Thursday, 29 September 2016

Thirty Pieces of Silver - Show me the Money

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."

"Yea?"

"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.

"Sorry?"

"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.

"Where's Joey?"

"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.

"Who's Scobie?"

"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?"

"Yea, why?"

"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.









Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Love in an Elevator

The airplane banked and Brian caught sight of Las Vegas shimmering in the vast expanse of arid desert. It looked like he was about to land on an alien planet. Living in Ireland he was used to rain, rain and more rain. When the door opened he was slapped in the face by a wall of dry heat and by the time he reached the baking hot tarmac, the suit he was wearing started to feel as heavy as armour. It didn't take more than a minute to get inside the terminal but the first thing he thought was, Thank God for air-con. He had flown in to pitch his company at a medical conference taking place at The Mirage, but the bean counters were so tight they’d booked him into some off strip place he’d never heard of. But after traveling for nearly twenty four hours straight, he couldn't care less where the hotel was, as long as it had a bed for him.

It turned out the hotel wasn't that bad at all. Sure, it was a little dated, but it seemed fine. It seemed fine right up to the moment he put his key into the lock and it wouldn't work. He swiped the credit card sized piece of plastic again and again, red light every time. What was wrong with an actual key he thought as he scooped up his suit carrier to head back down to reception? The elevator was one of those ornate copper covered jobs which were supposed to look vintage, but had really been made only yesterday. He'd just pressed the Lobby button when a woman appeared on the hall, running in a billowing white dress while waving and calling, "Hold the door!"

Brain didn't know what to do as the doors had already begun to slide closed so he pushed his hands into the gap and forced them apart. He had to push quite hard but it worked. She ran all the way into the car and narrowly avoided crashing into the mirrored back wall.

"Thanks," she panted, and Brian let go of the doors. They closed over with a funny squealing noise and the elevator began to drop. Something was wrong. As they moved the squealing got worse and after a second or two, the car bounced, stopped, started again, before grinding to a shuddering halt.

"No, no, no no," said the girl busting past Brian to punch the lobby button six or seven times.

"You got to be kidding me!" she yelled, kicking at the door with a bejewelled white stiletto.

Brian watched the woman pace the car as if he wasn't even there, pounding her forehead with balled hands and muttering to herself. She stopped and shot him a look, as if he had just appeared out of thin air.

"I need your cell," she said holding out her hand. Cell? Brian had no idea what she was talking about.

"Pardon?"

"Your cell phone, I got to make a call."

"Oh right," he said digging through his pockets and taking out his phone. She grabbed it and punched numbers but it seemed to him that nothing was happening. After two more tries she checked the screen and gave him a dirty look.

"No network?"

"I'm from Ireland, I don't think I have roaming," stammered Brian, wondering why he was explaining himself to a complete stranger.

"What kind of a cheap-o has no international calling? Jesse!"

He didn't appreciate being called a cheap-o, but now he felt like one.

"Why don't you use your own phone," he said taking his back. She held out her arms like Christ on the cross and looked at him open mouthed. "Does it look like there are pockets in this thing?"

"Fair point," said Brian going even redder. He thought he'd better get some help before this woman flipped out and killed him. He looked at the control panel and spotted a button with a bell sign. He pressed it and waited, but nothing happened. He pressed it again, still nothing.

"Let me do it," she said pushing him aside again jammed the button home with a manicured thumb. At last a woman's voice came from the speaker slot. "Hi, what can I do for you today?" said the woman cheerily.

"Get us out of this God damn lift!" screamed the woman at the speaker.

"Has your lift stopped?" asked the speaker in the most laid back way ever. The crazy girl in the wedding dress did a jig of fury before shouting back. "Of course it has you loon? Why do you think were pressing the emergency button."

"Please stay calm, help is on the way," said the speaker as if she was dealing with a child.

"Thank God. How long?" the stressed out bride asked resting her hands either side of the speaker slot, letting her head hanging in apparent exhaustion.

"They are coming as quickly as possible. Please remain calm, you are in no imminent danger."

"I think I might be," mumbled Brian.

"I understand this is inconvenient but we are doing all that can be done," said the speaker in such a telly sales manner that Brian expected hold music to appear at any minute.

"Do it quicker, I have a wedding to get to," snapped the woman knocking her head against the car wall. This time the voice in the box said nothing. The crazy girl in white pushed herself away from the wall and stood swaying on her six inch heels. Brian watched as the redness of rage dissipated and the corners of her mouth turned down. It was like watching a wax figure slowly melt. Brian was shocked to see this grown woman drop down on her bum like a toddler and begin weeping. A crazy woman he could deal with, a crying one was out of his comfort zone. He moved to the panel and pushed the call button again and again.

"Hello? Are you in there?" Brian said into the speaker. Nothing happened so he kept his finger on the button like the girl had done. After an age there was a click and the woman's voice came back on the line.

