Authors: Ken Bruen
Tags: #Mystery, #Collections
A late-evening wind blew the rain into Burke’s face as he stood on the corner awaiting the taxi he’d ordered. It had been a long day in court and he felt uneasy about the whole business. New York was different. There, he knew the good guys from the bad guys. Everything was direct. In your face. Here, nothing resembled that. Too much gray, too little black and white. This country thrived on ambivalence.
An elderly man approached him. Something familiar searched his brain for a memory, a connection.
completed the circuit in his brain. He hadn’t been called Eddie since he was a little boy. Marty, Marty Rainey. Age now hid the vitality he remembered. Marty had been almost a surrogate father. Often there for him when his own father was down in the pub in the evening.
“Marty! Is it you?”
“’Tis indeed. Not as supple as you remember. But the old head still works.”
“Marty, it’s just great seeing you again.”
“Eddie, I need to talk to you. It’s life or death for me.”
Saying it so matter-of-factly took the surprise out of it. The taxi pulled up, saving Ed from looking lost. He insisted on taking Marty home.
As the taxi pulled out into rush hour traffic, Marty said: “I’m your witness.”
For a moment Ed Burke was mystified. Then it struck him that Marty’s telling him that he’s the missing witness at the trial. Ed gripped Marty’s arm and looked at him. Marty continued: “I couldn’t show up. They threatened me. Told me that I’d wind up in the Liffey. They meant it, Eddie. I suppose I’m a coward.”
“Who threatened you, Marty?”
“Thugs! That’s who. You don’t think they do their own dirty work, do you? No, they hired a bunch of thugs who don’t give a shite. They’d kill me as easily as look at me.”
“Who ordered it, Marty?”
“Come on, you know who. You’re defending one of them in court. I suppose you’re gettin’ well paid for that. But you’ve forgotten where you came from, Eddie.”
“Damn it, Marty! Don’t fucking lecture me. If you’re telling me the truth, then you were the bagman for these bastards for years. Selling your own people down the drain.”
“You’re right. I was stupid. Gambling, bookies, the horses. I owed too much and they paid it off. But believe me, Eddie, I never thought they’d turn our own people out of their homes. I didn’t know. Now I want to get them. The bastards. They destroyed me and I want to destroy them.”
He reached inside his coat and pulled out a large bulky envelope.
“Everything’s in here. All the evidence. Record of payoffs— who, where, and when. Bank account statements showing how the money was laundered. There’s enough here to start a dozen tribunals. It’ll destroy Mortimer and bring down the Minister. He’s a corrupt bastard! The word around is that you’re pretty close with his missus. Watch yourself.”
Ed Burke sat in silence, holding the envelope as though it was a bomb. Which, in a sense, it was.
Before he could gather his thoughts, the taxi stopped outside Marty’s front door in Harold’s Cross. Marty gripped his hand, said, “Do the right thing, Eddie,” and left.
And Ed Burke did the right thing. He met next day with Murphy and told him that he could not defend Mortimer, told him about Marty Rainey’s evidence, told him that they’d have to meet with the judge and turn this evidence over to the court. Murphy reluctantly agreed and insisted that Burke secure the envelope with the firm for safekeeping until they could take it to court. Burke considered this advice sensible and lodged the envelope in the firm’s safe. Had he examined the evidence more thoroughly before he handed it over, he would have seen that Murphy’s “fingerprints” were all over the money-laundering operation, tying him directly to the illegal lodgement of these monies offshore in the Ansbacher Cayman accounts.
That same night, the jarring ringing of his phone brought Ed Burke out of a deep slumber. He growled: “Yeah?”
“Ed Burke? Is this Ed Burke?”
“What do you want? Do you know what time it is?”
“This is the emergency call service. We have an alert on Martin Rainey. We think he has fallen in his home and can’t get up. He needs help. Can you go there now?”
“But I’m not on any alert system.”
“You’re on it, Mr. Burke. Mr. Rainey insisted that we call you if he needed help.”
Ed Burke decided that he had no choice. Marty Rainey wouldn’t have put him on the alert list without a good reason. He confirmed Marty’s address with the emergency service, dressed, and called a taxi.
At 3 a.m. with no traffic on the streets, the taxi reached Harold’s Cross in fifteen minutes and dropped Burke at the end of Marty’s street. A neat row of red brick houses wound in an arc ahead of him; houses that cost a few thousand only fifteen years ago now ran into hundreds of thousands. A cat scurried across the street in front of him, breaking the silence of the night.
