Authors: Eoin Colfer
Tags: #Fiction, #Crime, #Humorous, #Thrillers, #General, #FIC016000, #FIC050000, #FIC031000
Why are these people always drawn to me?
“Okay, so you didn’t get bored with the detail and take matters into your own hands?”
Tommy gasps. “That is an outrageous suggestion, Sarge. Sure, I’ve done a few things in my time, but electrocute Marge?”
Alarm bells clang in my skull. “Marge? Marge now?”
There’s a little pause while Tommy figures how clean he’s gotta come.
“Ah . . . the old dear spotted me, Sarge. Eyes like a bloody hawk after laser surgery. Started leaving sandwiches out in the garden. Lovely sandwiches. Lovely.”
It hits me then. Tommy was banging Irish Mike’s mum.
“Jesus Christ, Tom.”
“Jesus bloody hell Christ. Is there any situation where you can keep it zipped?”
Tommy was famous for literally screwing his assignments. There was a Ranger legend that Corporal Fletcher’s thorough infiltrations of an Irish Republican cell meant that Tommy was the real father of a current Sinn Fein member of parliament.
“Zipped? How can you say that?”
“I got a monster in these y-fronts, Sarge. Everyone knows that. Zippers are an accident waiting to happen with a weapon like mine. Button fly only.”
Nice deflection. And I suppose me interrogating Tommy won’t bring Mrs. Madden back to life.
“She’s definitely dead, Tommy. You saw the body?”
Tom sighs. “The poor woman had a metal hip, she was fecking spit roasted. I saw enough to know that this assignment is over. I shot some video on my phone that might be of some use to you.”
I close the phone. Metal hip? Spit roasted? I do not need video of that.
No wonder Mike is pissed.
Five minutes later the video arrives. I can’t look at it. The poor old dear was someone’s mother, even if that someone was Irish Mike.
I spend the rest of the cab ride thinking. I try to focus on the lion’s den that I gotta shortly and of my own volition stroll into, but the mind goes where it will and soon my thoughts drift to Ireland and my mother.
God love her, the poor unfortunate.
That’s what people said to me afterward.
Margaret Costello was a rebel. She rebelled herself right out of the frying pan into the fire. Mom hit puberty on the tail end of the free-love generation, when it was all about sticking it to the man. And who was the man incarnate in New York City? Paddy Costello. Her empire-building, union-breaking, back-room-dealing, peerless son-of-a-bitch daddy. Paddy had bent so many good men to his will by threatening their children that his own kids seemed to him potential chinks in the Costello armor. He hardened his heart against them and put Margaret and Evelyn in convent schools with high walls, stern nuns and big knickers.
But Paddy needn’t have worried. Nobody turned his kids, he managed to do that all on his lonesome. Evelyn took to the booze and pills like her mother, and Margaret married a guy that she thought she loved because her daddy hated him.
I’m oversimplifying maybe. Perhaps my mother did love Arthur McEvoy for the first couple of years or so, until he started slapping her around every time she set foot outside the kitchen.
Mr. and Mrs. McEvoy moved back to Dublin, where Dad sat back and waited for the trust-fund money to roll in. He believed himself to be, as they say in Ireland, on the pig’s back.
Paddy, as they say in the US, did not play that shit. If his daughter wished to tie herself to exactly the kind of drunken throwback that gave the Irish a bad name in their new country, then she was on her own. Margaret was warned before the wedding: Choose. The family or that man.
Rebel Margaret squared her jaw and said: I have found my family.
So she was cut off.
Arthur McEvoy was not put out by this development. Grandchildren will break any man’s resolve, he thought, and quickly sired a couple of sons to forever intertwine the McEvoys and the Costellos. Even insisted on naming the second boy Patrick.
How cravenly transparent is that?
Still Paddy did not come around and the marriage descended into drunken violence, not bit by bit as is the usual pattern, but in a single day.
Margaret woke up with a charming rogue one morning and went to bed with a drunken devil. Margaret McEvoy felt like she had fallen off a cliff. The charming rogue never showed his face again. I find it difficult to believe that he ever existed. I certainly don’t remember meeting him. Mom used to whisper stories to me and Pat when the three of us were squeezed into the same bed. How our daddy used to sing to her in bars, right out there in front of everyone. How our father once climbed the tall oak in Carthy’s field to pluck her windblown scarf from the highest branch. I loved my mom, but I never believed a word of those stories.