"Please be patient, you will be out in no time at all," not quite so nicely this time.

"I don't think you understand, this girl is going to a wedding, her wedding by the look of it."

On hearing the words tumble out of Brian's mouth the girl's cries got even louder, like an old episode of We Love Lucy.

"I do understand, help is on its way," said the woman in such a deadpan way that it may as well have been a recording. There was a click and silence followed. Brian looked at the woman sitting in a puddle of white satin and felt terrible for her. He hunkered down and said," I'm sure they will get us out in plenty of time."

"It's a disaster, the whole thing has been a disaster!" sobbed the girl, throwing her hands in the air. "The flowers came in bowls when they should have been in tall vases, the wedding chapel double booked our time so we had to move the ceremony forward two hours and because of that I couldn't have the car I wanted. They gave me a limo, a black one of all things. How tacky is that? It's like someone up there doesn't want me to get married."

Brian lowered himself down on the ground to sit beside the girl, at least the flow of tears was drying up. He held out his hand and said, "I'm Brian, by the way."

She didn't take the hand but instead wiped away tears with the back of her's, trying not to smudge her makeup too much. "Diane," she sniffled.

"So, how long before the ceremony?" he asked.

"Forty minutes," she said sadly.

"Forty minutes, that is great. They will surely have us out long before that. How hard could it be?"

"I guess," she said, not sounding convinced at all.

"The important thing is, the man of your dreams is waiting for you, even if you end up being a little late. In the end it won’t matter what the flowers look like or the car for that matter," said Brian trying to be as comforting as he could be.

"Hump, shows what you know," she said as if he’d said the most ridiculous thing in the world.

"Sorry?"

"You men, think it’s all about you, don't you? I have been dreaming of this day my entire life. Get it, since I was about nine years old! I had it all planned out in my head, the perfect dress which made me look like a movie star, an ivy encased church in the Hamptons, a horse drawn carriage with two stunning white stallions trotting in unison, me being walked up the aisle on my dad's arm to the one true love of my life. That was the dream, my dream. Instead I have this, stuck in a lift in Las Vegas with a complete stranger."

"It's not quite the same, I guess, but at least you have someone you love waiting."

"Las Vegas was his idea. It was more convenient for his family. I never wanted Las Vegas," she said, fresh tears appearing in the corner of her eyes. Brian had no idea what to say, so he said nothing. As it turned out, silence seemed to be exactly what the crying woman needed.

"I only think he asked me to marry him because he was about to turn forty. I guess he thought his wild oat's days were coming to an end. We've only been seeing each other for two years," she said sadly.

"So why are you marrying him if you have doubts?"

"I'm not getting any younger either you know?"

"You're not old."

"Thirty three is old! All my friends are married, some are even married divorced and married again. It seems like I was twenty five only yesterday, with a bar full of hot guys trying to buy me drinks and not a care in the world. One morning I woke up, single, over thirty, and I realised my big day was going to slip right past me unless I did something about it. So I did."

"Why are you telling me all this?" asked Brian, not feeling one bit comfortable.

"Because you’re a nobody and I got to tell someone."

"That's not very nice."

"You know what I mean," she said sadly, and the truth of the matter was, he did. He remembered back to the day of his wedding and how nervous he had been. How his mind has been in a fog and his stomach churned like a concrete mixer. He did know what she meant.

"Did I tell you I'm married?" he asked after a while.

"No," she said sadly.

"Yes, six years now. On the morning of my wedding, I nearly didn't turn up."

"Really? Why?" she asked, dragging herself out of her pool of self-pity to snatch as the titbit dangled in front of her.

“Yes, Really. Cold feet or second thoughts, call it whatever you like but I nearly chickened out and left her at the altar."

"But you didn't?"

“No.”

“Why?”

"Stuff, I guess. Stuff kept pushing me forward. My best man came around and cooked me breakfast, making me get out of bed whether I liked it or not. The suit came from the dry cleaners, so I put it on. The car turned up at the front gate so I just got in it, but all the time this voice inside my head was asking, “What the hell are you doing?"

"So stuff made you get married?"

"No. Stuff stopped me being a coward. What made me get married was simple. I was standing at the top of that church when the organ started to play. Even then, I was ready to say I don't, and run as fast as I could. But when those notes filled the air I looked over my shoulder and there she was, my princess, the only woman I had ever really loved, would ever love, and she was walking right toward me.  In that moment I knew that saying yes to this wonderful creature would be the best thing I would ever do."

"And has it? Was it the best thing ever?"

"It's not been easy but we have had more good days than bad. Marriage is hard, it’s maddening at times but there's never a day I regret being her husband."

"So you are saying I'm stressing out over nothing, it's all nerves."

"I wish I could say, Diane. In my case, stuff happened to keep me going when my feet got cold. Stuff seems to be stopping you and your feet are so hot you are literally running to the altar. It could be that stuff is giving you time to have a think, to ask yourself, is this your dream?"

