Authors: Ken Bruen
Once Were Cops
The Magdalen Martyrs
The Killing of the Tinkers
Funeral: Tales of Irish Morbidities
Shades of Grace
Sherry and Other Stories
Time of Serena-May/Upon the Third Cross
Her Last Call to Louis MacNeice
Rilke on Black
The Hackman Blues
A White Arrest
Taming the Alien
The Dead Room
Bust (with Jason Starr)
A Fifth of Bruen
Slide (with Jason Starr)
The Max (with Jason Starr)
All the Old Songs and Nothing to Lose
Once upon a time, the world bought the whimsy of Ireland, termed us affectionately
The Emerald Isle
Now, with the only definite science, in hindsight, we were
A Jack Taylor Novel
Copyright © 2016 Ken Bruen
Cover design by Gretchen Mergenthaler
Author photograph © Rob W. Hart
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Published simultaneously in Canada
Printed in the United States of America
The Mysterious Press
an imprint of Grove Atlantic
154 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011
Distributed by Publishers Group West
16 17 18 19 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Aine and David O Connor
Heroic in a gentle way
A true star
Lance Armstrong: “Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my balls six hours a day. What are you on?”
Tom Darcy was giving it large about van Graal, the new manager of Man United. He wasn’t shouting.
But he was very loud and verging on aggressive. Like this:
“You have to remember Ferguson wasn’t successful when he started.”
His companion, a small man with a small tone, nodded, staring into his pint, hoping it might help.
Darcy finished his third Jameson, belched, said,
playing the long game.”
A man farther along the bar, dressed in a black denim shirt, black jeans, visibly blanched. He had a long slender face with a slight scar above the right eye and it seemed to twitch now in annoyance. He lifted his tonic water, took a bitter sip. He wanted a double gin but it could wait. Duty must. Darcy said, more roared,
“Gotta point Percy at the porcelain.”
The man didn’t look but he was fairly sure that Darcy winked. He took a deep breath then followed Darcy. Darcy was zipping up then moved to wash his large hands. He clocked the man enter but he knew not to make eye contact in a men’s lavatory.
As the man stood right by the basin, he snapped,
(Not full on but enough to let menace spill over the tone.)
The man seemed to focus, as if collating thoughts, then,
“The Yahoos that make up this city, they can tell you the offside rule but as to what a split infinitive is? Forget it. Now when you were rather haranguing your comrade at the bar, you said …”
He paused, as if ensuring he got it correct, then,
Darcy laughed, a mix of relief and disbelief, this punter was simply another nutter in a city chockablock with madness. He leaned back, mocked,
“Dooby do bee do.”
The man lashed out with his right hand, throwing Darcy back against the wall, intoned,
“You cretin, you mock? Grammar is with us from the fifth century BC, from India. You probably think the great subcontinent gave us bus conductors and curry. When language is corrupted, it is but a small step to chaos. Look at
Fifty Shades of Grey
He had to catch a breath, such was his indignation, then,
He grabbed Darcy by his hair and began to systematically smash his face against the porcelain bowl, and in an almost singsong voice, said,
but not after …”
He was still reeling off the rules as his hand released the limp body, which slid to the floor. He looked down at it, as if surprised to see it, then, sighing, pulled himself together, said,
“The center cannot hold.”
He took a single white card from his jacket, laid it almost reverently atop the destroyed face. It had one letter, in bold black:
Extra adverbs, used for emphasis, are called intensifiers.
E.g…. he was very dead.
Superintendent Clancy was as close to apoplexy as it is possible to get short of a brain hemorrhage. Lined before him was the Murder Unit. Among them was the newly promoted Sergeant Ni Iomaire, Ridge. A former ally of Jack Taylor, a rarity in the Guards, openly gay and feisty. Her friendship/alliance with Jack had cost her dear in the past but two years of no contact had fast-tracked her career. Behind her back, she was called, to rhyme with
Clancy too had once been a close friend of Jack’s but was now his archenemy. He roared at the collected detectives,
“A second murder, the week before the Galway Races?”
