking.
"You lying little shit!" snarled Jimmy, rushing at the quaking boy. Joey backed up in a panic and tripped over the coffee table, cracking his head against the edge of a chair.
"Stop it!" screamed the woman rushing between Jimmy and her brother who was sprawled on the ground.
Jimmy turned on the woman raising his fist but Pete's huge shoulder blocked his way.
"Better stay out of it, Sarah," said Pete, physically drawing her away as if she were nothing more than a child in her father’s arms.
"He's done nothing! Leave him alone, you hear me. Leave him alone," cried Sarah but she allowed herself to be moved away from her brother.
"Jimmy only wants to ask Joey something," said Pete calmly.
"I swear, Jimmy. I never touched the gear. I dropped off the bag just like you told me."
"Gear?" Jimmy said feeling his face scrunch up with annoyance.
"You're dealing drugs! Jesus H Christ!" cried Sarah throwing her hands in the air while Pete still corralled her in the kitchen part of the room.
"I wasn't dealing, I was just dropping them off." said Joey, now stuck in a three way argument.
"And tell me the difference you dipstick!" yelled Sarah, now looking like she was going to give her brother a bigger booting than Jimmy was.
"There were no drugs in that bag," Jimmy said.
"There weren't?" Stammered Joey sitting up and rubbing his forehead.
"Thank God!" huffed Sarah, folding her arms across her chest while her face made no secret of her fury.
"There was twenty grand cash in it you idiot," said Jimmy turning his words towards Joey.
"Flipping hell, I swear I never touched it. I never even seen it," pleaded Joey now the enormity of the sum involved had been revealed.
"Well someone did and I want it back, sharpish."
"I’ve no idea what happened to it." said Joey holding out both of his hands palm up toward Jimmy, using every ounce of his being to try and convince the man in front of him that he was telling the truth.
"Well the cash was in the bag when you left my house! What happened after that? Where did you go?"
"I met the coppers outside your place but they didn't stop me or anything, after that I came straight back here."
"And what did you do with the bag?"
"I hid it under the TV unit, and I didn't leave except to go to Busarus."
"So only you or your sister could have taken it."
"Sarah wasn't here, she was already gone to work by the time I got back and I left before she came home for lunch."
"So it was only you!"
"Wait, Scobie called over for a shower." said Joey, his face lighting up as if someone had just thrown on a light switch on in his brain
"You've been letting that junkie into our house, again?" demanded Sarah, getting loud again.
"I guy I knew from school. But he was only here for a little while. He just had a shower then borrowed some clothes and left."
"Did he see the bag? Well did he?"
"No, I had it hidden by the time he arrived."
"Where, show me?" Joey pointed at a small unit under the TV. It was about the only piece of furniture in the place besides the couch and coffee table.
"Did you leave him alone in here?"
"Only while I got him some clothes, a couple of minutes tops."
Jimmy turned to Sarah and asked, "Do you have an Argos Catalogue here?"
"Can you get it?" asked Jimmy glaring at Joey while he spoke. The blond woman eased passed the bulk of Pete and walked to the TV unit and opened the doors underneath it. After a second she stood up.
"It's gone," she said a little confused. Jimmy bent over and picked up the small backpack from where it lay on the floor. He withdrew the dog eared book and handed it to the woman.
"You're a right fool, Joey. Get out there and find this Scobie and he better still have my money for your sake."
Jimmy turned and walked out the door with Pete at his shoulder. Before they'd gone two steps the sound of a slap rang through the small apartment. In his mind's eye Jimmy could see the red patch glowing on Joeys jaw and he thought Joey was lucky at that. Right now he needed Joey in one piece to find his cash. He turned the door knob and stormed out. Jimmy doubted that this Scobie character would be as stupid as Joey, he would be long gone. Jimmy knew he would have to pay off the Ferryman again and work out how to get his money back later.