Authors: Gene Kerrigan
Tags: #Fiction, #General
About the Book
Danny Callaghan is just out of jail and enjoying a quiet drink in a Dublin pub when two men walk in with guns. On impulse, he intervenes to rescue the intended victim, petty criminal Walter Bennett, and finds himself dragged into Dublin’s murky underworld. As the police grope for answers, and Danny struggles to protect those he loves, the rising tensions between the gangs threatens to erupt into a bloody showdown.
Dark Times in the City
portrays a society on the edge, where affluence and cocaine fuel a ruthless gang culture, and a man’s impulse to do good may cost him the lives of those who matter the most.
About the Author
After seven non-fiction books, veteran journalist Gene Kerrigan received critical acclaim in Ireland, the UK and the USA for his first two novels,
The Midnight Choir
. He lives in Dublin.
ALSO BY GENE KERRIGAN
The Midnight Choir
Round Up the Usual Suspects
(with Derek Dunne)
Nothing but the Truth
Goodbye to All That
(with Derek Speirs)
This Great Little Nation
(with Pat Brennan)
Never Make A Promise You Can’t Break
In memory of
Bridget Kerrigan and Eileen Kerrigan
This is the dark time, my love
It is the season of oppression, dark metal, and tears
It is the festival of guns
– Martin Carter
The frightened man said, ‘Please don’t do it. He’s just a kid.’
The thug said, ‘This is the one I’ll use.’ He held up a small, blunt-nosed bullet, the hallway light reflected in the shiny brass shell.
‘It wasn’t his fault,’ the frightened man said.
The thug was leaning forward, his face inches away. There was resentment in his voice.
‘Hey, old man, I’m supposed to take the loss?’
‘He hasn’t got that kind of money.’
‘You give it to him.’
haven’t got that kind of money.’
‘Everyone’s got that kind of money. Sell something.’
‘Not my problem.’ The thug dropped the bullet into the breast pocket of his Hugo Boss jacket and began to turn away.
‘Big boys’ rules.’
‘I’ll sell what I can.’
‘You do that.’
‘But it’s not—’
‘He’s got till the end of the week.’
From up here in the Dublin mountains, the lights of the city glowed like countless grains of luminous sand strewn carelessly in a shallow bowl. There were random patterns in the glitter – silvery lights bunched together, clusters of tall buildings, cranes topped by red hazard lights, curving lines of orange street lights
heading out into the suburbs or marking where the coast road held back the black sea. Above, the lights of airplanes moved along an invisible path towards the airport. The sky was clear, the moon almost full, the air as sharp as broken ice.
The two men, one turned sixty, the other in his early twenties, paused at the edge of thick woods and looked down on their city. A lot of lights, a lot of people. Half a million in the city itself, another half-million in the surrounding area. Every one of them wanting things, needing things. Some of what they wanted couldn’t be bought legally – other stuff, they’d rather not pay retail prices. Many of them were wealthy and wealth is detachable. In that shallow, glittering bowl there were a million opportunities.
Some of the cranes were decorated with coloured lights, to celebrate the impending Christmas. It used to be that the chattering classes were never done boasting about how many cranes there were on the Dublin skyline. The cranes were badges of national pride, and they talked about them in the same respectful tones that the old folk used when they remembered the sacred patriot dead.
Not so much boasting these days
‘What do you think?’ the younger man said. ‘This the place to do it?’
The older man looked away from the city lights. He switched on his small flashlight and led the younger man a couple of dozen yards into the woods, to a small clearing. There he used a heel to probe the ground.
‘Hard,’ he said.
‘Time of year.’
‘Doesn’t have to be deep.’ He gestured around the clearing. ‘When it’s time, you’ll be able find your way back to this place?’
‘No bother.’ The younger man buried his hands in his armpits. ‘Jesus, it’s cold up here.’
The older man tapped the ground with his foot. ‘It’ll have to
do.’ He grinned. ‘Anyway,’ he said, ‘we won’t be doing the digging.’
On the way back to the car, from somewhere down there in the city the older man listened to the wavering sound of a distant siren. Police, ambulance or fire brigade – someone was in trouble.
On that part of the street, at this hour of the evening, only the pub was still open for business. Near the middle of a row of shops, between the flower shop and the hairdressers, it offered the street a welcoming glow on a chilly winter’s night. There were two entrance doors, one to the bar and one to the lounge. The windows were small, high on the wall and barred. The pub front had been recently painted off-white. The blue neon decoration high on the wall was a bog-standard outline of a parrot. The pub was called the Blue Parrot. It was owned and managed by a man named Novak.
This was a neighbourhood place and most of the younger set travelled into the city centre or favoured local pubs that featured entertainment. Novak didn’t believe in pub quizzes, pub bands, comedy nights or DJs. He just sold drink and provided a venue for companionship.
On the other side of the street, it was all terraced houses with well-tended front gardens. They were of a standard municipal design that was duplicated throughout the Glencara estate and across similar council-built estates throughout Dublin – Finglas, Cabra West, Drimnagh, Crumlin, Ballyfermot. Small and narrow, most of the houses now bristled with extensions. Many had colourful cladding or fanciful embellishments – columns flanking the front door or tiled canopies overhanging the windows.
From the far end of the street a motorbike made its way towards the pub. Traffic was light here, far from the main routes through the estate, but the motorbike was taking its time, easing gently over the speed bumps installed to discourage joyriders.
The passenger was first to dismount at the pub. He took something from a saddlebag. At the entrance to the lounge he paused and gestured to the driver to hurry up.
When the man in the black motorcycle helmet came into the pub, Danny Callaghan slipped down from the bar stool and looked around for anything he might use as a weapon. His hand grasped the only possibility he saw within reach – his half-empty beer glass.
A few feet inside the entrance the assassin paused. The helmet hid most of his face, with just a gap behind which his eyes glanced from table to table. He had a revolver in his right hand, held casually down by his side. Behind him a second man in a matching motorcycle helmet came in, cradling a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun. Both men wore dark blue boiler suits.
Most of the drinkers were seated at the tables and booths around the edges of the pub, half a dozen of them sitting or standing at the bar.
The first assassin spotted his target and began to move forward.
By now, most of those in the vicinity knew what was happening. The motorcycle helmet indoors, the armed minder watching the killer’s back and the quick stride towards the intended victim – in recent years, a routine as recognisable as a Riverdance twirl.
The panic subsided in Danny Callaghan’s chest.
He relaxed his grip on the beer glass and put his hand in his pocket, to try to stop it shaking. The assassin was walking towards an alcove over by the large fireplace, where three men were now white-faced and standing up.
The man in the middle – small, middle-aged, grey-haired – was named Walter Bennett. Where his companions’ expressions were a mixture of fear and bewilderment, Walter’s pinched face was all dread.
Danny Callaghan felt the Swiss Army knife in his pocket. It had a small pliers, with a screwdriver, a bottle opener and a two-inch knife blade. A hopeless weapon, but he held onto it anyway. He used a fingernail to pick at the knife blade.
Just in case
Less than ten seconds had passed, and by now even the dimmest customer in the Blue Parrot knew the score.
The noise from the fifth-rate soccer game on the sports channel continued, but much of the pub chatter had been replaced by the coarse sounds of startled men releasing gasps and swear words.
Several just turned their faces away, crouched or ducked. Some stared open-mouthed, not wanting to miss a thing.
‘Ah, come on, fuck off.’
Novak, the pub owner, was behind the counter, sucking in his gut, holding up an open-fingered hand towards the first gunman. The man, almost at the alcove now, ignored him.