Ex Con , Rerry and Bickers staggered out the door, a little bit drunk , festive, and happy to be going home to their kith and kin on this enchanting Christmas Eve. It had started to snow and the sounds of merry revelers drifted up from the streets below. I was sitting on the desk, sipping my Laphroaig, Few was thrown back in his leather clubman, belly hanging out, sucking on a big Havana.
“Brick, run along like a good fellow, don’t want to keep the kids waiting on tonight of all nights.”
“And you Few, you going over to Imelda’s as usual? Kids must be excited. Ours are up the walls.”
“Eh, well you know Imelda has this new French squeeze so they’ve gone to Paris for the festivities. I’ve actually got a lot to sort out you know….OH FUCK IT – look , look at me now, all my genius, my empire, my money, everything I’ve done and for what ? For fucking what? To spend it alone on Christmas Day, alone and unloved…how did it come to this Brick? I mean people love me, I’m a magnet, a chick magnet, a person magnet, a talent magnet, you name it and I attract it. Shit!”
Oh Jesus, this is all I needed – a maudlin Few, when I’m trying to get home. I change the subject. “So, Few – I mean you’re getting on a bit. You were a kid once, so I hear – what was, what do you remember about Christmas where you were young?”
“What do I remember? 1974. I remember quite well. May, I remember being told my father had died. I remember my life being thrown into the deep freeze. I remember the chair I was sitting in, where it was. The kitchen, it could be right now. It’s that clear. Afterwards, I don’t remember afterwards. For a while anyway. There must have been a lot of pain. A lot of not wanting to remember. I can’t say. Then things thaw, slowly – a winter thaw, I guess that’s unusual. We moved – up to the hill, where the poultry market was – every December on the 13th. The geese were right bastards – hissing hate machines with beaks that could break your arm. Evil. The turkeys were ok, considering. Every time I eat a goose now I smile, oh yes you had it coming you honking fuck. Funny? You think I’m funny? Funny how?
Then the lights, the rainbow 60-watt bulbs strung across King Street – to my 6 year old self they were the most exotic sight on earth. One evening in the bakery, after everyone else had gone, my mother and I designed a chocolate church, replete with carol singers and snowstorms. We sat in the half-light for hours and it really was a thing of beauty. We put it in on display in the shop window. It wasn’t for sale but next morning someone offered 25 pounds and then it was. We walked home together hand in hand, in the gathering dark. Later, there were people round and big flat boxes of Milk Tray and minerals and Perry Como and it was going to be alright, for the first time in a long time I thought it was going to be alright. That’s what I remember.”
“Too, you’re coming home with me – I’m sure the kids will love having their Uncle Few round for Christmas dinner.”
As we lock up, the streets are quite Dublin, spires sparkling under winter skies. We shuffle down The Lotts, snowy tracks following us, our shadows long and frosty in the moonlight.
Few’s phone rings. Jingle Bells. Tastful. I overhear a few words.
“Darla, Hi baby ! ……two ounces? Jacuzzi…Bolly…”He hangs up and turns to me.
“Well Brick, change of plans old thing!” and he’s off, half running, half falling down the quays.
As he reaches the Ha’penny Bridge he turns and roars “Merry Christmas!” and then he’s gone. A jolly old elf indeed.
I was walking the streets in the rain, it had been pouring down for days – the city was full to bursting, a giant bucket of steaming piss ready to explode. I, for one, did not want a piss shower, although I know certain people are partial. It was the doldrums after Christmas when everyone’s festive spirits collapsed into spilled drinks and broken hearts. Or at least mine did.
I hadn’t seen Few since that night he skipped off into a wonderland of debauchery, having turned down my offer of a convivial family feast. I can’t believe I actually felt sorry for him, even for a minute. Normally I wouldn’t have worried or even cared that much but things at Few were sliding.
Ex Con had started live streaming dancing cats on Periscope and Rerry was knocking out a daily Avant-garde jazz feature, or “jazzerette” as he called it. “Jazz is a big word Brick, a very big word.” Bickers, well, it was Bowie 24*7*365. Nobody listened to me, in fact if I broached the subject of my mooted style guide they all hooted with derision and referred to me as Tommy Makem, all because of that fucking hat. Mutiny was in the air. Say what you like about Few, and many people did, but he knew how to keep these muppets on a tight leash.
He’d never been gone for so long without a word, a sign, something. Look, I was worried. I gotta say. I missed him even, maybe. I stared down the Liffey, into the murk. The Empire of Guinness across the quays was calling me home. Damn and fuck it wasn’t even midday, maybe a whiskey would be ok. I’ll hold off till after lunch. As I turn and headed back to the office, I notice a couple of junkies shooting up behind a wall in the Croppy Acre. They stared back, carried on regardless. One of them gave me the finger. I was glad the gates were locked. At least I didn’t have to run away.
Back at base, there’s a disheveled looking guy waiting in Few’s office, he’s wearing a black trench and a battered fedora. He’s smoking, smells like Sweet Afton. It takes a minute but I recognise him pretty quick.
“Inspector McGivney, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Brick, isn’t it? We met…in….the. The Oval, that’s right.”
“Yes sir, that is correct. If you’re looking for Few then that makes two of us.”
“Whatever happened to that script you were writing? I was expecting a call.”
“Whiskey?” I offer him a glass. He nods, I pour, he swallows in one and holds out the glass again. This time he sips. “Is this the antidote?”
“For writers’ block.”
“Legend has it.”
He raises a toast “Happy New Year and all that fucking codology. Yes, as a matter of fact I am looking for Mr. Few.”
“Mr. Few?” I smiled – I’d never heard him referred to as Mister before. “Well, I haven’t seen him since Christmas Eve, I’m beginning to get a little concerned.”
“A little, you didn’t think to report it to anyone? Like my lot, for example?”
“Well, he can look after himself, he doesn’t really keep a regular timetable so…”
“Anyway, I need to speak to him. It’s in a relation to a missing person, another missing person, not him.” He held my gaze, I didn’t say anything. “Discreet inquiries, you understand. OK Brick, if you don’t hear from him let me know and we’ll add him to our list. Our other list. You’ve got a guilty disposition and good taste in whiskey. That’s an intriguing combination. I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
“Let’s rock and roll Tooler.” He turns to a big, stocky man-statue standing against the far wall. The most police looking person I’ve seen. I hadn’t even noticed he was there. “He’s my lucky charm” says McGivney, nodding toward Tooler as they leave.
Later, I’m down on O’Connell Bridge, the seagulls screeching overhead. In the dark. In the rain. In January. I’m looking down towards the lights of the docks. 8th January, I realise it’s Few’s birthday. Where are you Few? I know you’re out there. I feel it in my water.
A woman walks along and stops beside me. She asks me for a light. She speaks with an accent, German I think. She’s maybe fifty, handsome, all cheekbones and blue eyes.
“Does it ever stop raining in Ireland?”
“Not often.” (Ever the charmer).
She offers me a cigarette. I accept.
“You’re name is Brick?”
“Eh..yes…Do I know you?”
