Off on her holidays
Chris opened the driver’s door of the 1990 Focus and Joosy ran forward and was in the back seat before he could say “knife”. He had tried and inside the car she looked lovingly at him, but of course, she didn’t understand a word he said.
Joosy was Chris’ only weakness now – she was a Bichon Frise
– “Juicy Couture Champagne Flute Charmant” was her Kennel Club name. It was her Sunday name, Chris explained. She went nearly everywhere with him since Haze had gone. Thank God he still had Joosy. She might have left though, if only she’d known where they were going. He fed her her favourite food, and threw a bag of Schmackos into her bag.
The blue Focus was battered and dented. One of the mirrors had been terminally damaged in a recent adventure. Chris always drew in his breath when he went down a narrow street, cars on both sides, but this time he hadn’t drawn it in quite enough. He’d damaged theirs too though, so it wasn’t all bad. A bastard Mercedes. Nearly time to dump the Ford though. He’d pick up something else soon, rip off the plates, and bingo, a (nearly) new car for him and Joos. Except Joos was going away for a little bit – on her holidays, Chris called it. He couldn’t be having her hanging round just now, things to do, so she was away to the kennels for a week. He’d miss her like crazy but what could he do? Mr & Mrs Flannery would look after her like she was their own until he got back.
By now the Focus was bombing down the road to Rathfarnham. The high fences strung out alongside the road hid the massive airfield. A few “twitchers”, as Chris called them, stood on stepladders and boxes, with binoculars. He laughed to himself. Danny McGrain was there. “Talk about giving the game away Dan”, Chris muttered out of the side of his mouth. He pulled his cap down a little as the car sped past. Dan had been on a few jobs with Chris in the past, but after Danny’s last foul-up Chris had told Dr P he wouldn’t touch Danny ever again, not even with a 15′ barge pole. The Doctor had tried to team them up for a job taking out a Biffo in Stab City, but Chris would have none of it. “Standing on a step ladder near the airfield Danny? Talk about hanging yourself out to dry!” Thank God, Chris was no longer on that team.
Joosy had jumped in the front seat next to Chris and her eyes had taken on that mad stare she always put on when they were going past these fences. Her tongue was out. She was panting like a wild thing, and making shrill squealing noises. She knew where they were going. “The Flannery’s” she snorted. Chris smiled, his imagination running away with him again. Dogs don’t talk. He didn’t know why she was always like this round here. She loved it really. They treated her like a queen and all the other dogs were jealous. She did it for him he’d decided. Just to make him feel better.
He left her staring at him through the glass of her cage, “Like a lost soul isn’t she with those eyes? – Ah to hell with her!” he said to Mr Flannery, “Your Mrs’ll just be cutting up her fillet steak now.” “She better be quick about it. She’s due at her sisters later on today” Mr F smiled, beneficently on him. He fell into the Focus, nearly stalled it out on the drive, and was away past the plaster pig, and the safety mirror before you could say Knife! Mr Flannery watched him go, mopping his forehead with a large handkerchief.
A meet with the devil
Speeding into town, he steered for the Docklands. Chris felt in his top pocket for a Silk Cut. Damn! Instead of the comforting soft pack he felt the Nicorette packet. Pulling it out, with one hand on the wheel, he squeezed a piece out. This stuff tasted awful. Jesus, what he’d give for a cigarette right now? He grimaced through the window and stamped some more on the accelerator. He didn’t want to be late for his appointment with Dr P at 12.00 in Davy Byrnes’ on Duke Street. In the public bar the good Doctor had suggested. It would be busy and they’d draw no attention there.
The June sunshine was beating in the back of Chris’ head as he pushed the doors open. The temperature inside the pub was packed to the rafters and hotter than hell. Dr Padraig O’Connell was standing drinking, with his back to the bar, looking straight at the door, as Chris walked in. Still trying to quench his thirst after all these years, the old bastard, thought Chris. Initially an ordinary down at heel kind of a guy, you noticed later that Dr P’s eyes were dark and merciless with an inner glow straight out of the Bates motel. “Beelzebub’s nasty big brother” thought Chris grimly as he said “Hi P… How’s it goin’ ?” He spoke fairly breezily, but you could never tell what kind of mood P would be in, so not too jaunty.
