Authors: Ken Bruen
‘SHROUDS HAVE NO SECRETS.’
RABBI DAVID WOLPE.
I don’t know was it luck, or coincidence but I was back in my so called apartment when
the phone rang. The elusive answer still biting on the fringes of my mind.
‘Ryan, it’s Boxer.’
Took me a moment, then I said
‘Sergeant, how you doing?’
Jesus, I sounded like Joey from
‘Good. The luck of the Irish, your query on the credit card gig, who sent the flowers, we
got a hit.’
He laughed, said
‘Thanks would have worked as well.’
Then he got focused, said
‘The credit card is issued to a Mr.’s Trent. Mean anything to you?’
Thought……come on, Jesus, come on…………..bingo.
‘Yes, Sweet Jesus, yes. Thank you.’
I could hear him laughing, he said
‘We stand to serve.’
‘I owe you, big time.’
‘That you do ………….boyo, A bottle of Jameson would do nicely.’
‘Done deal and thanks, honest to God.’
Mr.’s Trent, the elderly secretary for James Malone, the accountant in Queens. I could
have sworn it would have been the dentist.
Never-no fookin-mind, we had the bollix, how could he have been so arrogant as to get
his secretary to send the roses to Shona. I’d add a kick in the balls to his tab when we
charged the fooker.
I immediately rang Merrick at the hospital.
He was on the point of being discharged. Said
‘You just got me buddy.’
I said, trying to sound laid back, said
‘Break out that Brooklyn Beer.’
The excitement beginning to leak in to my tone, I said
‘We’ve cracked it mate, it’s done, our first case together, it’s solved.’
He was silent then
‘Holy fuck, you serious.’
‘I’d have figured the dentist.’
‘So, when do we go, pick up the arse hole?’
‘Whoa, take that chill pill buddy, I’m just getting out of hospital, I need to get home, see
my wife, rest and…………….’
‘Ok, right, sorry, so when?’
Trying to keep the awful impatience out of my voice, I was getting a bad feeling. He
‘Tomorrow, he’s not going anywhere, ok? You did great. Take Shona out, grab a brew,
and CALM DOWN.’
Did he just fookin shout?
‘You pissed because I cracked it? That it?’
‘Grow up Ryan, you can’t go rushing off like some crazy BASTARD, I’ll meet you
tomorrow, round noon, the guy is going nowhere. You did good but you need to learn a
I took a real deep breath then
Slammed the phone down.
I was so angry, I could spit.
I did what you do.
Treated meself to a 7-course meal.
Six pack and a potato.
Replaced the potato with a bottle of Jameson.
In my shithole apartment, seething, so close to out right violence, I had to bite down.
I’d gone out, got supplies.
Returning to my apartment, on the way up, carrying the booze, I met one of the stoner
dudes, who lived below me. The weather was on the turn, already seriously cold. He was
dressed in I shit thee not, a Hawaiian garish shirt that Magnum PI would have been proud
Shorts, to the knee of his blinding white skinny legs. Didn’t he ever see the sun?’
Sorry, the dope those guys took, it was always sunny.
But he was more on planet earth than I’d expected, asked
‘Yo, my man, you hanging cool?’
the joker from ’Dark Knight’
‘Why so serious?
It’s almost impossible not to start conversing in
with those guys. I said
‘Bad fookin vibes bro.’
And went on to my apartment.
I’d just put Rory Gallagher on the speaker, from the days of his first group, Taste, and the
burning tracks beginning to lacerate. A knock on the door, I thought
To the stoner, carrying a paper bag, he said
‘Got some gear here bro, help you past the downer.’
I took it, said
‘Thank you, truly, you ever need anything?’
He grinned, looking like a kid allowed to play at being a grown up, said
‘Dude, play Lizzie,
The Boys Are Back In Town’.
Play it loud, for Phil Lyn not.’
‘Ever hear Luke Kelly sing ,
Dirty Old Town,
it’s like ………………..awesome.’
Like I said
He turned to go, then had a thought, acted on it, asked
‘Dude, you got really, a Sioux girlfriend?’
I nearly smiled, went with, said
He was delighted, said
‘THE BAD BOY GIG.’
Merrick came out of the hospital, like a demented bull. He’d managed to persuade his
wife that he needed some quiet time, walk The Jersey Shore, just to be grateful he was
What a crock he thought, I never walked the damn shore in my life and didn’t see it
happening anytime soon. Mostly, he wanted two things.
To crack Ryan’s fool head.