“My name is Irmgard Laurie. I have a message for you. From Few.”
I had to be in The Oval at 7. Right now, I was sitting on a stone bench in the park behind The Church bar. I’d just been in Jervis Street, buying some bedding. A raggedy old guy, smelling strongly of booze, settles down beside me. He’s one of hundreds, if not thousands, of abandoned souls who haunt the city centre with nothing to do and nowhere to go.
He takes a good look at the box at my feet and reads the name – Irish Dreams.
“Irish dreams? Irish dreams? More like Irish fucking nightmares brother.”
Last night at home, I fell asleep on the couch in the dark. When I awoke there was someone in the hallway, their face pressed up against the glass. Staring at me, dead eyes. Only for a second.
This morning I saw them again, at the bus stop across the street, out of the corner of my eye.
The Oval’s busy, I settle down, knock back a whisky to settle the nerves and head upstairs.
“What’ll it be pal?”
“I heard you have the finest Apfelstrudel in all of Wien”.
The barman stares at me. And stares at me. Is he smirking? Is this some elaborate joke Few has set up to make me look like (even) more of an idiot?
Eventually, he reached under the counter and takes out a key. Hands it to me and nods to a door in the wood panelling at the back. “Lock it after you”.
I struggle a little with the key, curious punters staring, willing me to fail, and willing me not to be able to even open a fucking door. Bastards. I’m sweating.
It opens, I push it in, I’m in a dimly lit (well it would be wouldn’t it) corridor, green and grey hospital painted walls, peeling, exposed pipes, damp….the whole nine yards. No. Fuck me not again.
I wish I’d had another drink. The door closes of its own volition. The lock clicks. The lights flicker on and off, off and on. Then off. Then on. You get the picture. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re as stupid as you look. I walk down, down and down into the dark. I think if I went into The Oval right now that the door wouldn’t be there anymore. I certainly get that feeling. I try not to panic. Panic stations. STATIONTOSTATION. Hard to believe he’s gone. Is he gone? Maybe here he’s not gone? Maybe this is where he’s gone to. I fixate on that. Maybe there’s a wardrobe, an English evergreen. I’m not dying to know. Irmgard Laurie. I mean who knew she was real? Is Conny Plank still alive? Would like to meet. Think he’s dead. Cluster. Clusterfuck. Clusterbomb.
” the first music I hated was the noise of exploding bombs, grenades and guns to which I had to listen to as a child in World War II”
A door. There’s a door, a glass door with backwards lettering like a private dick’s office. Should the writing be back to front? Isn’t that inside? I catch a glimpse of my fleshy dead friend from last night, face pressed against the pane as the lights fizzle out. Then no more. I knock. No reply. I go in. It’s an office, straight out of Raymond Chandler, hat-stand, gold lettering, drinks cabinet, old newspapers and files piled on the desk. It’s got atmosphere. It’s got the tone perfectly right, it’s instantly and obviously a complete fake. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the smell, I guess it doesn’t matter. What do I care?
Someone is sitting behind the desk, back to me. Smoking. They swing around and there he is. What a sight. Ok, it’s been a while since I saw him but he is a fright. He’s lost some amount of weight, now I wouldn’t say rake, the rakes progress but there’s a hint of a bone structure, even in the gloom, even through the bandages he’s wearing around his face. He’s got on a wig, all gelled up in shock, and shades. Shades, Jesus Fucking Christ. The invisible man, literally and figuratively.
“Brick, listen carefully – I haven’t got much time, I got in too deep. I had to go underground. People are looking for me. McGivney, and much, much worse. I’ve been incommunicado. This is the only safe way. It wasn’t me, remember that Brick, no matter what you hear, what you see, it wasn’t me. Take this…”
He hands me a roll of papers, tied up with old shop twine.
“Three weeks Few, I thought when you heard the news you would be in touch. I know you didn’t get on but……”
“You don’t know do you? David, he’s gone”
“Dead. He died…”
He looks at me, well I think he’s looking at me, with the shades it’s hard to tell…
He stands up, he’s moaning, low but audible, louder and it turns to a scream, a cry of real anguish and pain, like a dog who’s just had his bollocks chopped off.
“Few, Few, Jesus , Few…
The lights go out, we’re pitched into darkness. When they come back he’s gone. Everything is gone, not just Few, the room, everything. I’m standing back at the door, papers in hand.
McGivney opened the suitcase. I looked at the body, the body what was left of it. I’m looking at it then I’m turning and puking all over my shoes. Peak hangover, dismembered body, stinking Liffey, gawping Tooler, the ground hits me with some force. When I come round I’m lying on Tooler’s lap, I look up at his big scarecrow head and tell him I love him. He slaps me hard. Ah. Big shovels for hands.
“Are you from Mayo Tooler?”
“As it happens, how did you know?”
“Never mind, Whereabouts?”
“Ah, I hope you’re not gay…”
McGivney interjects “What the fuck is this? Blind date?”
He’s looming over me now, I can see the hairs in his nose, he gives me a hip flask.
Whiskey. Oh Mister McGivney I think I love you now as well. I’m such a police slut.
“So, look is it him?”
“I’ll need to take another look. Fuck but it does look like him, that’s the green velvet jacket he was wearing. Where’s the head?”
“We don’t know, no head, no hands. Professionals.”
It occurs to me that Few’s head was never that useful but those hands well the things they could do. With a keyboard I mean. You’ve got a filthy mind. All 21 of you.
“Hard to tell, it’s his clothes alright or the same clothes. Do you do toe-prints down at the Bridewell?”
“Do you have to make a joke of every fucking thing?”
“Yes, yes I do. Flippant is my middle name…well, actually it’s Mary but that’s another story. He’d be embarrassed to be found in such a cheap suitcase. He had a luggage fetish.”
“You were in The Oval last night.”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“Come on, get in the front, Tooler you’re in the back.”
We’re off speeding down the Grand Canal in McGivney’s old merc, siren blaring. McGivney is pumping out Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On in a pretty natty in-car stereo and Tooler is singing along, eyes closed.
“I didn’t have you pegged as a Marvin fan inspector”
“I’m full of surprises Brick, full of surprises, as you’ll find out. Tooler introduced me, he’s like a walking talking, Pitchforking bog warrior, the truth and justice business is just a hobby really”
Tooler repeats “Truth and Justice” and breaks into a wheezing laugh. McGivney looks at me and smiles, it’s not a pleasant smile.”
“Have you ever read ‘Few’ Tooler?”
We pull up outside an old pub on Parnell Square called Cleary’s. It was a beautiful Victorian gin palace but it’s been closed for years. We get out and McGivney bangs on the hoarding where the door used to be. The board creak and then an old man peers around the corner. He’s small, ancient, possibly Chinese, he’s wearing a skull cap and has a long white beard.
“Ah, Mister McGivney, Tooler, please come in.”
We through the gap and we’re in a shabby room, candles burning everywhere, there’s what looks like a reception desk on the right and the bar is at the back, dusty, festooned with cobwebs but still fully stocked as far as I can tell.”
McGivney addresses our host “Dimitri. We found the body.”