"You're a romantic, aren't you?" she said looking at him sternly.

"I guess, I might be, in a clumsy kind of way."

"The one thing life has taught me is that romance is for movies and books," she said coldly.

Just then, the car moved a little. It jerked and started to go up. It jerked again, and then once more. Both of them got to their feet, Diane checked her makeup in the car mirror. They watched the door and waited. Something clicked and the tips of chubby, grease covered, fingers forced the doors apart and a smiling dirt smeared face appeared.

"Let’s get you folks out of there," the maintenance man said holding out a filthy hand toward Diane. She slapped it away before it could touch her dress and ruin one more thing on her big day. She hitched up her hem and stepped out of the unlevelled elevator. By the time Brian had climbed out, she was already heading for the stairwell.

"Diane!" he called. She stopped and looked back with sad eyes. He didn’t know what he should say. She looked so lost, but she may well have a point, not everyone gets to be a princess, but everyone should.

"Good luck," was all he could offer. She gave a smile and a wave before vanishing from sight.


For the rest of the day he couldn’t get the sad bride out of his mind. He hoped she turned up at the church, like he had done, to find her prince had been waiting all the time, but some tiny part of his brain feared she may well have said yes with disappointment in her heart. That thought was like a boil on his soul. It was getting dark by the time he picked up the bedroom phone and dialled home. She was sleepy when she answered, he had forgotten how late it would be back in Ireland but she still sounded happy to hear from him. He lay in the dark of the night, watching the Las Vegas lights twinkle in their neon brilliance and let the sweet sound of his princess's voice heal the wounds of the world.  




Saturday, 17 September 2016

Thirty Pieces of Silver - Eye for and Eye Cont

Detective Adams was working on his next team briefing when Sims hurryed across the office toward his desk.

“Boss, there’s been a development,” she said and by the look on her face he knew the development was going to add to his workload. 

“What now?” he asked flipping his pen onto the pile of paper littering his desk.

“Fergal Collins has been found lying outside St James’s hospital. He's beaten to a pulp.”

“Collins?” wondered Adams aloud. The name was familiar but he wasn't able to put a face to it in his mind.

“Fergal Collins, he’s on Jimmy Kingstons’ payroll. Not a major player by all accounts. He has some convictions for assault, receiving stolen goods, possession of narcotics, but not in any great quantities. Lately he's been spotted spending a lot of time with Pete Byrne, and he was one of the men involved in the set-to out at the Red Cow Inn a while back."

“Now I know the fella, what happened to him?” asked Adams leaning back in his chair to give his full attention to Sims.

“No idea. His feet are a mess, and he’s been kneecapped. Whoever did it wanted to inflict as much pain as possible. I'd say someone wanted to make him pay for something or they wanted something from him.”

“What’s happening with him now? Has he been interviewed?"

“Not yet, I've sent a car over to the hospital to keep an eye on him. I told them not to let anyone speak to him until we get there.”

“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re fantastic, Sims?”

“Ha!” she said going a little red.

“Well you are. Grab your coat and let’s get over there.”

When they arrived at the hospital the Accident and Emergency lobby was filled with the usual assortment of kids with broken bones, old folks looking grey and miserable, and of course the dross of society who seem to be constantly finding ways to poison themselves with drugs, drink or both. Adams knew he could put a name to a dozen people scattered around the reception area if he put his mind to it. He approached the reception desk which housed a bored looking woman behind a complete glass barrier. She was better protected than any bank teller in the country. A round steel speaker was mounted in the middle of the sheet of glass. Adams held up his ID and asked, ”We’re looking for Fergal Collins, he was admitted a while ago.”  

The woman rolled her eyes and a tinny voice emanated from the round circle floating between them. “You and everyone else. He still hasn’t been admitted but your guy arrived about twenty minutes ago and is in there with him,” she said throwing a careless nod vaguely behind her.

“Where?” asked Adams looking around him.

“Go to the door, I’ll buzz you in.”

“Cheers,” said Adams flipping the woman a half-hearted salute. Adams moved to the door beside the impregnable desk and pulled on the handle but it didn't budge. He glanced at the woman behind glass was rolling her eyes at him again before pressing a button which disengaged a magnetic lock with a click. Once they were through, Adams gave Sims an bemused look and said, “She’s a right ray of sunshine.”

Sims gave a little laugh and said, “Pot calling the kettle black if you ask me.”

The halls inside the door were a hive of activity. Men and women in green and blue scrubs moved about with controlled speed. I guess the last thing any patient needs is to see a doctor running at them with panic in his eyes. Adams had spent enough time in hospital recovering from the injuries he suffered on Honeysuckle Lane to have deep respect for what these people did every day, but he also knew that this was the one place in the world where life and death situations were foregone conclusions. A doctor appeared from an opening on the right, stripping blood-stained gloves to drop them in a bright yellow container with a contamination warning sign printed on the side. Adams ducked into the opening and saw rows of beds half cordoned off with drapes. Right at the end, a uniformed officer was lounging on a hard plastic chair and texting on his phone. Adams walked toward him and was standing right over the man before he looked up from his screen and was shocked to see a glaring detective hovering.