Maybe three as he’d like to repeat Number two, a lot .Only one place really to go, once
a cop, you got hit, you went to a cop bar. Civilians, even his poor wife, they didn’t
really get it. Why should they, they didn’t live in the expectation of a bullet. Hailed a cab,
headed for Charley’s bar.
He tipped the driver a few bucks and the guy said
‘Have a good one.’
He sure as hell meant to try.
He’d no sooner walked in the door than Charlie was over, going
‘Hey hey, the hero arrives.’
And maneuvered Merrick to a corner booth, said
‘Sit your good self down, take a load off and I’ll go get us some righteous drinks.’
Merrick felt he’d arrived in safe harbor. Leaned his head back against the leather
upholstery, let his breath out. Never realized he’d been holding it so long. Maybe since he
Charley was back, Bottle of Jameson and two pints of ice cold beer. Merrick said
‘Fuck, that looks good.’
‘Knock the head off the brew.’
He did and then Charley unscrewed the cap on the Jay, poured a serious amount in to the
He did the same for his own then raised the new drink, said
‘To long life.’
Charley was a barman, had been a cop, knew the value of the first sacred silence, as you
paid homage to the drinks. When they’d gotten on the other side of that, least quarter of
the way, Charley asked
‘Where’s the Irish whiz kid?’
Merrick sighed and Charley went
Merrick launched, the Jameson aiding the flow of his bile. Put it all out there except the
part about the credit card. He didn’t want the kid to look that smart so never mentioned
Mr’s.Trent, then when he wound down, had a moment’s doubt, asked
‘Charley, this is all between us, right?’
Charley gave him a playful punch to the shoulder, said
Fresh round of drinks and Charley said
‘Twenty years on the job, I never got shot, yah believe it?’
Merrick, bitterly said
‘Yeah? Don’t go starting now.’
Charley hesitated and Merrick caught it, said
‘Go on buddy, it’s ok, you can ask?’
Charley lifted his glass, took a hefty swallow, then
‘I always wondered about it, you know? You have to, everyday you’re out there, chances
are. Mostly I hoped, Jesus, I hope I don’t take it in the balls.’
Merrick laughed, the Jay hitting, said
‘That would not be good.’
They had a comfortable silence for a bit then Merrick said, knowing he was answering
the real question,
‘It’s like getting hit by a two by four, knocks you on your ass, you can’t breath and
you’re thinking, Motherfuck, I got shot.’
‘So, you going to wrap this up, the case I mean, seems solid?’
Merrick made a decision that would haunt him all his days. Could call it the booze, anger,
post traumatic stress. But the truth was, he wanted to be back in the driver seat, he would
decide when they moved on the perp.
‘I’m going to wait two days, let Ryan stew and make sure we’ve got it right. Don’t want
to go gung ho and then get our asses handed to us.’
‘You still following The Jets?’
Merrick mock sighed, said
‘Now that is really green frustration.’
And they got into sports.
The bar got busy, Charley had to go and Merrick waved him away, said
‘Go, earn, shalom.’
Merrick finally got out of there, no sign of Charley to say Thank you, the tab had of
course been paid, he’d left a fifty tip on the table and got a cab to take him home.
He was tired but feeling good, even felt less resentful to Ryan.
The guy would learn.
And who better to teach him?
You got it.
The large man had been busy, very.
Sat back now, savoring his first Seven ‘n Seven of the evening
Jesus H……………what a blast.
First, meet with the psycho, and being real careful. The fuck was in meltdown, who knew
when’d go seriously postal? The large man could see it in his eyes, the fevered glint,
some psychotic shit waiting to be fused. He met with him in Queens, business closed for
the day, the large man had his Nine in his jacket right hand pocket, one crazy flicker from
the crazy, he’d blow his shit to kingdom come. He kept in macho pose, no choice, said
‘Give me the fucking money.’
Tried not to show his joy at the what might be the clincher on Boca. Kept his face in cold
‘The Heckler and Koch?’
The psycho was having some conflicting thoughts. Time to ride roughshod, he said
‘Don’t be fucking stupid, I have to have the gun that matches the slug they took out of
Merrick, then put it in the hand of the dentist in Tribeca, with a typed note of remorse and
believe this shitkicker, we are seriously on the clock. You want to continue enjoying your
………..interests? Then be smart.’
Got the gun.
Had to cross town, in traffic for Chris sakes, meet with the dentist, and blow the bastard’s
brain to fuck and gone.
Not that he found that difficult, who wouldn’t want to waste a freaking dentist, give it to
the son of a bitch in the teeth, no, the worry was being seen and his luck held. He’d hate
to have had to waste the Barbie doll Receptionist. He might yet have plans for her.