“Yes, yes I told you inspector. And how are you Mr. Tooler, it’s been a long time. I hope you are still taking the herbs, I think, by looking at you that you are.”
I swear Tooler is blushing.
“The head and hands are missing, the same as the one at before Christmas, same type of suitcase too. Buy one get one free, any idea who it is?”
“A professional, certainly. Yes, indeed. And who is this? “
“Brick, he worked with Few.” I didn’t like the finality of this pronouncement.
“Ah a friend of Few, any friend of Few is a friend of Dimitri.” He stands on front of me and then embraces me, holding me tight for much, much too long. I’m looking over his head “McGivney, what the fuck is going on? Tell him to get off me.”
“Ah Sir, you are embarrassed, my apologies. Please come with me I think I have something to interest you.”
He walks to the door behind the bar, I follow, McGivney and Tooler not far behind.
I walk into a smaller room, there’s a red light on and it’s completely empty apart from what looks like a massage table in the middle of the floor. There’s a soiled white towel thrown over it. There’s another identical door in the opposite wall. I turn around as the door closes. I’m on my own. A small hatch slides open in the wall and there’s three sets of unblinking eyes peering in at me. I start to panic.
“McGivney! What the Jesus, McGivney. Open the goddam fucking door.”
The other door opens and she walks into the room.
When I say “she” I mean “it. Sure, she was a fine looking woman but her eyes, her eyes were dead pools of malice. She was a nurse. She was dressed as a nurse (no, a proper nurse FFS).
You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You’re the devil in disguise
“Mr. McGivney what are you doing out of bed?”
I stare at her.
“McGivney? I’m not McGivney. That’s McGivney…” I point over at the hatch but it’s gone.
“Now Michael”. She’s strict. “Now Michael, we’ve been through this a thousand times. We really thought you were getting better. Please …oh…look what have you done to the towel? I hope that’s not what I think it is. You are Michael McGivney, Special Branch, you’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. You are not Bobby Sands. You never were Bobby Sands. “Frankly – this” – she holds the towel up gingerly between her fingers”…this is disgusting.”
“I know I am not Bobby Sands you stupid fucking…” is Few dead? Why wasn’t I more upset by the suitcase? That was a fat body, that was old fat Few, not the physical wreck I saw just two nights ago. Faraway so close.
She’s screaming, I realise I’m throttling her…I’m choking her, she’s fighting back, she knees me expertly in the balls and I fall against a padded wall, slump to the floor, there’s an alarm ringing now and two big orderlies (disorderlies) are on top of me, kicking me, steel capped boots, tweedle dum and tweedle dee. And I’m shouting “Tiocfaidh ár lá!” over and over until I tumble headlong into unconsciousness.
I wake up, I can see the floor. I can’t move. My world is bloody red and midnight black. My head is throbbing. Oh Superman. I’m restrained in some way. I struggle. My shirt is gone. I’m gone, over and out.
That feels good, when I come around again she’s massaging my broken body, gently, expertly, she’s putting me back together…And I’ll put you together again… “Now Michael isn’t it better this way?”
“Yes, please don’t stop.” never stop never stop never stop
“If you’ll just come along the road with us, you’ll be out in no time.”
Along the road. That sounds good.
“Where are the papers?”
“Oh those, look when I brought them back there was nothing on them, completely blank, in fact most of it was just a roll of old flock wallpaper…”
“Brought them back where?” – The rhythm of the massage had intensified now, she was starting to hurt me just a little too much.
“To the office.”
“But they’re not there now.”
“No. How do you know?”
“Where are the papers?”
“Where are the papers?” Is it safe, is it safe, marathon man. Snickers now. Was it…
It feels cold at first, sharp and bitter, then something warm and flowing and I trace the arc with my mind as she pulls the blade slowly down my spine.
“Where are the papers? You are going to lose a lot of blood very quickly Michael, very quickly – shall I count? 1…2…”
There’s a loud bang, I can’t see what’s going on behind me, she’s a hollerin’, there’s a primordial grunt and then a thud, and silence.
Look around old friend
“Jasus, that escalated quickly ….I didn’t think she’d get to the cutting before I got here…now, these fucking straps…fiddly. Anyway, you’re still alive.”
It’s Tooler, he picks me up like a sack of fuckspuds and throws be over his shoulder. I’m finding it hard to focus, he carries me back to the old bar and lays me down (lay lady lay) almost gently on a couch. Tooler lays me down. Tooler lays me down. Big hands for shovels. Big shovels for hands. Big heart for a hard man. Soft hands for a Mayo man. Never footed turf.
“He’s all yours Dimitri.”
Then McGivney is there, the real McGivney, the Store Street Special. “Stick a fork in his ass and turn him over, he’s done.”
I was right, sort of. Dimitri was half-Russian half Chinese and all herbalist. His parents met during the Zhenbao Island incident. He was born out of chaos, he attracted it he said, almost as if in the midst of conception the essence of conflict was fused into his very soul. Very soul. I always wanted to say that. OK, he didn’t stick a fork in my ass, but he basted me in foul-smelling poultices, he took my broken bones, my cuts, bruises, my open wounds and he eased my pain.
He drugged me, filled me with desire for life, for death, for annihilation. I stood at the gates of heaven and held his hand, his long hair blowing in the celestial wind, a spidersweb halo. Was that you Saint Peter? My vision is obscured by his beard, it runs on forever. The eternal beard.
At other times he appears as an angel, dusty grey wings and dowdy apron, barred from paradise, my very own opium-den Clarence. Are we on the bridge now? He hovers at the periphery, raining down his snakeoil and quackery. He sings, a mellifluous, ersatz Bowie. Look up here I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.
How long did it take? Dreams intertwine with reality, the bar is full of flappers, the broken glass of drunken laughter and then it’s empty again, just me and my mildewed protector.
“Wake up, Breeck.” I open my eyes. We’re back in the land of the living. You notice the inflection after a while .He calls me Breeck. He doesn’t really make eye-contact, he never sits down, he never stops moving.
He’s taking a thermometer
“How long you know Few? You knew Few?”
“Oh a long time, like 30 years or so, on and off. You?”
“I know him since I was born or since I can remember…”
I thought nothing of it.
“….and McGivney, you know he never been the same since all the dead priests. People don’t believe, they view him with suspicion, the fingers point, they lining up with knives to plunge in his back, it’s going to hurt, hurt a lot. So don’t blame him.”
“I don’t blame him, well I don’t blame him alone- you pushed me into the fucking room.” I try to stand up but my legs don’t like it.
“Only to try and help, to find Few, you want to find Few don’t you?”
“I want to find Few, you want to find Few, McGivney want’s to find Few but I’m the one getting fucking tortured at the drop of a hat…”
“But it’s you they want, you have the papers. And we don’t know what they are yet.”
“Who, who they are or what they are.”
“So McGivney knows it wasn’t Few in the case?”
“I guess, he need to know what you know. He don’t know you.”
“And I don’t know you and I don’t know him, now I want to go. I want to go, help me up.”
“We need the papers. McGivney he needs them. Very important.”