The Races mattered; the killings, not so much. He said,
“And the only lead is the cards he leaves on the bodies?”
He had to check his notes, read,
? The sweet Jesus is that about?”
He gave her the Look. He’d picked it up from watching
The Armstrong Lie.
He said in an icy low tone,
“Don’t fucking tell me he’s working through the vowels?”
“Is he going to start on the frigging consonants next?”
The second murder had happened on the promenade in Salthill. In full view of crowds. Many … many witnesses described the killer as
Had a small scar under his eye.
A man had been standing right on the edge of the footpath, arguing with somebody, and when the other person left, he’d been approached by a figure who said some words to him, then literally
threw him under the bus.
One witness said,
“It was as if he was waiting for the No. 24 from Eyre Square, then pushed hard and the victim went under the wheels. The pusher had stopped for a moment, then casually walked over and dropped a white card on the mangled remains, turned, and sauntered away.”
“Whatever else, he’s a brazen bollix.”
Now the super glared at his troops, asked,
A thick former hurler from Thurles tried,
“He knows his bus times.”
And another wag threw in,
“Least we know the buses are running on time.”
Clancy had left his sense of humor in 1988. He snapped at the wag,
“Take your smart mouth and canvass all the houses along the prom, and I mean all of them.”
This was usually a tedious task for a uniform. Now Clancy asked,
“Any more bright sparks?”
“Do the cards tell us anything? Prints, where they were bought?”
A nod from Clancy, then,
“Get on it.”
I had been given a Labrador pup after my last case. I’d given him a red-and-white bandanna for the Galway team and for Willie Nelson. He whimpered if I didn’t wrap it around him at night. I was going to name him Boru for a departed friend and so he might choose his battles carefully but then, like my life, went with
Not so much in a teacup as in situ.
In truth I had determined to stay detached from him, not to spare the love but to keep at a distance, like modern parenting. Not that I was necessarily a cold cunt but to protect myself. There was a previous dog whose horrendous death I had to keep at a remove even today. I was still raw from the discovery in my home of his torn remains.
But dogs …
Have other plans.
Slowly Storm had melted away my resolve. Most evenings we went to feed the swans and round off that walk by sitting on the rocks and staring at the Atlantic Ocean. The whole of Galway Bay before us, I’d take out my flask of Jameson, have a few considered nips, and I’d be able to let my breath out. Storm slowly chewed his rationed treats. Finally I’d light my one and only daily cigarette, stare at the horizon, and yearn.
Storm would place one paw on my knee. Such tiny gestures signifying, if not hope, then a slanted comfort. Ease from left field as it were. To my back were the remnants of Seapoint. Once a vast ballroom, it was the center of all the social outlet in the city, home to the show bands. A whole generation had grown up with them, my generation, dying slowly and forever.
And even the wonderfully non-PC
Man, I loved those days.
A singer from Belfast then, no Van but David McWilliams, had a fine tune,
“The Days of Pearly Spencer.”
Summed it all up.
That the PC brigade were still pursuing the Indians to change their name was a measure of just how much we had lost our sense of fun over the years.
An elderly Bohermore woman summed it up:
“You’re afraid to open your mouth these days.”
As Israel and Hamas continued to add to a daily number of deaths and no sign of peace, yet another airline went
down, Putin continued to wreak havoc in the Ukraine, Bill Clinton was yet again accused of affairs, the country tried to delight in five Garth Brooks concerts. But one asshole councillor in Dublin managed to derail them, depriving the people of the only hope of a bit of fun they’d had in years. Not to mention the loss of fifty million to the country in revenue.
Enda Kenny, our leader, was the most despised man in the nation. He smirked daily over water charges, Garth Brooks, and just about any issue that was of note to his population.
Our former tone of humor was now replaced by an all-prevalent fear as medical cards were canceled, bankers walked free after hugely expensive trials, but one woman stood tall. An ordinary housewife, she had been systemically abused as a child and for fifteen years sought redress. Even after the supreme court turned her down, she persisted with frail strength all the way to the European Court of Justice.
A small brave lady.
The government set up
to gauge whether she merited an apology.