“You scared me,” said the man dropping his leg from his knee and holding his hand to his chest.

“Is this Fergal Collins?”

“Sure is.”

“And what do you think you’re up to. What if I was someone coming to finish off the job and you’re checking Facebook?”

“I was just…”

“I don’t care, put that away and look sharp about it.”

The man stood and hurriedly put the phone away as Adams moved past him and drew back the green screen which surrounded the bed. Laid out top of the bed was a heap of battered skin that had once been a man. Both his feet were swaddled in miles of bandage but the blood was still seeping through. His face, head, arms and torso were a mass of cuts and bruises. An oxygen mask covered his ruined mouth and Adams could see spaces where teeth would normally be.

“Has he woken up at all?” he asked the standing Guard without looking back at him.

“Once or twice but the doctors gave him a shot for the pain. His feet and knee are busted up fairly bad according to what I heard.”

Adams moved to the head of the bed and Sims moved to the other side. Adams made a scribbling motion with his hand and Sims took out her note book. Adams placed a hand on Collin’s naked shoulder and shook him a few times before the eyes above the hissing mask flickered open. It took a second or two for them to focus, first on Adams then over to Sims and taking in the uniformed officer standing stiffly near the end of the bed.

“Feeling up to answering a few questions there Fergal?” asked Adams with fake good humour. The man lying in the bed mumbled something unintelligible behind the mask. Adams pinched the flexible plastic between two huge fingers and lifted it away from Collin’s nose and dropped it onto his neck.

“What was that?”

“Get lost,” croaked the man, turning his head into the pillow.

“Don’t be like that, Fergal. We just want to know who did this to you,” said Adams, still smiling at the man as if he was visiting a maiden aunt. The man in the bed said nothing.

“Come on, Fergal, you know I’m going to find out anyway so why not tell us,” said Adams leaning lower, resting his hands on the mattress. Adams right hand happened to brush against the injured man’s bandaged knee which caused him to nearly fold in half with pain.

“AHHHHH! Fu…” screamed the man, before stifling the cry by biting down on his knuckle.

“Did that hurt?” asked Adams, smiling even wider. Slowly he straightened up and the smile vanished from his face. He hovered his open hand above the knee and gave the man in the bed a steely look. “No more messing, who did this,” Adams hissed. Sims gave a worried look but he didn’t even look in her direction. The man in the bed watched him with huge eyes, flicking from Adams face to his hand and back again. When Fergal Collins had taken three breaths and still hadn’t said a word, Adams let his hand brush the knee. He felt something move under his fingers like a loosely connected doorknob and the man in the bed went ridged with pain. He let lose a string of curse words while veins danced under his crimson skin.

A nurse appeared at the curtain looking for the cause of all the racket. Adams smiled at her and said, “Mr Collins is finding his knee very uncomfortable, can you get him something for the pain?”

“He’s just had some Morphine I can’t give him anymore for a while.”

“Sorry about that Fergal,” said Adams, turning his smiling face back to the man in the bed who mumbled a strained “Fucker” under his breath. The nurse went from concerned to annoyed in the blink of an eye.

“Try and keep him quiet, will yea. He’s upsetting the other patients.”

“I will, tell them he’s a bit of a drama queen is all. You’d swear his leg was falling off or something,” said Adams smiling. The nurse huffed and yanked the curtain across. Adams looked over at Sims and got a dirty stare back for his trouble.

“Now, where were we?” Adams asked Collins holding his hand over the injured knee once more.

“Don’t touch me,” pleaded Collins trying to move away from the threatening hand but finding nowhere to go.

“Just tell me who did this,” said Adams. He saw Collins press his lips tightly together and breath rapidly through his nose while shaking his head from side to side. Adams began to let his hand lower. When it was only millimetres from making contact, Collin’s lips exploded apart.

“Alright, it was the Griffins, the fucking Griffins.”

“And why did they do it, Fergal.”

Again the man’s lip’s clamped shut.

“You may as well tell me everything now, it’s the only way you’ll keep me quiet. If not, I’ll just have to tell those crazy bastards your making accusations about them, the watch them finish the job they started.”

“They’ll kill me,” whimpered Collins, fear induced tears spilled over his eyelids.
 It was Adams time to say nothing and let the fear do its work. Eventually Collins broke down completely and began to blubber. In between the sobs he began talking.

“It’s because I didn’t warn them about the hit on John Griffin. They think I knew about it.”

“And, did you?”

“Of course I didn’t but they don’t believe that.”

“Because you work for Jimmy Kingston. He ordered the hit.”