Then a call to 911 and let justice roll.
He laughed out loud.
Sometimes, it was just too fucking easy.
I was grabbing a coffee, bagel with lox, before I took the elevator up to the ninety-th
Trying not to ask myself
Jesus. Stop already.
Put on my helmet, got up there. There was a wind, that high? There is always a wind. But
Shook myself, knew, you cannot be thinking.
A new guy, asked
‘Need the harness?’
Swung out there, high and wide, like a dancer.
Slight sheen of perspiration on my forehead, blame the coffee.
Got out on the steel beam, swinging a little precariously, got my boots squared on the
I don’t remember getting down. Crow had come up, and gone out to get me himself.
I was on the ground, in Crow’s porto-kabin, He’d given me a hot drink, laced with sugar.
Put a blanket round me, then sat opposite. He asked
‘How you doing buddy?’
I’d stopped shivering, said
‘The last thing I remember is smelling Irish stew?’
He stared, asked
‘No, it’s a stress gig.’
I reached for my cigs, got one in my mouth but my hands trembled and took the Zippo,
fired me up, looked at it, said
Indians love gifts, Shona had told me.
‘What happened to me?’
‘Were you thinking?’
He sat back, said
‘You’re done brother.’
‘You know Ryan, start to think about it, it’s gone.’
He stood up, said
‘You’re alive bro, a lot of dancers never…………………come down.’
‘Will I be able to go back, up there, you know, after a time?’
He looked at me, then
‘You have lot’s of work on the ground, I don’t want to lose you. My sister would kill
All I could hear was Merrick’s voice, when describing The Ranger’s Elite Force and the
‘As your chief, I’m telling you to take off, have a few days to chill.’
I nodded, said
‘Thanks, a lot.’
He shrugged it off.
Later I would hear that he’d gone out on the girders, took me in. His first time in the sky
for eight years, when his best friend had fallen.
Shona took me to her home. An apartment in The West Village. I was zoning in and out,
as if a high fever was trying to build and break simultaneously. The apartment was
comfort in action. Indian woven throw rugs on the wooden floors. I always loved that,
you could crack the heels of your boots on them, feel as if you were really there. Not
grounding you so much as establishing you.
And sculpture’s, I know shit from shinola about that but these, of wood, of stone, even of
cacti, were haunting. Figures of warriors, Indians on horseback, they seemed to be alive.
I slumped down on the couch, Shona brought me a tall iced glass of water. I was wearing
my Levi white shirt, one that had cost me close to fifty bucks.
An Irish guy will blow fifty on a round of drink, no problem but on a shirt, you kidding?
I’d had this shirt for nigh ten years.
You ask……….what’s in a shirt?
It has been so often in the wash, it was threadbare and all the more assuring for that. I
know, you love a shirt, you are a sad fookin excuse for a life.
I loved the shirt, so shoot me.
Sweat was pouring out of every pore, my hair, was drenched in it. Like I’d just come out
of the shower.
‘My love, you are burning up’
Helped me to her bed and that’s all she wrote.
The stress in ferocious assault
I vaguely remember coming to, Shona feeding me some liquid, then out again, the smell
of Irish stew near suffocating me.
And it broke.
Two and a half days in.
I sat up, felt my hair, dry.
Shona, her face, a portrait of worry, said
I tried to stand, managed it after a few false starts and said
‘You believe it mo croi ( my heart), I’m hungry.’
As we sat down over scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, Shona went to the fridge, brought
back a Shiner Bok,………..Texas best, said
‘You’re eating, you’re entitled.’
‘A man could love a woman for that.’
She feigned surprise, asked
‘You mean, you’re not crazy about me already?’
I raised my bottle, said
‘Is tu an cailin is fear.’
……………………………..you are the best woman.’
‘Who is Eddie?’
‘ You called his name over and over.’
The fooking subconscious, wreathed in guilt, will rat you out every time, a supergrass of
the damn soul.
I nearly told her.
A history of Irish violence?
She got a playful smile, asked
I was weak but still clued in enough to say
‘Only that you never left my side.’
She beamed then with eyes dancing in her head, said
I could play, took the Irish route, asked
‘And……………..did you accept?’
She laughed, said
‘Oh, you’re back alright.’
And did I love her?
Take a wild Comanche guess.
She stood up, went to the bedroom, came back with a Gap bag, handed it over, said
‘And no, I didn’t leave you, I called Crow, had him go get this.’
I opened the bag, you guessed it
Brand new Levi shirt, white as hope.