“Everybody needs the papers. Tell me, who is the other missing person? Why would I give the papers to you or to McGivney?”
Across the river on the dark side of town Where the thin men stalk the streets, While the sane stay underground McGivney stubs out a cigarette on the doorpost as he answers his phone.
“Ok…..alright….yeah…. fuck me ….Jesus, already? You are….yeah. No, we’ll keep an eye on him.”
He hangs up. “He’s up and gone.”
“That was quick, I told you boss, he acts like a dog with three legs but he’s a fighter, he’s got moxie.”
“Moxie? You can’t say a bloke has moxie.”
“I like the kid, I can say….”
“Listen Tooler shut the fuck up, if I didn’t know better I’d say you’ve got a crush…Here -before I forget ask someone to clean that up.”
He gestures to a guy lying on the floor in the corner of the room, tied up and gagged, seemingly unconscious (or worse).
As they leave the room the victim lets out a low moan. McGivney switches off the light and closes the door.
“I’ll never talk, you filthy pig…” They both laugh as they weave their way through the uniforms, oblivious, invisible.
“I watched that Brigadoon last night, it resonated. D’you know it?”
“Och aye wee jocks. Resonates …you’re some tool. Your name resonates, you shitbiscuit.”
“Has he got them?”
“Oh, he’s got them alright but he won’t spill, there’s only one thing for it.”
Sarah sits on the balcony, staring out at the Atlantic Ocean, staring out at the empty beach. It’s 2 pm. She’s already drunk most of a bottle of Bodegas Toro Abala that was left behind by departing guests. Her vision’s blurred by the booze and the heat haze on the horizon. Tangier is a ghost, a suggestion, somewhere real and imagined on the faraway African shore. The Levante whips frenzied, razor-sharp rivers of sand scurrying along, parallel to the ocean. It’s 27 degrees, everyone is elsewhere. Everything. A cow and its calf amble into view, striding slowly down the strand. The calf looks an awkward new-born, tangled limbs, falling over itself, information overloaded in the dazzling Tarifa sun.
She watched them for what seems like an age, sipping her wine, marvelling at the scene, thinking about Bray and the teeming mess of seaside life it would be on a day like today. She sees what she assumes to be the first kite of the afternoon, a black and grey windhover high out above the waves. She tries to spot the surfer but there’s nobody there. As it drifts closer to the shore she realises it a bird, a hawk or an eagle maybe? The bird, definitely an eagle she thinks now, is over the beach and she can see how big it is. Now swooping down over the sand she can see the sudden menace in it’s movements, she stumbles to her feet as it screeches, her wineglass smashes to the ground as the winged shadow of death falls across the mother and child.
The mother realises too late and the infant not at all as it’s hoisted into the air, dragged kicking and screaming far out over the sea. The bird struggles with it’s prey, it can’t hold on and eventually it releases. The carcass tumbles towards the surface, there’s a splash and then nothing. The bird spirals away, becoming a dot on the horizon.
The mother looks out to sea, lowing mournfully. The eagle is as the eagle does and life is a short, cruel joke. Nobody’s laughing.
She’s been in the village for four weeks now, waiting for him to arrive. She’d spent the days sitting outside the Café Central, speaking little, keeping herself to herself. She’d had lots of approaches but she rebuffed them one after another. Eventually they gave up. Bridget and her frigid knittin’. He was so easy. It still disturbed her that she had a talent for killing, I mean the first one was an accident but she got over it quickly and people pay a lot of money. A lot of money.
On the second night they went for dinner at La Oca Da Sergio, afterwards they strolled down to the old, crumbling pier. She dared him to take her out beyond the safety barriers and, of course, he did. Under a full moon they kissed, under a full moon he died, foolishly surprised, wide eyed and open-mouthed as she pushed him backwards into the brine.
Her phone rings. She eyes it suspiciously. She wasn’t expecting a call until she go back to Cadiz. She picks it up, says nothing.
Is that Sarah?
Who’s this? But she already knew.
I see a lot of people as I make the rounds
And I hear her name here and there as I go from town to town
And I’ve never gotten used to it, I’ve just learned to turn it off
Either I’m too sensitive or else I’m getting’ soft
“You’ve got some fucking nerve inspector, after the way you left me holding…”
“Look, you’re needed here. I spoke to himself and he’s said ok. You’re coming home.”
The lights of Cadiz slowly disappear on the horizon. Sarah is up on deck alone, she stubs out her cigarette and flicks it into the sea. A flock of seagulls follows the trawler, the stench of fish and the roll of the ocean turns her stomach.
It’s going to take five days to get back to Dublin, but people are waiting for her at borders, in airports, on the road. This is the only way, the safest way. The last time she was on a boat it was with McGivney, sailing out from Dun Laoghaire, hand in hand. Escaping the past, escaping the mob. The murder of Father Sean remains unsolved. Slumped in his confessional, put a bullet in his brain and it makes all the papers. McGivney had never asked, he knew obviously. And they all knew he knew. He was never a good cop. Is there such a creature? Nobody could deny that the priest got what was coming to him. There’s that at least.
The headed south from Le Havre and stopped in a villa in Oloron-Sainte-Marie. It was beautiful, swimming pool outside ,the whole nine yards. He’ been like the Mick of old, he didn’t even drink (that much) and he was there when she needed him, after the priest and after her dad had suffered from a case of mistaken identity, suffered grievously. Then after a week he was gone. She climbed out of the pool, on one of those stunning French summer days and she called for him. No answer. She found the note. “Sorry babe, I had to go, you ‘ll be ok.” I’ll babe you in a minute. There was a grand as well. A grand don’t come for free. You’ll be ok. Well, not poetry exactly. Mick the fucking prick. Now, that’s poetry. Five years ago. She was ok but no thanks to him. She had contacts. She more than survived. Now they were looking for her again. Make no mistake, he wouldn’t be leaving her notes this time, he wouldn’t be able to write when she was finished with him.
“We’re setting sail to the place on the map
from which no one has ever returned
Drawn by the promise of the joker and the fool
by the light of the crosses that burned”
The captain appears beside her. He’s a salty old lag, sounds like a pirate, even has a wooden leg. Not really. He’s indeterminate British. Smells of sweat and mackerel. A winning combination.
Ain’t it a bootiful sight miss?” Think he’s drooling a bit. Maybe he has scurvy.
“Yeah, I guess. Sad to be leaving it anyway.”
Aye lass, I think it’s not what you’re leaving behind that’s bothering you, where are you headed to?”
Jasus captain, if you don’t know where we’re going then I’d say I’m fucked.” She lights another fag, he pulls out an old pipe (I kid you not) and sparks her up.
“Arrrrr…..I know where I’m going but we don’t get many people like you on board.”
“Then you’ll know I can’t tell ya, I’m sure that was made clear….”
“What? If you did you’d have to kill me?..and I’d say you would and all…”
Maybe he was cleverer than he looked, as with most blokes, that wouldn’t be difficult.”
“Did a bit of arms running back in the day. Oh aye. From Libya. Had that Gerry Adams with me once. “
“Saint Gerry of Adams to you.”