Without a word Padraig grasped his elbow with muscular fingers and steered Chris into a booth to the right of the bar. The lighting in the Victorian pub was a warm glowing orange, the last thing you needed on a day like this, thought Chris as he moved toward the booths. The carpets had a slightly sticky feeling as they quick stepped it across the floor, through the throng of tourists and the odd misplaced local. A thousand liquor spills had added a sort of treacly protection to the carpet – a natural Scotchgarding.
Chris squeezed under the table and slid along to the end of the bench, up against the wall. Padraig slipped in beside him, trapping Chris. There they sat, side by side, facing the thick ornately engraved glass, which separated theirs from the next booth . The silhouettes of a couple laughing and joking in front of them showed through the glass, so they tried to keep their voices low.
Padraig opened his mouth. “Jesus Chris’….” raising a quizzical eyebrow at Chris. Don’t you get it man? Jesus Chris’?” he chuckled to himself because the bad joke had passed Chris by. P always used it whenever he saw Chris.
Padraig draped an arm round Chris’ bony shoulder much the same as a man might stroke a goose to calm it, before he wrung its neck . Chris said “Steady on P…”
Padraig carried on in a slow deep and steady drawl, “Seamus called me the other day” taking a sip of his beer, “said he wasn’t sure about you Chris.” He looked at Chris out of the corner of his eye, to see the effect and then reached for his pint again.
“Whaddya mean P? “Without waiting for a response from Dr P, whose face was stuck in his pint, he said “That Seamus bastard!” The grip on his shoulder became less fatherly concern, and more neck wringer. It was particularly painful after his recent visit to the tatooist’s when he was over in the UK off the Pandoro. His mates had talked him into getting a Celtic Cross. He was sure that guy had done it with a couple of screwdrivers. It looked like shit and was crucifying him.
Chris turned with wild eyes to look at Padraig. It wasn’t wholly due to the pain from his tattoo, “I mean he never trusted me P., not since Hazel.”
“A Prod an’ all” he cursed himself again. He’d hated himself for it, but he’d never admit it. They’d told him he was asking for trouble, more than trouble.
When they’d first got married, and went into town for a bit of shopping, they’d walked down the street, and shopkeepers would turn the Open sign to Closed, or pull a blind down in case they were planning on walking in. Some of them Chris had once thought of as mates, but now they turned their back on him and his new wife. But he didn’t care. He loved her and her red hair and blue eyes so very much.
Then he came home one night. Joosy was sitting in the hall, moaning softly and looking up at him. He called Hazel and there was no answer. No light upstairs, except from the bathroom door which was slightly ajar. Chris found her lying in the bath. The water was scarlet and she was a beautiful waxy white. He let out a bellow of anger and resentment, and in deep, deep sorrow he fell down at the bath side with his head on her neck sobbing like a baby. He knew she hadn’t done it. He knew she wouldn’t leave him voluntarily.
“Don’t worry P. I know what I’m doing. You know you can trust me. I’ve never let you down yet. Let’s go and get the stuff”.
“No way buddy boy. Don’t think I’m setting foot in that Northern hell hole with you. You’re on your own now. Here’s the key. 5 Belt St. It’s a lock-up, near the railway. Leave the package in your car. I’ll get you some nice replacement wheels afterwards.” Dr P felt in his pocket and Chris moved a little left away from Dr P’s groping fingers. He smiled at Chris as he brought the key out and held it under the table for Chris to take off him. Chris felt for it in P’s sweaty hand and palmed the sticky key. A thin brown envelope followed it. Chris checked it over under the cover of the table. “Don’t ring me afterwards either. I’ll get in touch with you. Now get out of here.”
The Dr slid out of his seat and was lost to the multitude. When Chris got out of the booth and stood up, he was nowhere to be seen. He swore he could smell sulphur, but it must just have been someone striking a match.
Are you havin’ a laugh?
Jesus he needed a drink. Not here though. He swung through the doors and headed out towards Wellington Quay. He needed a laugh and there’d be some tonight at the Open Mic night at the Ha’penny Bridge Inn. He looked in his wallet. Just some dollars from his recent trip, doing a bit of training with some good ole boys near Tennessee. Then he remembered the 500 notes in his inside pocket and smiled.