He found number 27 and rang the doorbell. No answer. He rang it again, holding down the buzzer. Still no answer. Now he stood contemplating what he should do. He knew that he must get inside. Further down the street he saw a break in the pattern of the houses and what seemed to be a large commercial doorway. Counting the houses he reached it and got lucky. A smaller door stood closed but unlocked. He took out his flashlight, opened the door, and passed through a dry stone wall, finding himself in an open grassy space at the rear of the houses. Counting back he reached Marty’s house. The dry stone wall at the back provided a natural foothold. He climbed up. Marty’s house, probably his kitchen, had been extended and took up the small backyard. Its flat roof backed up against the wall. Burke simply stepped onto it, reached up, and leveraged himself on a ledge outside the window on the second floor. His luck held. The window stood slightly ajar. He squeezed inside, shined his flashlight around, and saw that he stood on a landing at the head of the stairs.
Calling out Marty’s name, he inched his way down the stairs to the living room, found the light switch, and turned it on. He saw the blood first. Pooled around Marty’s head where he lay on his side in the middle of the room. A huge open gash crossed his forehead. Burke knelt down and took his pulse. No sign of life. He turned him over to try
, and that’s when he found that this had been no accident. Marty’s throat had been cut.
Burke waited till the ambulance and the Gardaí arrived and sealed off the house. As it was a crime scene, Marty would stay right where he lay until the state pathologist arrived. The Gardaí took a statement from Burke and he left.
Burke made it back to his apartment by 4:30 a.m. Too wired to sleep, he headed for the whiskey. Half a bottle later, he sank into a deep stupor.
Ed Burke agonized about what to do. In days the scandal would break. The Minister’s career would crash. In public. And Pia would crash too. Every tabloid would exploit the story. Exploit her!
Thoughts bounced wildly around his head:
I’ve got to do something. Got to protect her. But how? I could leave again. Go back to the States. Take her with me. Start a new life with her.Agh, wishful thinking! It’s too late for us. Pia won’t leave Dublin.It’s the center of her world. All the world comes to Dublin now.So what’s the incentive to leave? Why should I leave again? Got to brave this thing out.
Still, Pia had to be warned. He had to tell her what was coming. Get her to leave the Minister. Get out first. Make the first move. Yes, that’s what she had to do. And he’d help her. Once he had decided, Burke took action. Dialed her mobile. She picked up immediately.
“Edmund, it’s only 9 a.m.”
“Pia, let’s run away together. Now.”
“Oh, Edmund. How I wish.”
“Look, it’s Friday. I’m off today. Let’s go somewhere. Get away from it all. Can you break all your social commitments?”
“Yes! Yes! Yes!”
“Okay, great. I’ll make the arrangements. Pick you up by noon.”
Murphy met the Minister in Buswells Bar, where all the members of the Dail went for their regular tipple. The Minister asked, “What’ll it be, the usual?” and ordered two Jamesons with water chasers.
No preamble for the Minister, he went right for the jugular: “If he brings me down, you go too.”
Murphy said nothing.
“Did you hear me? You go too.”
“Goddamnit, he’s my friend. Isn’t there any other way? We could persuade him to lay off.”
“Persuade, my ass. Do you realize he’s been fucking Pia since he got back?”
“I hate to say it, but …”
“Yeah, do you think I’m dumb? I know she’s been screwing the world for the past five years. Well, it’s over. She won’t be making a fool of me anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“Killing two birds with one stone. That’s what I mean.”
“Jesus, you’re crazy. I want no part of it.”
“In for a penny, in for a pound. You knew that. Do you really want to lose the mansion in Howth, the little hideaway in Shady Lane where you entertain your Caribbean beauties, your yacht and your membership in the Royal Cork … ? Fuck no, you don’t want to lose any of it. And you don’t want a tribunal looking into everything while you rot your arse in Mountjoy.”
Murphy shut up and gulped down his Jameson. Just as quickly another, a double, appeared in front of him. He had to admit to himself that there was no way out. Ed Burke was an investment that he couldn’t afford.
Burke chose well.
Get the hell out of Dublin—
the first command he issued to himself.