He puls a bottle out from under his oilskin.
“That’s one way of looking at it.”
I get back to the office, there’s nobody around. The place is a mess, it’s always a mess but it’s worse than usual. The more I look, the more I realise it’s been turned over. The notes and photos for The Chills interfew are scattered all over the floor. One of the laptops is upside down, chords ripped from the wall. The cabinets are turned out, files scattered everywhere like so much European indie confetti. It feels like I’ve been gone for days but my MacBook Air (please contact Few Enterprises for product placement opportunities) tells me it’s only 24 hours since I was at the canal with McGivney and Tooler. 24 hours, No way, no fucking way. Still if it was true at least the family wouldn’t have missed me yet. Hey hey that’s rock and roll. Plot holes. Gaping.
The phone rings, it’s Roedelius.
“You have listened to the new Qluster long player Few?”
“It’s not Few it’s Brick.”
“Ah Brick, yes so you have listened?
“Not yet – been busy”
“Please do – it would be great if you could feature it this week…”
“OK man, look I gotta go…oh …Just one more thing…..”
The phone goes dead.
Landfall, she comes up on the deck to see Cork harbour drifts in and out of view through the fog, she’ll be back in Dublin by nightfall. Her thoughts return, as they so often do, to that night. Time passes but she’s never forgotten. He’s always in her dreams, the beloved uncle.
Five years earlier.
There’s a BMW parked on a street outside St. James. Sarah crosses the road and gets in. She takes a gun out from under her jacket, rubs it and, holding it low, shows it to Ray*.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph! A gun? You brought a gun?”
“Yeah, Da has four or five shooters, he won’t miss one for a night. Jesus Ray, are we going to do this properly or what?”
He looks, takes it and holds it gingerly.
“Don’t worry, it’s not loaded, you’re holding it like a fucking banana ya spanner.”
They smile nervously.
“First dates are always a bit awkward, boy meets girl, girl steals gun, boy and girl terrorise paedo priest, it’s always the same old fucking story.”
“Right, will you quit it with the wise cracks? I’m shitting my trousers over here.”
She pushes him towards the door. They both get out of the car and walk down the street to the back of the church railings. You can see a house attached to the grounds, with curtains closed and lights on downstairs. There’s a shrine to the Virgin Mary at the far side of the gate, lit up, it starts to get brighter as they approach and then the bulb blows with a furious pop. David Bowie’s Somebody Up There Likes Medrifts out of an open window across the street. They look at each other. Ray grimaces.
“It’s a bulb, they blow all the fucking time, I hope you’re not superstitious.”
As they get closer to the house you can hear the RTE news, muffled, through the window. She takes him by the hand and leads him around the back. They try the back door, it’s locked, There’s a window open, Ray climbs up, opens it and drops down into the kitchen , knocks a cup onto the ground and it smashes, He freezes for a few moments but nothing happens. He opens the door and she steps in.
They walk down the hallway, its dark, there’s a sacred heart flickering up on the wall. There is light and the sound of the TV coming from a room. They stop outside and look through.
“What the fuck do we do now? Furious whispering.
“We do this.” She pushes the door open; he is sitting with his back to them, glass of whiskey in his hand, almost empty bottle on the floor beside him. There’s a bishop on the tv screen, refusing to answer questions, a number of reporters following him.
“Evenin’ Father Sean, I see your boss is making the headlines again.” Ray is now standing behind her. “Looks like you were all at it, company policy so to speak, a perk of the job? And I thought I was special; remember how you told me I was special?”
He stands up, staggering, confused…
“Sarah? Sarah, what are you doing here? How did you get in? Sarah, you’re confused, Sarah, my child..”
“Do not call me your child you dirty bastard.” She pulls the gun out and aims it at him. “Sit down here you prick.”
He doesn’t move.
“Sit down.” Less, calm, menacing. “Sit down now!” She walks over and thumps him in the face with her closed fist. He falls backwards. Ray follows her over, looking pretty freaked out himself.
“Get something to tie him up with Ray, the kitchen, some tape or something.” He doesn’t move.“Get fucking moving Ray.”
He leaves the kitchen. 25 Father Sean gets back up and sits, he’s rambling now and crying a bit.
“Please Sarah, for the love of God, please, why are you doing this?”
“Why, Why am I doing this? Why do you think Sean, why?” She puts the gun to the side of his head. “I should just pull the fucking trigger you know but it’d be too good for you, do you know what you’ve put me through all these years, I’ve been watching you, watching you looking at the kids every day in the playground and then getting up on your fucking pulpit every Sunday and preaching to the faithful, the fucking gombeens who still go. I don’t know who’s worse, you or them? It’s not like they don’t all know what’s going fucking on is it? Is it?”
She whacks him over the head with the butt of the gun. He’s sobbing now, holds his hand up over his head, blood running down the side of his face. Ray catches her arm and she’s about to hit him again.
The padre starts to shout. Ray tells him to shut up
“Ray? Ray? Is that you…”
“Shut up or make no mistake we will kill you stone dead.”
Ray finishes taping him up to the chair, gags him. Sarah is walking around the room taking family photos off the wall and smashing them, The Virgin Mary, Elvis, and JFK. Are You Lonesome Tonight? Sarah continues to pace the floor.
“So are you sorry Sean? Are you sorry for what you done? Bless me father for I have sinned, did you go to confession to Bishop O’Connell there? Did he forgive you? Did your God forgive you? Is the whiskey keeping the demons at bay? Are you sleeping well? Are you still doing it?”
She stops in front of him. Pulls the tape off his mouth, he gasps in pain. She slaps him hard.
“Tell me Sean, tell me.” She goes up close, eye to eye, lip to lip. “Do you like that Sean, do you?” She kisses him. He whimpers. “Although you never really liked it face to face did you? And I’m well on the wrong side of twelve now. Are you sorry Sean? Please tell me you’re sorry.”
He says nothing; she shoves the gun into his mouth.
“Tell me now Sean or I’ll blow you to kingdom come. Confess.”
He screams that he’s sorry and then goes silent, sucking in snot, blood and tears. Oh you’d nearly feel sorry for him. Nearly.
“Goodnight Sean, sweet dreams uncle.”
She pulls the trigger.
*Who the fuck is Ray? That’s not important right now. Have patience.
So Tooler, what do you think?”
“Yeah, look, I know that’s not what they pay us for but..”
“What do I think about wading through rivers of piss and Guinness at 11 o’clock in the morning on Paddy’s Day? What do I think of having to work on the one day of the year that gives every fucking alcoholic an excuse to start drinking at breakfast time? It couldn’t be more apt, could it boss? A real celebration of Irishness. It’s the walking dead.”
He trails off as a drunk shambles up to him, vomit down his shirt, suspicious dark stains down his trousers, he puts his hand out and mumbles something about fags. McGivney decks him in one smooth movement, barely looking around to watch him to crash to the ground. Nobody could be certain the guy even notices he’s not upright anymore. People step over him or trip over him. Nobody stops, nobody gives a shit.
