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Authors: John Brady

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A Carra King (5 page)

BOOK: A Carra King
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The first roadblock was next to a landscaped knoll that hid the cargo terminals from the traffic. The shrubs here hadn't flourished in the four years Minogue had begun noting them on his trips here. He wound down his window and slipped out his photocard. A Guard with watery eyes and blond hairs growing high on his cheeks laid his hand on the roof of the Nissan. Had the Bomb Squad arrived yet, Minogue wanted to know.

“Ten minutes or so,” the Guard replied. “No smoke yet, but.”

Shrmooaak, Minogue registered. County Cork, and not inclined to hide it.

“There'll be a site van along by and by,” he said. “Steer them right, like a good man, will you.”

“I will.”

No “sir.” Minogue looked up at him.

“Ye'd better meander over that way,” the Guard said. “Everything that side of the hill is locked up tight, so it is.”

“Tighter than that Munster cup you have below in Cork, I hope,” Minogue said. The Guard's smile revealed pointy teeth. A fox, Minogue thought. A Cork fox.

“Clare, are ye?”

“Not on your shagging life,” said Malone.

Malone coasted down the empty road. Minogue's belly growled again. He strained to catch a glimpse of the car parks on the far side of the shrubs. A Guard in full motorbike regalia waved them down a roadway away from the car park. A line of flagpoles followed the curb. Most of the flags were tangled in their ropes. Snapping and straining, the American one still floated free.

Caty, his son's fiancée, with no
h
because it was the Polish version, had fallen in love with Ireland. Minogue wasn't sure what or whose Ireland she was in love with. She wanted to live here, learn Irish; walk the back roads, talk to everyone, learn everything. Caty was a sociologist, raised in a devout Polish-American family in an outer suburb of New York City. Her grave accounts of immigrants in American cities impressed Minogue. He didn't understand how she could see Poles and Irish as similar though, the centuries of oppression thing.

He remembered her sitting on an outcrop over the Burren not two months ago, writing notes. A strange sight entirely, with the stone fields all about her. It was one of those pet days, with roaring sunshine and the clouds low and fast, when even the hills seemed to be on the move. Interrogating him afterwards: what had happened to all the families in these ruined villages now hidden under hazel and ivy? Was it true like Daithi had told her, that he'd wanted to move to the States himself years ago? Were Clare people really musical, second-sighted? Was the Celtic Tiger destroying the real Ireland? And why did everyone seem to talk ironically here anyway?

“Jases,” said Malone. “It's a right bloody maze here.”

He turned the Nissan down toward a collection of dumpsters and airport vans clustered around the back doors of what looked like a warehouse. Several uniforms moved around between the vehicles.

“Yellow,” said Malone. “The lorry. There we are.”

He parked by an airport van. Minogue checked the battery before he pocketed the cell phone.

“Does anyone really think it's booby-trapped,” Malone said. “Your man's car?”

Minogue shrugged. A Guard stepped down from the rear door of the communications lorry. Minogue stepped out onto the grass and turned his back to the wind. He looked around the sky. At least it had only been a shower. But instead of the wind slicing at his face, he imagined for several seconds the air full of glass, pieces of torn metal scything through the shrubs, the blast hitting them before they'd even hear it. He stopped buttoning his coat. Couldn't happen, he almost said. There was a peace deal in the works. The sharp ache in his chest ebbed slowly.

He rapped on the door, stepped in. Two technicians were seated side by side in front of a console. One tugged on his handset and raised the pencil he'd been tapping on the counter.

“How's things, lads?” Minogue asked.

Someone was smoking. Minogue glanced at the monitors. He stopped at the one that held steady on the hatchback of the Escort. The picture shuddered, shrank to allow other cars in and then closed on the Escort again. The technician closest to the cab of the lorry turned and lifted his cigarette from the ashtray. O'Reilly, Minogue thought.

“Pretty close now,” he said.

Minogue watched him suck hard on the cigarette. Some skin problem, a face like a well-cooked pudding, a wispy moustache. O'Reilly tapped at the partition door into the cab.