My mother made the choice to live for her children, and that, along with visits from her baby sister, kept her going, until a sozzled Arthur ran the family Morris Minor into a donkey outside Dalkey Village, killing everyone but me and the donkey. The donkey was knocked over the ditch, the car went into a wall and I was thrown clear into the army.
Because that’s the sensible thing to do when your entire family has been killed in a traumatic accident caused by an alcoholic sociopath: join a bunch of homophobes in a small tent and learn how to murder people.
Still, I gotta admit. I was an empty vessel and the army filled me to overflowing with attitude, guns and knives.
A goddamn donkey.
This is exactly the kind of stuff, along with this latest skiing/electrocution malarkey, that makes the whole country seem like some kind of twee tragi-comic fairyland. And don’t even get me started on Waking Ned Devine. Thank Christ we have a few serious buckos like Jimmys Heaney and Sheridan to give the country a bit of gravitas.
Fucking leprechaun, Riverdancing, thatched cottage, diddly diddly, Quiet Man bullshit.
So I got this envelope for this guy and believe me I know what the obvious question is:
Why in the name of the holy virgin do I not take off to Mexico with the two hundred grand?
Because Mike made me a promise:
This is an important transaction, laddie, he told me back in the Brass Ring. You get the opera-toonity to run, you better think again because that’s a deal breaker and I go to work on your nearest and dearest. Mrs. Delano gets the first visit.
Nearest and dearest.
That used to be my little brother. We shared a room for all his life.
Even after all these years, thinking about little Pat brings on a cramp of pain. I can remember his smile of crooked teeth like an old sailor, but his eyes are lost to me.
I snuffle and think Edit. She has me maudlin when I need to be sharp.
The cab driver speaks.
“Hey, bud. You crying back there?”
I pull myself together. “That’s Mr. Four Guns to you, mac. We there yet?”
The cabbie taps his window. “We been there for ten minutes. You ain’t having a flashback or something, are you? You ain’t one of those flashback to Nam motherfuckers?”
Flashback to Nam? How old does this guy think I am?
Nam sounds so quaint. It’s all about the flashbacks to Desert Storm these days. Those Desert Storm vets are so smug and current, but the Iraq boys will soon wipe the smiles off their faces once their post traumatics kick in.
“Don’t worry. If I shoot you it’ll be on purpose.”
“Good to know,” says the cabbie, whose balls have descended. “That’s twenty-two fifty, buddy.”
I am tentatively liking this guy now, so I give him a fifty on account of I might not be coming out of this hotel and I would hate for the scumbags inside to fleece my wallet.
“Thanks, man,” says the guy. “You want me to wait?”
I slide across the seat to the curb side. “You can, but I ain’t giving you any more tips.”
The car is moving before my fingers leave the handle.
New York, New York, where it’s okay to be an asshole so long as you’re local.
Dan McEvoy, doorman theory number three: New Yorkers believe absolutely that any place that is not New York is by geographical definition inferior to the great five-borough nation. The Bronx has got better seafood than the Cote D’Azur. The beaches of Staten Island are far superior to anything Rio de Janeiro has to offer and it goes without saying that there isn’t a commercial boulevard on the planet that can hold a candle to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Therefore most New Yorkers do not travel—why the hell would they? And the ones who do venture out into the vast mediocrity are businessmen or intellectuals and not likely to start trouble. Except for the East Village guys. Those artist types have been in buttoned-down über-PC mode for so long that they go batshit at the sight of décolletage. Jason and I always keep a close eye on anyone sporting a ponytail. Those bastards are likely to grab a server’s boobs and claim they were only trying to liberate her.
I think it’s pretty obvious that Jason and I had a lot of free time on our hands when we bounced Slotz, and a person can only do so many sit-ups in a club lobby.
UT ON THE STREET, I FEEL EXPOSED. THERE’S STILL PLENTY
of foot traffic down here, but not so much that a marksman wouldn’t be able to thread a bullet through it. I could certainly take someone’s head off from a rooftop without a problem. The crowd is different here, more discerning, less sneakers, and even the light is more oblique—somehow not so much in your face, in keeping with the subtle fashions of the SoHo natives.