“Jesus he could at least have put his flute away.”
“I mean look at that – look at that fucking abomination – he’s gesturing up at the 1916 tapestry hanging on front of the Bank of Ireland, Grattan, Redmond – like what the fuck is that about? They’re shitting it – those cunts up in the Dail, shitting it that the poor fucking Paddies might cop on to what really happened in 1916, or what happened afterwards. Sure why do you reckon our national day is this fucking circus and not the 24th of April?”
“I was only asking what did you think of the coffee.”
“Oh right…its tea.”
“Paddy’s Day…I never thought of it that way. Fucking Catholics.”
“What about the Prods?”
“Can’t say I know any.”
“Fair enough.Fucking Prods.”
They pick their way through the bedlam and stop outside a door beside The Palace Bar. McGivney raps, the door opens and a big hairy gorilla stares at them, blocking the way.
“I’ll members only you in a minute.” McGivney flashes the badge and pushes the ape out of the way.
Upstairs, the bar is empty.
“Whiskey, fuck it – make it a double. I’ve just got word that she’s on the way up from Cork. She’s dangerous and she’s angry. I’m sending you, I think I better let her cool down.”
“Right so boss, you don’t have to tell me …how I could forget that night in the bog…”
And the news is coming out…today.”
Paranoid? After everything that happened? I decided to hand over the papers to McGivney, what did I give a shit about them? I wanted Few back, maybe this was the way to do it. I still couldn’t make him out.
I watched the parade from the rooftop of the Few offices. The birds watched me, unblinking. I wondered if they were missing him. Tony Feuerstein, or “Too Few” to his friends, friends, parasites, hangers on – call them what you will. You wouldn’t take him for a pigeon fancier but he spent a helluvah long time up on the roof. I threw them some food and made my way to the back of the coop, lifted off the wooden fence and removed the roll. I took it downstairs and spread them out on the desk. Nothing, it was basically a load of wallpaper offcuts. There was the odd scrawl on the back in what looked like red crayon but nothing discernible. The radio babbled away in the background.
I called Store Street.
“Can I speak to Inspector McGivney please?”
“Who the fuck are you?”
“Is this Store Street Garda station?”
“Yeah, it is. You want to make something out of it?”
“Listen…Jesus. I just want to speak to McGivney. Or Tooler. O’Toole.“
“You want you want you fucking want you have such a sense of entitlement Brick working in your stupid fucking hipster magazine. You think anyone listen to the shit you post? You…”
I hang up. I’m shaking. I pour a drink, a big gin. Gulp half of it. People listen. People listen. Someone listens.Are Friends Electric?
I check the number, dial again.
“Good afternoon. Store Street Garda Station. How can we help you today sir?”
“Oh, listen, can I speak to Inspector McGivney please?”
“Or. Tooler….I mean O’Toole.”
“I’m sorry sir, there’s nobody works here called McGivney or O’Toole, well there was Sargent O’Toole but he retired in , oh what was in now…probably 1997 I should think …maybe it was Detective McMahon you’re thinking of?”
“Maybe someone else can…”
I hang up again. Maybe he’s in Pearse Street, no…this…
On the radio
Gardaí have confirmed that the body recovered from the Grand Canal last week is that of Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Ribery. Cardinal Ribery had been missing for over a month but this information had been repressed at the request of detectives investigating the case. The Gardaí are following several…..
Sarah stares at the radio in disbelief…the Spanish guy driving the car seems oblivious.
Jesus fucking Christ that calls for another gin….and another gin and….what if it’s not what’s written on the back of the paper, what if it’s the pattern on the front…I sit bolt upright…who’s watching me? I pick up the papers thrown my coat on and leg it down the stairs, push my way throw the parade crowds down the back of The Lotts behind The Oval to Few’s old lock-up. I pull up the garage door, flick on the light and close it quickly behind me. There’s an old wardrobe up against the wall, I open the doors and all kinds of shit fall out, theatrical masks, wigs, lampshades…I flick the light of my phone on and catch a pair of brown eyes glinting back at me…I freeze…it’s a stuffed…..mink?. ferret…he’s not giving anything away. A wave of relief sweeps over me. I’m almost smiling as the hand reaches out, grabs me by the shirt and pulls me in.
I am in the darkness. Alone. Floating in the darkness. My glassy-eyed friend is still here but you could hardly call him company. They took my clothes, they took my dignity. They left me alone with the fox, the ferret, whatever it is, it’s hungry now, it bares its teeth. I feel its dead claws scratching, tracing patterns, making plans. He’s stuffed and so am I. He tells me stories. I don’t like his stories.
18 months in the industrial school in Letterfrack. I was sent there for throwing stones at the Monsignor’s roof and for stealing his fags. Fags. We’re all his fags now. The lucky ones were beaten, stripped down and battered with leather belts until they were unconscious. Some of us got preferential treatment. You need to go back there. That’s where we’re going Brick.
It tries to kiss me, the dead tongue pushing between my lips, powerless to resist.
Sarah made her way up from the port and stopped into a Maxol Service station, changed, put the black wig on, did her lippy and headed up to the main road. Thumb out, the first car she flagged stopped. Sure she still smelled of fish, she climbed in. It was 2 Spanish guys, probably late twenties, seemed alright, heading for Dublin. Perfect.
Somewhere in the midlands, somewhere in the middle of nowhere literally nowhere the car shudders to a halt. Tomas, Joaquin and Sarah get out, Tomas is cursing his luck, Joaquin lights a cigarette for himself and Sarah. The bog stretches on forever, a low sun hangs in the cloudless March sky, a lonely bird cries in the distance.
Tomas peers uselessly into the engine, sure he hasn’t a clue. She’s not bothered, when you don’t want to go where you’re being sent here is a good as anywhere else. Joaquin is cracking jokes – ‘”jokes” – they are a bit suggestive a bit Ernest Saunders. She doesn’t like it. She doesn’t like him. He gets a hard stare and shuts his mouth. His stupid fucking….. In the middle distance a figure on a bicycle appears, after a few minutes an old man pulls up beside them. He’s probably in his late sixties, dressed rather anachronistically, an old three piece suit, pocket watch, battered hat, he’s chalky, covered in dust. He’s pallid and almost see-through as if he’s barely there.
“Evening, oh dear Lord but isn’t it a lovely day, and sure where else on God’s green earth would you want to be, sure a church wouldn’t be in for a bit of peace and contemplation. Who could blame ye for stopping and drinking it all in as it were. The old man produces a hip flask “Would you like a sip ..?”
The men decline but Sarah takes it, swallows and hands it back.
“Thanks, decent of you.”
“Sure there’s no harm in a wee nip…tis cold enough even with that sun there, pale you see, no heat in it, watery..”
Sarah looks at the ground in disgust as Paddy spits a brown tobacco juice on the earth and sucks a dram from the hipflask. He wipes it in his sleeve and offers it back, she declines.