He was lucky enough to get a table high up at the back of the room. He could see the acts and drink whiskey. He didn’t find any of it funny tonight though – too much on his mind. The last drink he asked for he was refused – he was sure the new young waiter had sworn at him as well and was about to get up and punch his lights out when someone restrained him, the bouncers were called and Chris found himself outside kissing the pavement before he could say “Knife!”.
He woke up the next day with a searing headache. First thing he did was put a hand in his inside pocket. The cash was still there – thank God. He dragged a razor across his face, threw an evil cup of coffee and 2 paracetamols down his throat, grabbed some dark glasses and was out the door before anyone else in the house had even thought about the day ahead. Throwing his jacket onto the Focus’ passenger seat, Chris started the engine and drew the car out of the street, as quietly as he could. God knows how he’d got back in one piece last night. He was sure he’d never have noticed an extra dent in the car’s body even if he’d rammed it into a bridge on the way back into Terenure last night.
A nice Saturday afternoon in town
After taking the Focus along Fergus and Templeogue Road, Chris swung onto the M50. He took it easy, as befits the driver of a battered blue Focus. He didn’t want stopping now by the pigs. Not that you couldn’t spot them a mile off in their blue and yellow vans. Still they’d be on him fairly lively if they could, so he offered up a prayer to St Christopher and sped on. Jeez he must get that tattoo looked at good and soon. He’d fancied the pants off the girl but she wasn’t the cutest in the world with the needles. He stopped once on the M1, took a slash, grabbed another coffee and a roll and headed off again.
He came off the M1 at Broadway Roundabout and headed down Donegal Road alongside the railway towards Belfast Central. He found the good Doctor’s lock-up in Iverna Close, identical to twenty others all graffitti’d up with Loyalist flags and shite. Why did the Prods bother? None of it meant anything to Chris since Hazel anyway. He was only in it for what he could get now. Dammit he’d work for the other side if they’d pay him. The key stuck worryingly in the lock for a while but he managed to get it open after a struggle. As promised the stuff was at the back of the lock-up, in a small metal case, at the bottom of a blue plastic box containing a dozen ancient copies of Playboy. Chris felt tempted to chuck it in now, take the Playboys and drive off to see that beautiful tattooist but he knew the Dr would catch up with him – it wasn’t worth it. Chris may have a bad shoulder but he imagined it wouldn’t hurt anything like the pain of losing both his knees.
Chris went back to the car. No one was hanging about and he carefully reversed the car into the front of the lock-up. He had emptied the boot earlier apart from a pile of newspapers he’d put in there to support the delicate package. Now he carefully lowered the case into the bed, holding his breath just a little. He reached up for the lid of the boot and gently pulled it down, and with his heart in his mouth, pressed it home. It shut with a firm click, a bit too firm for Chris, who almost passed out waiting to see if sweet Jesus would be the next to ask him if he fancied a quick one. It’d be a quick one because they’d just have to sort out the paperwork upstairs before showing him the door. They’d soon be informing him that unfortunately there wasn’t a reservation in the main house and he’d be staying in the basement for the duration.
There was only the same eerie silence in the empty street. Now was not the moment he would get passing acquaintance of his Maker after all.
Next he turned the key and pulled the car gently forward out of the garage. He stopped, opened the door and slid out. He saw the Playboys and nabbed them dropping them on the seat next to him. Joosy wouldn’t mind. He got lonely these days and there was room in her affections to allow a bevy of gorgeous beauties a free ride as well.
Man in the station
As they arrived at Belfast Central a gaggle of Japanese tourists were spilling out. Large toothy grins, ubiquitous black hair and sunglasses snapping everything in sight, the odd Jap rebel who’d dyed their hair brown. Why??? There was always one, Chris thought with 5% of his mind while the other 95 assessed the point of maximum impact to leave the car.
A security barrier appeared out of nowhere as he got nearer the entrance to the station. RUC manned it, scanning the faces in the cars going through. One car had been taken aside and a couple of RUC were examining it underneath with mirror devices. Chris hoped to Christ they didn’t give his that treatment. He hadn’t bothered strapping it underneath he’d just slapped it in the boot. “Here boys! Just take a look why don’tcha?” He kept his mouth shut though. Anyway lazy bastards weren’t checking everyone and he had some ID on him from Dr P anyway. He hoped to God it was better than his usual standard.
He hardly dared breath now but amazingly they waved him through when he flashed the railway staff pass. He’d lowered the sun visor with the car pass on it too. Eeijets.