Go west, young man,
said Horace Greeley in America. And that’s what Burke did. Go west to Galway. He knew exactly where.
Once the Galway home of film director John Huston, the place where Angelica spent her childhood. Been turned into a most exclusive guesthouse by another famous Irish-American, Merv Griffin. Just the place for them, away from their Dublin 4 crowd. Time to tell Pia, time to hold her, time to decide.
At St. Cleran’s Ed told Pia about the scandal that would break in the days ahead. He teased out all their options, all their choices. And Pia agreed to leave the Minister as soon as they returned to Dublin. Brave out the turbulence ahead. They retired early, Pia reminding him that they had run away together.
Much later they noticed the bottle of Chablis, sitting invitingly in a crystal cooler. Into their second glass, Ed began to feel drowsy and saw that Pia had already closed her eyes and sunk into the pillow beside him. Moments later, he followed her.
Burke’s eyes hurt. Bad. His head hurt too. Worse. He tried to open his eyes. Couldn’t. Sunlight grilled him through the open blinds. Eyes closed, fighting to stay awake, he slid out of bed, stood up, and felt his way to the window. Gripping the blinds, he yanked them closed and then risked opening his eyes. They still hurt but he could see. Turning around, he stopped dead, halfway between the window and the bed. Pia lay there, naked, one leg dangling on the floor, a trickle of blood from her lips forming a small red pond between her breasts.
aysus Christ, I hate feckin’ Americans! The donkeys worst among ’em. And them arse-licking cops worst of all. Them with their fifty-two paychecks and pensions, their red noses and “Danny Boy” tears. They think glen to glen is a conversation of like-named punters. Cunts, every last one. Them that sees romance in the famine and the troubles. Yah, romance in a bloody holocaust and the smell of cordite in the streets of Derry. And they ease their guilt and fancy themselves Provo men because they open their wallets and sing Pogues songs and drown themselves in pubs with a gold harp above the threshold. What a load a shite.
Oh, and how they imagine us Irish in the worst possible sense; a race of toothless spud farmers in white cableknit sweaters and black rubber boots, spouting Joyce or Yeats, herding lambs with a switch in one hand and a pint of Guinness in the other. And what of our race of red-haired colleens? Why, they’re out in lush pastures in their white blouses and green plaid skirts gathering clover and hunting for pots of gold. Bollix!
I hadn’t meant to kill the first one. I had dreamed of it, for sure. Taking one of the cheery bastards who hopped into me cab and opening him up like an Easter lamb, tossing his innards out my windows as I drove the M-road back from Shannon. But like with sex, it never quite happens the way you dream it. I s’pose if I had planned it, it would never have come off at all. I had sat patiently for a year at the wheel and listened to my American cousins affect cartoon brogues, recite bad jokes, and spew inanities at the back of me head.
“Would you like a seven-course Irish meal? A six-pack and a patata.”
“Top a the mernin’ to ya, boyo.”
“Where do you keep the leprechauns? In the trunk?”
“Hey, where’s me Lucky Charms?”
“Is it true about the Irish Curse?”
“You don’t have red hair!”
“Irish Spring. Sure it smells good on him, but I like it too.”
I took all of it and more; let it build up like steam in the kettle. It got so that the loathing felt warm as the shame of me Irish blood. I learned to bathe in it so that the thought of killing one of me American fares made me hard as a hurly soaked through with water and left to cure in a baking hot oven. Hate had always been a comfort to me. What’s more natural than hate, save rage? I hate Pakis, tinkers even more. But nothing I had known before compared to how I hated Americans. It was my coming of age.
Then, out of the blue, I was triggered. A blowsy Yank, all muzzy and hog-eyed, got in me cab just outside Davy Byrne’s Pub in Duke Street and asked to go to the Gresham Hotel in O’Connell Street Upper. He went quiet on me after first announcing he was ex of the
. As if I gave a shite. For fuck’s sake, did he expect me to kiss his ring? So many sheets to the wind was he that he seemed to lose his voice as well as his senses. Then catching his breath, he began to rant about the weather, but that isn’t what set me off.
No—it was when he complained bitterly that us Irish drive as the Brits do, on the wrong side of the road. In America, he assured me, they would never put up with that shit. It was at that point I decided to no longer put up with his. Well, it wasn’t so much a decision as a reflex. Why, of all things that should have lit my candle, I cannot say, but light it it did.