“ I’ve been here all my life, played across the bog as a child with my brothers, it’s a strange lonely place and at night the spirits wander free, oh let me tell ya, there was a time…not many people you know, everything was different of course, there was nobody telling you couldn’t cut a few sods of turf, no auld whore over there in Europe telling us what to fucking do, they didn’t have to go through the famine did they? They did in their arses, the hungry grass, bucko, not a wan of them would have survived a night out here in ’46, not a wan of them and I thought the English were bad and they were bad, shower of bastards if you ask me but …”
He catches himself, falters, looks confused.
I’m sorry, where was I, ah yes so what is it you want?
“We don’t want anything, well the car…”
“Didn’t you mention the priest? Well sure everyone knows him, what he was like and it wasn’t his fault, a kinder man you wouldn’t meet, Father? Father but sure he’s gone too, there’s nobody left, the children even, God love them.”
Sarah look at him, surprised and a little shocked.
It’s dawning on the Spaniard that maybe the old man isn’t all there, Tomas gets back in the car and tries to start it, it coughs, then nothing.
“Here, let me take a look.” Before anyone can stop him he has opened the bonnet and is fiddling about, cursing gently, Sarah can see him drooling into the engine. Something snaps and he slams it shut.
“Jesus Christ there she is. Try her now.”
The car starts first time.
He gestures to Sarah. “Heading to Dublin?” He doesn’t wait for a reply. “Good Friday in a few days. Will you be doing the stations?”
“The stations of the cross you stupid fucking bitch. Jesus would be turning in his grave if he knew what had happened to this beloved Isle of saints and scholars..” He spits the last phrase out, high on contempt.
“If he hadn’t risen on the third day..”
“I said would. Now fuck off , on your fucking way. This is my land, my land..”
Sarah didn’t need telling twice, if he hadn’t been so old she would have fucked him straight into a bog hole. Herself and Joaquin get back in. As they drive away Sarah looks back in the rear view mirror but there’s nobody to be seen, evening is falling and they pass a Marian shrine flickering in the half light.
They come to a cross-roads, Tomas heads left, completely ignoring the sign-post for Dublin.
“Tomas, it’s the other way..”
He says nothing, keeps driving.
There was a games room, it was off limits. For the priest only. I remember it. Gloomy, shafts of sunlight catching beams of dust. Catching the beady eyes of the stuffed animals on top of the cabinets. A full-sized snooker table, Father Harris, Harry, used to let us in. Me and Paudi. He was the caretaker. He showed us how to play billiards, explained the rules. He seems such a sweet man. I remember the smell of his hair tonic. The smell of his breath. The feel of his stubble on my cheeks.
He was much too close, every time a bit closer, hugging me, pushing me up against the table. Paudi made a break for it, needed the toilets – ran upstairs. Left me to it , to him. What difference did it make? Brick, you know don’t you – if it wasn’t now it would be soon. How soon is now? But Paudi saved me too, Harry went after him, let me go. I stood there, frozen to the spot, wetting myself. The animals shuffled uneasily, unwilling witnesses to another desecration. Trapped in their little prisons.
The screams start then tumbling down the stairs, breaking their bones in the rush the rush to get out of his mouth to get away from this God-forsaken place for if there was a God did he look the other way and I’m cowering under the snooker table because you’re next you’re next and the animals are rattling their cases now rattling the glass, snarling. Then. Now.
Time passes. Silence. The front door slams. I sneak to the window he’s running out on to the pitch fixing his cassock play up boys play up boys the very model of His humble servant. I think of all the twisted branches inside him, of the thorns and the pain it must cause him and the pain he passes on.
I climb the steps warily wanting to not wanting to go but I can’t leave him alone. I knock on the door.
I think I hear crying.
“Paudi he’s gone. He’s gone.”
I was eight Brick. Too young for this. There was no one else.
“Don’t come in. Please Raymond don’t come in.”
“OK . I’ll wait here. Til you’re ready.We’ll get him back Paudi. I swear.”
“Go down stairs, I’ll be down in a minute.”
“Rack up the balls.”
It was dusk now, I didn’t switch on the lights. I starts taking the balls from the pockets, rolling them one by one into the centre of the table. I though about nothing. I looked up and caught his eye for a second. He spoke to me. The ferret.
“We’ll get him back Raymond. I swear.”
“Where are we?”
“Where? I’m not sure. I’ve been here for a long time, a long time Brick. They told me you would be coming. They’ve been waiting for you.”
“I think you’ve met them already. I’m sure you have. I heard them talking, they said you got away. They said you wouldn’t get away again.”
“How did you get here?”
“I got shot. I was killed.”
“Well, I’m not sure murder would be appropriate. I did a lot of bad things. I’ve developed quite a taste for bad things. I was running away.”
He stares at me. Hard to read intent in glass eyes but the way his tongue is lolling, well I think he’s got some bad things in mind for me.
“The police, or to be more specific, Chief Inspector McGivney.”
“McGivney, McGivney?…………………………am I….am… dead?
“You’ve been dead for years Brick.”
“So, Sarah, what are you thinking about us Spanish boys?”
“Tomas, we’re going the wrong bleedin’ way. We need to turn around, I need to get back to Dublin.”
The men speak in Spanish, ignoring her.
“Did I say Dublin, I meant Galway, it is confusing here, and the names are difficult for
me. In any case we can spend the night together in Dublin in Galway, it makes no difference where this bed is, no?”
The two men start to laugh, Tomas puts his hand on Sarah’s leg and begins to push it up under her skirt. Sarah turns slowly to face him as if to kiss, he turns towards her as well, and then she head-butts him, breaking his nose. As she pulls back his face is covered in blood. The car swerves up onto the ditch, spins violently and ends up facing in the opposite direction, somehow Tomas manages to keep it on the road, just about. He’s in shock, trying not to crash into a wall, a lake, a sheep, a tree. Sarah grabs his bollocks and starts to squeeze his balls hard. He’s in pain. A lot of pain – trying desperately to keep the vehicle under control. Joaquin is shouting, he grabs Sarah from behind, trying to strangle her. College boys in trouble, wouldn’t you say.
“Get off me you fucking pig or I will fucking kill you.”
Sarah reaches into her bag as they struggle and pulls out a gun, managing to elbow Joaquin away, she turns and slams the barrel into his face and knocks him unconscious. She then trains the weapon on Tomas.
Night falling. Night falling, Fog rising up from the bog. They’re out there, watching. Have no doubt.
“Calm down or I am going to shoot you in the fucking mouth right now. Stop crying you fucking baby. Now you are going to pull over in a minute and you are going to let me out of the car and you are going to drive away and if I ever see you again you’ll wish I fucking hadn’t – is that very clear?”
”Si, yes, please…” Sarah hits him again. To be sure.
“Shut up dickbrains, pull over now.”
The car pulls over. Sarah emerges. The driver’s window is covered in his blood. Sarah watches as the car drives away, leaving her on the side of the dark, alone with the spirits. She lights a cigarette and it illuminates her face, her eye is bruising and her hair and makeup are a mess. Sarah sets off in the opposite direction to the car.
“Great, what the fuck do I do now?”
McGivney’s sat at the bar in The Oval, nursing a pint and a whiskey. Tooler rolls in.