The staff car park was ahead and he pulled into a space near the station exit. As he opened the car a large RUC walked over. “I haven’t seen you around here before, son. Why would that be?” Chris sneaked a look at his watch and saw he had 30 minutes to get the hell out of there. He flashed his pass at the huge policeman who said “Where you from then?”
“I’m usually working down in Dublin but they’re talking about transferring me up here. I thought I’d look the place over… see if I fancied it, nodding at the station.” The policeman peered at him under the brim of his peaked hat like he was looking through the window of a hide on Lough Neagh. “What kind of work are you in then?”
“Mostly work on the rails, I’m a trackman going for leading trackman if I can get it.
Mind you I’m thinking I’ll enjoy the footie more up here too. The wife’s father’s Shelbourne through and through, but I’m looking for something better to watch up here. First Division” he spat on the ground to indicate his displeasure at the Shelbourne standard. “You a Linfield or Glentoran man?”
The RUC man stared at the babbling eeijet with a great deal of distaste for a moment and said “I’m for the oval ball”. Chris stared at him as he stalked off back to the security post about 70 yards away from the car, thinking “Well don’t bother hanging on to yours big boy, because where you’re going you’re not going to need them anymore.” That reminded him about the Playboys. He reached in the car and took the top 2 off the deck, pocketing them, locked the car just in case, and walked quickly into the station. No need to worry about losing those plates now. In about 30 minutes they’d be scattered all over Belfast and he’d be on the road back South.
He found the exit door at the other side of the station and flagged down a taxi. As it drew up he put his head through the window and said “You take me to Newry?” “Sure” said the Indian driver in a funny Irish brogue.
“If you step on it, there’s a twenty in it for you” holding one up peeled from his cash from Dr P. The driver smiled “Absolutely no problem”. 25 minutes now.
Both radios were on in the car, FM and taxi.
“Just one thing…”
“Sir?” worried for that 20 now.
“Keep the radios off pal I’ve a terrible hangover. Just can’t shake it”, holding his forehead.
“No worries” switching them both off sharpish.
A couple of lucky charms with arms and legs all over the place dangled from the mirror. Must be those Hindu gods giving him such certainty. Maybe he’s a Buddhist; maybe he’s a Prod. Who the hell knows? Either way, I’m doing him a favour.
The traffic was thick here Saturday afternoon in town. The taxi driver knew all the shortcuts, but they all seemed rammed today. A couple of police cars roared down a street crossing theirs, their sirens sounding crazily loud. Keystone Kops…. how do they get away with it, thought Chris. He sneaked a look at the watch guessing 5 to go. There were 4 minutes in fact – good guess. He closed his eyes. Soon they’d make it to the M1, through Stab City. He wouldn’t mind this time; they weren’t stopping. Once in Newry he knew he had a lift back to Rathfarnham; or so P had said.
They were moving and he drifted off with Alex Harvey singing Hot City Symphony in his head. With no idea how long it had been Chris was awakened by a huge elemental jolt that swerved the taxi massively off the straight. He swore the windscreen bellied in, but amazingly it didn’t shatter.
The taxi came to a shuddering halt, and the driver turned around staring.
“What the hell…! Jesus Christ! Oh my God. It’s a bomb!”
Grabbing at his mobile, it slipped out of his hand like a bar of soap, and ended up amongst the pedals. Bringing it up with difficulty from the deep, he stabbed at the buttons, slapped it against the side of his face, and listened, staring wildly.
After an eternity, he stopped and dropped it on the seat. “Oh Sweet Mary Mother of God!” he moaned smacking his head against the steering wheel.
“Jesus, whatever is it man?” Chris reached for the door handle. But it was locked; at least until he’d paid his fare.
Without a word the driver turned the car round in microseconds. They were travelling back, the way they’d come.
“What are you doing man?!” panicked Chris. “I’ve got to get to Newry!”
“I have to see what happened. My wife and the bairns are in town today. No answer on her phone. Gotta make sure they’re ok!”
A fire engine raced across the crossing street nearly totalling the taxi. The driver, for some god forsaken, surely suicidal reason, swung the car into its wake Cars pulled over for the engine and the taxi in its slipstream. Chris prayed and prayed it didn’t slam its brakes on or they’d be in the front of the cab with the crew.