“So what,” came the voice from the door as it opened. “Ask them if I give a shit. Go ahead. This isn't one a their bloody concerts, their
gigs
here. This is a security shut-down.”

Minogue's eyes returned to the monitor. The camera was steady on an armoured lorry parked sideways across the entrance to a car park.

“Fine and well,” the voice went on. “Make whatever calls you want. That's your business.”

Minogue recognized the soft voice, how the speaker managed to squeeze in a light cough in the middle of a sentence.
“Make whatever ah-uh calls you want . . .”
A mannerism, Minogue wondered, or a conscious put-down.

The speaker backed in through the partition door. The cell phone clenched in his hand was identical to Minogue's. Superintendent Damian Little stared at the phone as though it had bitten him. He addressed nobody in particular.

“Fucking yobs,” he murmured. “Did you ever hear the like?”

O'Reilly smiled and unplugged his headset. The police radio traffic was constant now. Little straightened up and looked at the two arrivals.

“Will you lookit,” Little said . . .

“How's Damian?” Minogue said. Chiselled, they'd call that jaw; action hero model, maybe. Did women really like that class of a fella? The Adam's apple standing out on his neck, the veins running beside them. Weights, Minogue understood vaguely, something strenuous and even close to a torturous rapture that photos of athletes showed so clearly.

Little grasped Minogue's hand. The grin spread to a tight smile. Right, Minogue remembered: that little-boy gap between his teeth, what he remembered along with Little's intensity that came through so strangely in his drawl. The almost slow-mo, gentle tone Minogue associated with teachers on automatic, priests in confession maybe. As though you were on the slow side, and the speaker was taking account of it.

“The undertakers themselves. How's Matt?”

“Fair to middling, Damian. That wasn't us you were referring to now was it?”

Little's leather jacket creaked as he brandished the cell phone. Minogue plucked out his own and waved it. Little smiled.

“For fuck's sake you wouldn't believe it,” he said. “Show business.”

Malone stepped around Minogue.

“Well, stop the lights,” Little said. “Tommy Malone. Moving up too, huh?”

“Dead on,” said Malone. “How's it going.”

“Don't mind me, I heard you left the Killer whistling over a case there.”

“Only rumours.”

“Ah you should have come over to us,” said Little. “When you had the chance, man!”

For all Malone's physical abilities and the hard-chaw self he brought to work, Minogue still couldn't imagine Malone as one of the Emergency Response Unit cowboys.

O'Reilly tapped on the monitor. Little's smile dropped off his face. He leaned in over the screen. The camera covering the army bomb disposal lorry drew back to reveal a huddle of figures gathered around what looked to Minogue to be a small tank. The gofer, they called it now, this drone that had been bought with much fanfare from an outfit who'd perfected the design in Belfast.

It began to move, stop, move again. A voice on the radio said “Switching over.” Little touched a button by the monitor and the policemen were staring at pavement and the bottom of a tire. The picture jerked and turned to frame a row of parked cars.

“Aw Christ,” said Little and he turned away. “They'll be ten minutes before they send in the damn thing. And for what? This isn't bomb territory, this thing.”

Little clapped his hands and began rubbing them hard together.

“Here,” he said. “Give you a laugh. Do you know who that was on the phone there? Trying to give me grief? Go on, guess.”

“Your daughter's new boyfriend,” said Malone.

“No. He's still in a coma. Try again.”

“We don't know, Damian,” said Minogue.

“Public Works. That's who.”

“Who are they?” Malone asked.

“Very funny,” said Little. “Don't you like them?
Streets
of Shame?



‘Nobody's home,'
Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

“I bet you have all their CDs, you bollocks.”

“Not gone on them,” said Malone. “I'd be more a GOD man these days.”

Little gave a breathless laugh. It took Minogue a moment: Girls Over Dublin, the latest rage group. Little looked over at Minogue.

“Well, Matt,” he said. “
‘Do you believe in GOD?'

Minogue kept his eyes on the screen. He remembered the pictures on the ads for their smash hit CD. They were like those Chagall pictures, couples flying over a city. Nice. Only one of them, a Fiona, had claimed she was lesbian, he'd heard, and the bishops and archbishops had been smart enough to keep their mouths shut, let GOD's publicity genius spin in the wind over the free controversy they wanted.