“What are you doing here?”
“She never showed Boss, I waited an hour.Brick’s gone again too.”
“The music of chance is playing our tune Tooler.” He knocks back the drink. “Come on baby, we’re hitting the road.”
The call and response drifts through the fog almost making words almost making sense but meaning is elusive a foreign language never written down. Sometimes behind her, sometimes far away sometimes so close she feels like she could reach out and touch whatever it is whoever it is. She manages to stay on these roads somehow, blind luck. Blind chance. Blind. It’s cold. Cold in her teeth and bones cold that seeps into your heart. Your soul.
You soul my child. Your soul will be eternally damned eternally the fires of hell will surround you will eat you up and everyday it will begin again every day the same except harder. If you tell. The birds will tear your eyes out. The birds know, they see everything. I’ll protect you Sarah. Come here child. Just a little closer.
I don’t belong to you. I don’t belong I will make it through.
Out in the scrublands, out on the city’s edge our intrepid heroes we could be heroes drift across the lanes of an empty highway by empty houses and empty lakes full of dead people that no one has claimed full of dead fish floating on the surface their scales silver and red under a full moon. The road skitthers out the lights disappear and then it’s darkness apart from the distant bonfires its silence apart from the radio hiss and burr of some far way city in the sun. Radio Luxembourg calling this is the vote of the Belgian jury.
Tooler stares into the night wishing it would swallow them up and spit him out somewhere that wasn’t here. He dreams of home, of childhood, of bottles of tea and high nellie bicycles of endless evenings running out to the sea of old farmers palming off shillings and don’t spend it all in the one shop and he’ll be in long trousers soon and God bless him he’s a bit slow but he’s good with his hands oh yes his big shovel hands deadly weapons he’s smiling again like a half-cut Johnny is he all there atall away with the fairies.
“Why are you sitting in the back Boss? Have I done something wrong?”
“Undoubtedly Tooler, undoubtedly, we’ve all done something wrong. Many things. Are we not men?”
“You’re feeling philosophical captain my captain.” He smiles. He could be stuck with worse people.
“I need to think. I need to stop thinking. This case is littered with events so grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented that I’m beginning to believe we are part of some elaborate hoax…..”
“GUBU.” Then, after a while – “Where is she Boss?”
“Where? I don’t know exactly, she’s fallen off our maps, she’s fallen into the other. I hoped we’d have kept her here for at least a while. It’s a right fucking balls up….”
“Tits up Boss.”
“If you like. Balls up tits up it makes no difference to me.”
“How will we find her?”
“We keep driving. Keep driving and stop talking.”
“It’s a big country boss.”
“It’s a small country Tooler , full of small people with tiny minds and broken hearts. Well find her, it’s what we do.”
“Right so boss.”
The bonfires are closer now, high up on the hills, figures run in and out of the flames, sparks crack and spit high into the cloudless night red and orange stars caught on the breeze. Down in the valley the fog drifts and they begin the long slow descent into whatever it is that’s there.
And just as suddenly as the road is empty it’s not and he’s there in front of her. All dead skin, rotten teeth and red eyes. Dog collar still in place. A badge of honour. And didn’t he earn it. He stands and stares. He’s been waiting here forever. She knows. Waiting for her. He holds his arms out.
She’s walking into his arms, back into his arms. Back where she belongs….
An engine roars, headlights flash and a black car accelerates veering wildly across the road, taking high speed aim and whacking Sean mowing him down destroying what he was throwing him high into the air arms and legs it’s a crash course for the ravers
Sarah turns and starts to run, the car pulls her in easily, comes alongside and she gives up, tumbles to the ground, go on without me go on.
The Jaguar stops. The window winds down and he’s there.
“For fuck’s sake Sarah, get in.”
He’s wearing shades and his fur coat, some kind of Panama hat. Cigar.
When Few woke up he was quite alone. It was early morning. It was early evening. He rolled off the bed slowly. He felt like death, he looked like death. Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps. He was in a some kind of hall, it was strewn with broken furniture, mainly pig iron beds, a few old school desks that sort of thing. He went to the window, one of the windows. He was a couple of floors up, looking out at a courtyard. It too was full of broken things. Old Anglias, Morris Minors, ploughs, ceramic baths, anchors. There were trees, all dead. Nothing moved.
Only Few. His clothes stank. He was wretched and hungry and most of all thirsty, he could drink the ocean dry. He would. Well, he has survived, if only just, or had he? He wandered down the halls as the sky fell, where were the rooks? There should be rooks. He had an idea of where he was but…he found the bathrooms, long rows of sinks, each with a single tap, each with a single mirror, every one of them broken now. He’d been here before. Try to forget. Funny how love is. He turned every faucet in turn, all dry, dust and spiders. Many of the windows were boarded up on this side of the building, he peered out through the slats at the coast.
He picked his way gingerly down the ramshackle stairway, falling a couple of times, down to the main entrance hall, past an open door that has “SNOOKER & BILLIARDS” written on it, letters fading, legible none the less. He had been here before.
A man walked along the cliff path, a shadow of a man, another broken thing, a stain on the landscape. He stares up at the abandoned school. This is his cup of sorrow, he drinks from it daily yet it never empties. Lord why have you forsaken me. The thorns inside never wither or decay. He’s come home for the final time, he cannot drink any more. For a moment he thinks he sees someone watching him from a window, a gaunt redeemer, bandaged and bristling with intent. Then, it’s gone. Whatever awaits he is not prepared but he understands well enough about sorrow, about pain, about dishing it out. He hurts.
The ferret is on me now, smothering me , clawing at me, licking me, dragging me forward, it’s bigger than me, it’s growing, its fur is sticky , hot and suffocating, my mouth is full of him , the darkness is absolute, I cannot breathe, I cannot scream. I’m gone, I’m gone, sinking below the surface, dropping fast, past the creatures who never see the light, falling, blanking. Blank. Then it’s bright, the sun is beaming in across tables covered in white sheets. There’s a man, sitting motionless on the window ledge, legs crossed. He’s waiting for someone. I see all this from above but I can’t feel anything. I cannot move or, more correctly, there is nothing to move. The creature is beside me, but not only him there are dozens of them, all in row, all in their glass boxes.
He’s whispering “We’re back. We’re back. So long, I’ve waited so long. Paudi. Paudi. I’ve been waiting here. ‘til you were ready. Like you said. I told you we’d get him back Paudi. I told you. Paudi. Paudi.”
The door opens and the other man walks in, he’s stooped, he’s visibly trembling, whether through old age or fear I cannot tell but I can smell the fear off him, he reeks of it. The glass cases start to rattle.
The other man stands up, takes a couple of steps and then stops. He hesitates.
“Father Harris, you haven’t changed.”
“No Paudi, I haven’t changed, God knows I’ve tried but I haven’t. I haven’t changed. I cannot. But you have. Is this to be it then? Just the two of us? Can you at least make it quick? Please? I’m so tired. I’m ready to go.”
“I don’t think it’ up to me Harry, you see it’s not just the two of us.” He nods up to the glass cases.
To Be Continued.