The air was acrid with smoke and the wheels crunched over glass and brick. Chris was staring round him, pretending he had no idea where they were, but he was absolutely certain he was back near the station, though he couldn’t see a thing. The blare of the fire engine’s siren battled in the air with the smoke. The taxi suddenly came to a banging halt after colliding with something. Chris slammed forward into the well of the taxi, banging his head against the partition. His head roared and felt like it would explode. Getting hold of the top of the driver’s seat back, he dragged himself up to see the back of the driver half in, and half out of the car. He was silent; embedded in the windscreen. “Can’t see you finding the wife now”, thought Chris; “unless there is a God.”
His door had banged open, loosened by the impact, and the brick dust was heavier than ever in the air. The sound of screaming, moaning, whimpering and wailing filtered through the sound of the sirens. It was now so loud he couldn’t understand why he hadn’t noticed it before. He stumbled out of the taxi and his shoulder was killing him; that damned collar bone had gone again, or maybe just a shoulder blade.
Holding himself carefully, he was almost knocked off his feet by a huge figure walking into him in the gloom. Big hands turned him round on the spot.
“You all right there boy?” Their eyes met. It was the RUC guy. Chris cursed his luck; “Thought you’d be a goner”. He said nothing.
“Come with me Mr Trackman” the policeman said. “I need to make sure you’re ok”.
Chris was powerless to do anything else, as superhuman forced moved him away from overturned smashed cars, huge chunks of smashed walls and metal towards a dark blue van where another prop forward grabbed him and held him.
“Don’t worry, son. We’re just getting the live ones together. There aren’t many, I can tell you”.
The 2 RUC men had a quick word together, and turned to look at Chris. He couldn’t hear what they were saying.
The prop came back. “Hallo sir. Y’all right? What’s the name?”
“Fitzpatrick. Martin Fitzpatrick. What the hell’s happened here?” The name was on his ID card.
“Now Mr Fitzpatrick, we just need to find out what you’ve seen today. Get in the car will you? It won’t take long. Haven’t even had time to get the incident room set up yet, so the PC will just nip ye down the station if that’s ok? I hope you’re up to it.”
Chris thought about running, but they had nothing on him he was sure, and to be honest he didn’t know if he was up to running just now with this damned shoulder. How could they know about him? Best to stick with it and he’d be away down South soon.
The car moved away from the maelstrom, more sirens and blue lights, and the air cleared to reveal the police station appearing in front of them.
The driver opened the door. Christ! Chris felt like he’d been locked up all afternoon.
“Just come with me sir and I’ll get someone to take a statement, check you over and have you on your way. You’ve been a very lucky man.”
They checked in at the desk and he was led into a side room. “Be with you shortly sir, I’ll just get the paperwork”. Chris sat down at a table. He wasn’t worried. They’d fill in some forms and he’d be out of there soon.
It seemed even hotter inside, than it had been out on the street. The police were all in short sleeves. No windows were open anywhere. Chris got up, took off his jacket and threw it on a chair near the door. As he sat down again, the door opened and the RUC man came back in the room with a sheaf of papers. The door opened and another man brought in yet another small piece of paper, with black biro writing on it. The door closed loudly behind him.
“Now just a few papers to fill in. Bloody red tape eh? I’m PC Kelly by the way.”
“Aye must be a pain for you fellas. I’m feeling real bad with this shoulder an’ all, so if we could just hurry it up now I’d be really grateful.”
“Easy tiger. We’ll be as quick as we can.”
Fitzpatrick gave his statement, stating his address as 59 Charles Street, Sligo a “safe” house P. told them to use in these kind of eventualities. Chris’ “parents” would back his story up. It tied in with his railway ID card. He explained why he was in the North, the same story he’d given the RUC guy after he’d parked the car.
“All right if we just take a few samples from you sir” looking keenly at Chris.
“Am I under suspicion or what? You said this was just to see if I knew anything that might help. I’m feeling terrible rough. Couldn’t I come back?”
“OK OK. I’ll get you to the hospital to get that shoulder looked at”
“No, I’ll be fine. My Ma’ll be worried about me. I said I’d be back this evening.”
“Can’t see you getting back to Sligo tonight with that bad shoulder you’ve got there. Can you?”
“I’ll get someone to drive you over to the hospital and they can assess you properly.”