From everybody: well, everybody of basic human decency.
Just before the Galway Races kicked off, I got a call from the arts editor of the
, Kernan Andrews, asking me
to do an interview. Kernan was one of the good guys. He was doing a series, “Faces of Galway.”
I figured I was under the subheading:
“Battered Faces of Galway.”
What the hell, I’d get to sit down with Kernan, sink a few, shoot the shit. We arranged to meet in Garavan’s. Grab the snug there and have if not privacy at least a certain amount of atmosphere. I recently had a new neighbor, an ex-army guy and—whisper it
Why you would retire to a Republican stronghold was beyond me. But he kept a low profile and his accent under wraps. We had shared a dram or two and he seemed to like Storm real well and when I had to get out alone, he would always be delighted to mind the pup. His name was
He was usually addressed as Doc.
A good, no-frills UK name.
He’d done a stint in Northern Ireland and knew I had, let’s say, dealings over the border, but we had reached our own separate peace and, whatever flags we flew under, we had an appreciation of fine malt and Jameson. I brought the pup over to him early on the Friday morning, said,
“Believe it or not, I’m being interviewed.”
He was tall with a shock of steel to white hair, riveting stare with nigh on nonbreak hold. He adopted a very dry droll sense of humor. Said,
“Not helping with enquiries, one hopes.”
I handed over the pup’s dinner bowl and his cherished bandanna, said,
“Nope, an actual bona fide gig.”
He rubbed the dog, said,
“Talk as if you believed it.”
“Always end the name of your child with a vowel so that when you yell the name will carry.” (Bill Cosby)
As I said, Kernan is one of the good guys. Looks like a roadie for a heavy metal band and beneath a mellow, affable facade beats a mind as smart as a whip. We met in Freeneys, a slice of old Galway, unchanged and in the window they sell fishing tackle. I’d managed to procure for him a signed Barcelona shirt with the 2010 team names. Cost me … oh, some serious weight. In truth, I’d traded my 1963 All Ireland Galway Football shirt for it.
Loved that shirt, was even signed. Kernan greeted me warmly.
“So glad you agreed to do this, Jack.”
He was dressed as always as if en route to the ever-running Dylan tour. I’d worn my all-weather Garda coat, item 1834, that the Department of Justice even now wrote demanding back. I said,
“Buddy, hear my answers and then see how glad you are.”
He smiled. My acid tongue was part of the reason he liked me. The bar guy, Willy, knew us and asked,
“What will it be, lads?”
Sparkling water for Kernan and Jameson back for me. The gig lasted two hours and I haven’t said so much since Charles Haughey was shunted from office.
I list some of the more pertinent questions.
K: “So, Jack, any heroes?”
Once, in my naive days, I thought a lot of Lance Armstrong.”
“Sure, it wasn’t so much I knew a lot about cycling but I did, in an old Galway way, admire endurance.”
Kernan let that slide, tried,
“How would you like to be remembered?”
“As a fine hurler.”
Kernan … sigh.
The interview had some key questions.
“What are you reading now?”
Cycle of Lies
, Juliet Macur, and
, the definitive accounts of the whole doping mess.”
Kernan had opted to create an interview that balanced the solemn with the fun, as in,
“Where do you get your … um … distinctive wardrobe?”
“The charity shops.”
“Have you still got passions?”
“Sure, books, my dog, and a new fascination with the Tour de France.”
“What is your most prized possession?”
“My father’s hurley, hewn from the original ash.”
“Do you still play?”
“Only in the alleyways and back streets and not a referee in sight.”
“Where do you stand on the Church?”
“More like the Church tries to stand on me. I see them as the ecclesiastical wing of Enron.”
I pronounced the last word wrong to draw out the sense of nonsense.
“Is there a significant other in your life?”
Here he paused, gave a small smile, warned,
“And I don’t mean your dog.”
“The person I am in most contact with is the Inland Revenue bollocks.”
“Will you ever leave Galway?”
I went with the half-formed truth.
“In Corsica, there is a lovely town, Bastia, and I have made inroads there with a man named Sabatini to buy a small villa.”