“Come on! Every gobshit in Dublin knows he did but that don’t mean shit.”

“And why would they expect you to tip them off, Fergal?”

Again the lips clamped down. Adams sighed and went to grab the injured knee again making the man dance in the bed.

“Because I was working for them, JESUS! I was telling them what was going in with the Kingstons, playing both sides but it got out of control. I knew nothing about the hit on John until it happened but then it was too late. It's too late for everything now, I’m as good as dead,” said Collins falling in to a full blown bawl. Adams looked at Sims with confusion.

“It’s too late for what, Fergal. What’s going on?”

“Jimmy’s going to kill me.”

“Jimmy Kingston?”

“Yea, he knows I helped the Griffin’s rip him off and that I was touting for them. I’m as good as dead.”

The cogs in Adams brain went into overdrive and he beckoned Sims to follow him out into the corridor. Once they were out of earshot they huddled in a corner and spoke in whispers.

“This could be the break we were waiting for. Collins is a nobody but he’s a nobody that could pin Kingston to the murder of John Griffin. He can defiantly pin the Griffins to an assault and battery charge against himself. God only knows how much more stuff he could spill.”

“There is no way he will testify against the Griffins and definitely not against Jimmy Kingston.”

“That's just the thing. He's the only one who might. He's convinced he's a dead man walking. We might be his only chance of staying alive, no, we are his only chance,” said Adams dashing back toward Collin's bed. He stopped before opening the curtain to tell the uniformed guard to go get a doctor in charge for him. Once he opened the curtain Collins regarded him with huge dread filled eyes. Adams drew a chair closer, getting down on the man’s eye level. Speaking evenly, like someone giving a friend some hard advice, Adams began his sales pitch.

“You’re in some fix, Fergal, of that there is no doubt. If the Griffins don’t kill you for letting John getting blown away, Jimmy will sure as shit kill you for double crossing him. I can’t understand why you’re still alive.”  

“Money, Jimmy wants his money back.”

“Ah, I see. So it’s a matter of time.”

The crying man in the bed nodded sadly.

“I can help you.” Adams watched those words start working on the man in front of him. He watched as a desperate man started clutching at straws until those straws looked like lifesavers to a drowning man.

“How?”

“If you give evidence about what you know, on both the Griffins and the Kingston’s, we can protect you.”

“Bullshit. There is no way you can stop them getting me.”

“We got a better chance than you have.”

Collins said nothing to that.

“It’s like this, Fergal. You are stuck between no hope and a longshot. Any betting man would see the sense in that. I’m not going to blow smoke up your arse, you’ll always be a wanted man, and forever looking over your shoulder, but at least this way you have a chance.”

“What about my family?”

Adams had to think. He was promising things he had no control over. He knew he had to hook Fergal Collins and hook him now but he didn’t want to agree to something now and then lose everything later on an unfulfilled bargain.

“You know how this works, Fergal, I got to go back to my bosses with something to trade and right now I got nothing. But that is up to you. If they think you can get the likes of the Griffins or the Kingstons out of business, you might win a new life far away from this place. At least you'll have a chance.”

A pregnant silence stretched out as Collins worked out his options. Glances flicked between Sims and Adams while they waited. It was like playing poker with a gun pointed at your head.

“Alright, go back and tell them I'll testify. I can give you Pete Byrne, the Griffins and Jimmy Kingston. You name it, they've done it. I got names and dates by the dozen.”

“What about the murder of John Griffin?”

“I know Pete Byrne contacted a hit-man but that is as much as I know.”

“Who was the hitter?”

“None of our guys, he’s independent. Look, the drug stuff is more than enough to put them out of business. Is it a deal?”

“I’ll shake on it but I got to get the brass to stump up the cash. In the meantime I am getting you moved into a private room straight away and you will get round the clock protection.”

“Not that donkey that was here earlier?”

“No, full bore. Nobody is getting to you. Sit tight and I will be back within the hour,” said Adams standing up to leave. Sims went to follow but he held up his hand. Stay here with Twiddle-Dum until I get a proper protection detail arranged. When the Doc turns up, get Fergal here moved, no records to go to that yoke on the front desk, and take no arguments.”

“You got it boss.” 


Adams barged out of the emergency room with his phone already suck to his ear, that was until he was abruptly halted by the same door he had to be buzzed through earlier. Frustrated as hell he went off to find someone with the code to get him the hell out of here.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Thirty Pieces of Silver - Eye For An Eye

Darren spent an hour down the Garda station complaining about police harassment and that pig of a detective, Adams. He'd been shifted from one bored looking desk jockey to another until a gruff looking Sargent shoved a large zip lock bag at him and said, "Your complaint is registered." Darren knew that translated into, Fuck Off, but he hadn't expect them to actually do anything, he just liked making their lives miserable.