“Girls Over Dublin,” Minogue said. “Or the Man Himself, Damian?”

“Ah, what's the use,” Little said. “You're in the dark ages, the pair of you. Get with it. It was their big-shot manager on the phone, not the
celebrities
themselves. Should have heard him, I'm telling you. You know him, Daly? Baldy, tries to wear a ponytail. Jumped-up gobshite.”

Minogue looked up from the screen.

“So Public Works are held up here are they,” said Minogue. “Along with us ordinary mortals.”

“How'd you get this number, says I to him,” Little went on. “This line is a vital link in our communications. ‘Senior officer at Garda HQ,' says he. Like I'm supposed to fall down and adore or something. ‘We have a very tight schedule,' says he. Rules don't apply to him of course.”

The drone was on the move again. It spun slowly. Minogue caught a glimpse of several cars.

“So he starts to push,” said Little. “‘Couldn't we just go around the side and slip away' says he. ‘We have a private aircraft.' Well Dublin Airport is closed down, says I. In its entirety. No exceptions. On my orders. Now get off my fucking phone or I'll run you in for obstructing the Guards. You fucking weasel.”

Minogue almost smiled. What would the celebrity manager have made of Little's gentle tone, the delivery.

“Is that what you said,” he said to Little.

The lights reflected off wet tarmacadam were throwing glare at the camera now.

“Nearly told him to set his hair on fire and put it out himself with a lump hammer,” said Little. “Christ, you'd think he'd be
thanking
us. If the car's wired, goes up… Well, I mean, I know it's not going to happen, but…”

Minogue looked up.

“So: not a word of a warning here, Damian?”

Little shook his head.

“Ask 'em how long more,” he said to O'Reilly.

O'Reilly adjusted the earpiece and bent the stalk for the microphone while he waited. Little tugged at his ear and swore under his breath. The drone wasn't moving. Minogue glanced over and traced the lines cut into Little's forehead.

Raw meat heroes, Kilmartin called Little and his former cohorts. Still the fitness maniac, Minogue supposed, Little coached Garda teams, and his contorted face had appeared on the front pages of newspapers a few years ago: “Garda Officer, 42, Places 4th in Dublin City Marathon.”

Kilmartin disdained and envied the reputation the Emergency Response Units had built. He'd put out rumours that Little's training regimen involved booting trainees in T-shirts out of helicopters up in the Glen of Imaal and making them survive their two-day stay in the open by eating snails and bits of weeds. Some of Kilmartin's inventions had turned out to be true.

Damian Little had had to do the sideways waltz into Communications after a disastrous ERU raid in a border village. Shot eight times, the suspect lived. He turned out to be a Special Branch officer. Trigger Little suffered no public rebuke, however. Minogue heard that he had become separated from his wife.

The cell phone chirping was his own. He opened it and listened to Larry Griffin, a site specialist, describe the progress of the site van in the thickening traffic outside the airport. He held his hand over the mouthpiece.

“Damian. Can I point the site van up here while we're waiting?”

The drone was moving again. This time it emerged from behind the armoured lorry. A screen filled with its jarring progress as it swung about and advanced by a line of cars. The radio came to life. Minogue asked again.

Little picked up a headset.

“Bring 'em up alongside, sure,” he said.

Minogue's stomach rumbled again. He dropped the phone in his jacket pocket.

“Ah bollocks,” said Little. “Bollocks, bollocks,
bollocks…

Minogue looked over at the still picture on the monitor. The voice on the radio sounded bashful. Problems with a key were enumerated. Little swore. The picture shook again. The drone was reversing. Little put down the headset.

“Bollocks,” he said. “Here we are with a ton of the best detection and control stuff in the world. The sniffer reads fine. The controls are dead on. But we can't put a frigging key in a frigging lock.”

“Like you're Einstein,” said Malone, “but you arrive home pissed.”

A bag of crisps even, thought Minogue. He scribbled the cell phone number on a pad and waved it at Little.

“Cut the shagging panel and be done with it,” Little muttered. “Jases. We'll be here all night.”

BOOK: A Carra King
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