I used to walk around this neighborhood wasting a lot of mind-space feeling all superior and grounded, but right now I would hand over a couple of years of my life just to be a guy out shopping in tucked-away places for on-trend pieces.
The best thing to do, I decide, would be to get my big burly frame into the Masterpiece hotel.
Sounds like a pretty grandiose name for a boutique hotel; the Masterpiece, right? But on account of the fact that I’ve been here before, I happen to know that this is the nickname given to the building by the locals because of the ornate cast-iron façade that the area is known for.
The Masterpiece. I was here a few years ago with Zeb during New York Fashion Week when Zeb was doing Botox outcalls and I was humping his wedge. This gorgeous—and frankly, way out of my league—senorita zones in on me in the bar and within two lemon gingerinis is all over me like cling film on a frankfurter. I was sporting a goatee at the time trying to draw attention from my expanding forehead and this girl who had a name like some herb or other tells me that my moustache is overpowering my beard. She let slip later on that she was using me to piss off her boyfriend who was chatting up an übermodel while she herself was merely a supermodel. How Zeb and I sneered at these subclassifications later when we were going home on our own. Also that’s where I picked up the term über, which I already told you about.
Cilantro, that was her name.
The lobby is dark and moody with plenty of floating light orbs and wave machines. If I ever get a few beers in me and meet the interior designer, I’ll probably let slip that this place reminds me of a strip club I once bounced in Joburg, except for the strippers wore longer skirts than the girls in here.
The concierge desk is a swathe of curved steel with a glass worktop that changes color every few seconds, which causes the young lady behind it to wince with every fresh wash of color. That’s gotta be bad for the brain so I try to be extra nice.
“Hi. I have an envelope for Mr. Shea.”
The girl is severe/pretty in her steel gray smock but she’s going to have frown lines before she hits twenty-five if she can’t get away from this desk.
“You can leave it with me. We don’t allow delivery men in the private elevators.”
We don’t allow. She’s a shareholder now?
I persist good-naturedly. “I’m also kind of a visitor. Can you call Mr. Shea and tell him that the package from Mr. Madden has arrived?”
Mr. Shea. Another Irish name. They say there are 20 million Irish Americans and it looks like I’m gonna bump into most of them before this day winds down.
“You’re Mr. Madden?” she asks, picking up a phone the same color as her smock.
“No, I’m Mr. Madden’s . . .” I search my brain for a term that will bestow upon me the importance I deserve. “Gopher.”
I hope the girl will interpret my wry smile to mean that I am underplaying my own importance in this whole package-dropping enterprise. She does not.
“Mr. Shea,” she says into the phone, frowning as the desk turns green. “The gopher is here from Mr. Madden.”
Five seconds later she hands me an electronic lift key, which is ironically in the shape of an actual key.
“Penthouse apartment,” she says. “The private elevators are at the back.”
Ironic hotels. Only in Manhattan.
I stop off in the restroom and deposit one of the Glocks in a stall just in case I have to shoot my way out, wild west style. And by wild west I mean Limerick, not Texas. O’Connell Street can get a little jumpy after turfing-out time on the weekends. The other three guns I keep on my person hoping to hocus-pocus at least one past the search that will undoubtedly be waiting for me at the top of the shaft.
I am walking blind into this situation with no idea what kind of scenario awaits me up there. I don’t know the exits; I don’t know how many hostiles. Weapons, intentions, bargaining positions. Nothing.
The odds are good that things will not escalate in a shi-shi SoHo establishment. What kind of moron would kick off a gunfight in a place like the Masterpiece?
The elevator has mirrored doors and I study myself as the lights flicker upward toward PH, trying to decide which version of Daniel McEvoy I’m gonna present to whoever is on the other side of the doors.
I’ll give them a blast of ice-cold professional, I decide, but then reconsider. Let these guys underestimate me. Play it big and dumb, like a guy trying to look professional who is actually out of his depth. Keep the mouth under wraps. Speak when spoken to and no backchat. This was what Mike had advised:
Remember, act stupid, McEvoy. I want Mr. Shea to feel this letter is being dropped off by a shaggy dog. So none of the usual back-answering bullshit. The more stupider you are, the faster they let you leave. If they ask you specifics about my operation, you ain’t got any. Clear?