He opened the bag and sucked in a sharp breath when he realised it was filled with John's personal effects. He looked up at the grumpy guard standing over him and thought, You Bastard! Not one of them had a shred of compassion. In this bag were the last things his brother touched in this world and this lump just tossed them across a desk like trash? Guards, the whole lot of them, rotten to the core. The big man rapped on a clipboard with a gnarled finger and said, "Sign."

Darren stormed out of the Garda Station more livid than he'd been when he'd arrived. He leaned against the wall and unzipped the plastic bag. Inside he could see John's wedding ring, his wallet, car keys, some crumpled banknotes which were still stained with his brothers blood, a box of Rothmans and John's gold lighter.  It felt wrong that a man's life could be held in a tiny plastic bag like this. Deep in the corner sat John's phone. Darren pulled it out but the screen was cracked. He pressed the power button and the code screen appeared. Darren knew John always used the letter M, but it still took him two go's to get it right. He searched through the phone until the battery finally died. He found dozens of calls and messages from Fergal Collins, but nothing in the last week. Collins must have known the hit was coming and did nothing to tip off John. It was about time that someone started to pay for what they had done to his brother, and who better to start with than the traitor who stood by and let him walk into the trap. Darren called his men, then his brothers, barking orders and not caring what might come of them.

Darren pulled his Subaru to a stop outside Stephens Green shopping centre where Terrance and Tony were waiting. He took a quick look in his side mirror and pulled back out into the traffic, not even giving his brothers time to settle in their seats. He watched the dark blue Volvo slip into the flow of cars fifty yards back.

"Where are we going, and what is all this about?" asked Tony?

"I'll tell yea soon, but I got ta lose those coppers first," said Darren, concentrating on the traffic ahead, planning his moves. Tony turned in his seat to scan the cars behind them.

"The Volvo?"

"That's the one, they've been on me since I left the cop shop."

"Were you hauled in?" asked Terrance, his voice filled with concern and innocence.

"No, I was giving them a bit of my mind. Two bloody detectives were banging down my door first thing this morning, flamen cheek. They are really out to get us, you'd swear we were the ones blowing people away in broad daylight. There's no flamen justice in this world."

"You dragged us all the way over here, at this time of the morning, to tell us that?" snapped Tony sounding like a sulky teenager.

"Don't be a knob your whole life, Tony, of course not. I got you out because we've got things to take care of."

"What things?"

"This," said Darren, throwing John's phone over his shoulder into the back seat.

"It's Johns," said Terrance picking up the phone as if it was a religious relic.

"That's right. You know John had a squealer on Jimmy's crew. John told me before he died who it was. Fergal Collins. He was quick enough to take our money but when it came time to tip us off about the hit, he said nothing. I've checked the calls and texts. Not a single warning, nothing. He let John walk right into a trap and he's going to pay for it."

The traffic was moving like molasses and they had to inch their way around the tree lined square. The cars in the outer lanes were moving faster but the Volvo was happy to sit a few cars behind them. The lanes of traffic snaked around the one way system and Darren manoeuvred the car into the left hand lane so he could take the turn for Trinity College. Behind them he watched the tailing car do the same but losing one car place to a Ford Fiesta which muscled into the lane at the last second. Two more turns and they entered an older section of city streets. Here, the buildings crowded in on each other funnelling the cars into two, then finally single lanes. Then everything stopped. Up ahead a red light glowed. Darren waited patiently, checking where the blue Volvo was in his mirror. When the lights changed, the single row of cars surged forward. Darren eased along but as his front wheels crossed into the yellow junction box he slammed on his breaks. Behind him cars were forced to break suddenly and the air was filled with a chorus of screaming horns. Seconds ticked by and the horns were joined by angry shouts but Darren wasn't bothered. He clutched the car and waited. When the light turned amber, he began counting down in his head. Five, four, three, the amber light turned red, two, on one he popped the clutch and rammed the accelerator all the way home. The car shimmied as his tyres fought for grip then launched them across the junction as cars closed on them from both sides.

"Jesus, you cut that one close," said Tony, looking back over his shoulder while the Subaru’s engine screamed up through the rev range.

"Are they gone?"

"Yea, stranded behind a minivan but they have the blue lights on so you better get us out of here."

Darren sent the car rocketing down the road, having to mount the footpath a few times to scrape past slower moving cars. Each time they bounced over the kerb they were thrown around like rag dolls. Darren could see both his brothers bracing themselves against the roof of the car to hold themselves down in their seats. As he rounded a bend in the road he popped the handbrake and sent the nose of the car sliding into a narrow service lane running behind the shops, he prayed that there were no vans picking that moment to make a delivery. His luck held and he spun out onto Trinity Street, his hissing wheels throwing a rooster tail of tiny stones out behind them as the powerful sports car shimmied into the oncoming one way traffic. Panicked drivers had to slam on breaks or dive to the side of the road in an attempt to avoid crashing into the car barrelling up the street the wrong way. Darren only needed to make it forty yards like this to reach the top of Dame Lane, after that it was straight on through another back alley which would spit them out on the main streets again. Darren kept checking his mirror but there was no sign of the undercover Volvo. Once they were back in the main flow of traffic Darren slowed.

"So, what's the plan, are we going after Collins now" asked Tony.

"The boys picked him up earlier, they have him over in the Liberties."

"You could have asked us first," huffed Tony, not liking being left out.

"Why, what difference would that make?"

"We might have wanted to pick him up ourselves."

"Would yea cop yourself on!"

"Just saying is all, it would have been nice to be keep in the loop. We are as much a part of this as you. We're your brothers not some hired help."

"I'll ask next time, alright?" snapped Darren, his tone sounding anything but sorry.

They turned into another side street and eventually parked in the back yard of a derelict house. The door hung askew, only held on by one hinge. Small mountains of windblown rubbish had accumulated against the yard walls. A battered white van stood empty nearby. Darren slipped past the broken door, picking his steps through a maze of rotting timber and broken bottles.

Inside, the house smelled of mildew and sewage. The ancient lino was ripped and standing up in tiny peeks threatening to trip up the unwary. The hall was littered with broken furniture, rubbish bags, and a filthy mattresses. A rat dashed from behind an upturned chair and dived into a pile of rubbish, causing the plastic to rustle as he burrowed.

The brothers moved deeper into the house and found themselves at the door of a filthy kitchen. In here all of the wrecked furniture had been pushed aside and in the middle of the room sat Fergal Collins, strapped to a chair. His head lolled onto his naked chest as blood and spit pooled in his lap. All around him hard looking men lounged as if a near naked bleeding man was all part and parcel of an average morning in Dublin.

"I told you to pick him up, not kill him," snapped Darren as he walked closer to the unconscious traitor.

"He's a rat, Darren. He deserved a slap," said a tracksuit wearing man in his fifties with a huge dome head that shone as if it had been polished with wax.

"Yes, but once he's told me what I need to know. He can't do that if you've knocked his fucking brains out."

"He's soft as shite. I hardly touched him and he was crying for his Mammy. When he wakes up he'll tell you what you want," said the bald man crossing his huge arms defensively.

"He better."

The big man strode over and slapped Collins across the face and pulled his head back by the hair, "Wakey wakey snitch."

After two more open-handed slaps his eyelids fluttered and Fergal Collins moaned. "There, told yea there was nothing wrong with him," the bald man said still holding a fist full of hair. The seated man began to heave and vomited a mouthful of congealed blood into his lap which landed like a chopped up jelly fish before dripping onto the floor in gloppy tentacles.

"Jesus Christ, he nearly got me," said the bald bruiser dropping the Collins head and dancing away from the spreading pool of blood-streaked vomit. Darren stepped forward and waited for the man who had helped kill his brother to fully wake up. After a couple of minutes he'd had enough waiting and kicked the man savagely in the shin. Collins half gurgled half yelled.

"You know who I am?"

The man nodded.

"Who did the hit?"

"Don't know," gurgled Fergal into his chest causing more blood to dribble from his ruined mouth.

Darren moved closer and spoke in a menacing voice, "Don't make this harder than it has to be. You're going to tell me what I want to know. Who did the hit?"

"I swear to God I have no idea, they never said a word to me."

"Who's they?"

"Jimmy, Pete, anyone."

"But you knew it was coming?"

"No! They told me nothing!"

"Don't give me that, Fergal, you mightn't have known the day or time but you knew it was coming?"

"I swear, I don't know a thing, if I had I would have said!"

"Here let me have a go," said Tony moving forward. Darren watched as his brother untied the man's laces and took off his shoes before vanishing out into the hall. When Tony came back he was holding a tyre iron in his hand. He must have got it out of the white van parked outside. Tony stood in front of Collins and held the heavy end of the iron under his nose.

"It's like this, you wanker, you better tell my brother what he wants to know or I am going to make you wish you were dead."

"I've told you everything I know!"

Tony didn't even wait for a question to be asked. He lifted the tire iron and smashed it into the man’s naked toes three times, pulverizing flesh and bone. Fergal Collins bounced around in the chair screaming at the top of his lungs.

"Hold him still yea daft lumps," Tony shouted at the watching men. Two of them rushed forward and pushed down on the man’s shoulders, forcing him back in the chair while a third wrapped a filthy bit of material over the man's screaming mouth to deaden the noise. Tony looked like he was about to speak when he changed his mind and destroyed another toe. When he finished, he stood and pushed his mussed hair back from his face. His pale skin was covered in blood splatters like tiny red freckles. Collins rocked in agony while muffled screams filled the room. His eyes were so huge they looked ready to pop out of their sockets.

"Who did the hit?" asked Darren.

The man mumbled something and Darren nodded to remove the gag.

"I told you..." Darren nodded and the gag was replaced and Tony went to work on the other foot. When he was finished he smiled at the tortured man and said," They'll never call you for Riverdance."

This time when Darren spoke he asked, "Why didn't you warn John about the hit?" Again the gag was removed.

"I did, I told him," simpered the wreck of a man.

"No you DIDN'T," roared Darren, grabbing the tire iron out of Tony's hand. He began landing blows against the man's right knee until something cracked and the whole kneecap slid sideways. The room went silent as Fergal Collins passed out, the pain was too much for his brain to deal with. Darren stood back, panting. He looked around at the impassive faces of the men gathered watching.

"He knows nothing," Darren said, dropping the blood covered tyre iron to the floor and looking at his crimson hands.

"What now?" asked Terrance.

"It's time to send this piece of shit home."

***

Jimmy was about to get into his car when the Ferryman's mobile phone buzzed in his pocket. The text was short, Busarus, Midday. Jimmy wondered what it was with this guy and buses. First time it was a bus stop in the middle of nowhere, this time Dublin's central bus station. Maybe the Ferryman was a bus driver? Jimmy had visions of the physco checking old ladies bus passes then pulling the bus over to quickly to execute someone, then off to bingo with the lot of them.

"Was that him?" asked Pete, who was sitting in the passenger seat of Jimmy's car. They were due to meet a guy at the airport hotel to organise a shipment of hash in from Amsterdam.

"Yea. Busarus this time. I'd better give Joey a bell, then well be off," said Jimmy pulling out his own phone to make the call. Joey picked up on the second ring.

"Hi Jimmy."

"I need you to take the bag to Busarus and be there at twelve."

"Do I need to get a ticket or anything?"

"I don't know, what difference would that make?"

"If I had to get a ticket, I'd need to get some cash off my sister."

"Jesus, are yea broke?"

"Well, yea."

"What happened the money Kenny gave you for the last job?"

"Fifty quid don't go far."

Jimmy knew Kenny would pocket that money, greedy git. "Get a score from your sister, just in case. I'll drop you a few quid after the job is done."

"Fair enough, Jimmy."

"You still got the bag, don't yea?"

"Of course, it’s safe as houses."

"And you haven't been poking around inside."

"You told me not to."

"Good Lad. Be there at twelve and keep your phone on. I'll be in touch."

"Right yea are."

Jimmy ended the call and pocketed the phone. In the distance he heard a heavy engine being revved hard. A dirty builders van careened backward into view at the top of the road. The brake lights flashed on and the van screeched to a halt. Jimmy, saw the back doors fly open in the same instant he felt Pete's hand on his shoulder pulling him behind the car. As he pushed Jimmy down behind him, Pete pulled a pistol from inside his jacket and took aim across the roof of the car.

From inside the back of the van, a blue plastic chemical barrel was shoved out by two balaclava wearing men which came bouncing down the road toward Jimmy's car.

"Stay down, Stay down!" yelled Pete, clearly thinking there might be some sort of explosive inside.

One of the men in the back of the van jumped out and ran after the bouncing barrel. He was holding a lit petrol bomb in his hand and he launched it into the air aiming for the barrel. The throw was too long and sailed over the target smashing on the road instead. A small fireball rose into the air and the blue barrel rolled through the flames.

The man dashed back and threw himself into the back of the van which raced away with its back doors swinging. The barrel slowed and veered off to one side before coming to a stop against the foot path. A couple of Jimmy's men ran from their houses after the van as it vanished around the corner.

"Stay here," said Pete, moving out from behind the car, holstering the gun. Jimmy doubted they would have launched some sort of explosive device so violently but there was no point in taking chances. That was Pete's job. The big man approached the smoking barrel walking around it to get a look in the open end. That was when Pete shouted.

"Jimmy, come take a look at this."

Jimmy walked up the road a few yards and to stand beside Pete. He saw a man's blood covered hand sticking out of the open end of the barrel.

"Who is it?"

"Fergal Collins"

"Is he dead?"

Pete grabbed the outstretched arm and pulled the body out. A groan emanated from somewhere deep inside the injured man as his battered limbs were freed from the smouldering plastic tub. Around his neck hung a piece of cardboard tied on with string. One word was smeared on it in blood. Rat.

Pete stood up and his eyes were cold, "No, but he might wish he was."

It started to make sense to Jimmy. Fergal was the reason the Griffins knew where the drug hand off was going down. He was in on the heist, he had to be. They only reason Jimmy hadn't copped it earlier was the beating they had given him at the robbery, that and the fact he didn't think Fergal had the balls to double cross him.

"Yea better get him to the hospital," said Jimmy, turning to walk away.

"Really?" asked Pete, not believing his boss was going to let a snitch live.

"Yea, Really. I want my money back and when I get it, then we'll kill him."


Jimmy walked away as Pete arranged for the bloodied man to be dumped at the door of an emergency room.