Chris gave in. Once he was at the hospital he could slide out through a door. He stood up and went for his jacket but it was gone.
“Hey, what happened to my coat? Some thieving RUC bastard’s stolen it!”
“One of the officers must have taken it to hang it up somewhere for you. Now isn’t that nice of him? It’ll be quite safe with us.”
The door opened and a policewoman stepped in. Her colleague walked over to her, more whispering and they both left.
Chris wiped his hands on his shirt. They were clammy. What had the girl wanted? He was definitely worried now. It could have been anything, he tried to persuade himself. The door opened.
“Well Chris. We think you could help us some more. One of our constables, well he fancies himself as something special in the forensic line. Says he found some interesting fragments of stuff on your jacket.”
“If you didn’t notice the whole place was covered in shit after that explosion, there must be plenty of stuff on everyone!”
“Watch the language!”
Chris said nothing, chewing at his bottom lip. What stuff? How could there be anything? They were bluffing.
“Are you charging me? Am I free to go?”
Another officer walked in.
“All right son. I’m holding you pending us obtaining further evidence. OK George, take him down”. The RUC man put a hand on him, raising him off the seat. His shoulder was killing him. It was like taking candy off a baby.
They marched him out of the room and approaching the desk he recognised the profile of the man being held, by 2 RUC men, one on each side of him. It was the eyes that did it. Something of the Devil in them, that was for sure. It was Dr P. and Chris’ heart sunk in his chest. P. turned, looked and turned back again. There had been no recognition between them.
In the cells
They emptied Chris’s pockets and took away his shoelaces and belt at the desk when Dr P. had been led away. Down a corridor of pale green metal doors, their footsteps echoing, Chris was placed inside the last room on the right. Somewhere in the corridor a drunk sang, and occasionally Chris could hear someone sobbing quietly. Some namby pamby boy; get a grip he thought.
He threw himself down on the hard mattress and immediately regretted it as a rifle shot of pain swept through his frame from that damned shoulder. The door quickly slammed behind him, but he never heard it. He’d passed out.
Light was breaking when they came for him again. Nothing was said. They dragged him off the bed and out of the door, down the corridor and back into another featureless interview room. A new man sat the table. He looked tall and rangy with sandy hair, disappearing at the crown. He stared at some papers and didn’t look up.
“Now then son. My name’s Inspector Rafferty. Why don’t you sit down I’ve just a few questions to ask you”.
Looking at Chris now, he stared at him out of malevolent blue eyes.
“We’ve been looking at your jacket.”
Chris stared at him. “And?”
The policeman leapt up from his chair and threw his face into the suspect’s shouting now “And? And? Now why don’t you tell me Chris. Just what have you been up to?”
“I’m Martin. You’ve got the wrong fella. You can’t pin anything on me. I haven’t done anything. I’m just up here from Sligo looking the railway over. I’m getting a job there”
He moved away from Chris and started pacing the room “Not now you’re not boy. Your name’s Chris Connolly and you’re from Rathfarnham. You’re not going back there for a very long time. In fact you’re going away for a very long time. And I wouldn’t want to be you when the Provos get to you in Crumlin Road. There’s going to be some very angry husbands and fathers after after some vengeance after what you did at the station. 127 men, women and children so far, Chris, and the number’s rising.”
“You can’t pin that on me. I’m just as much a victim as anybody there. I was just going to look the place over …”
“Don’t say that again. I know and you know you’re talking through your arse son!”
“We took a look at your jacket. For a start off there’s a brown envelope with £400 in it. We took the fingerprints off that and found you weren’t the only person to handle it. And we know who the other person is. In fact we’re holding him now. And we also found traces of explosives on it. It’s amazing how a bomber’s clothing can tell tales on them. When you handle explosives minute traces of it find their way into the top pocket or a fold. They always give the game away son.”
Chris didn’t say anything. Of course he cursed himself for being so stupid as to leave that money in his jacket.
“Anyone who was at the station’d be covered in bits of explosive and that envelope’s nothing to do with me. I found it. I was going to hand it in at the railway police office!”
“But” ignoring what Chris had said and not even looking at him, Rafferty paced the room and went on “you’re not the most important item we have in this station now. We’re after someone a lot nearer the top of the tree than you are. “Doctor” Padraig O’Connell, IRA Explosives Officer. That’s who we’re after now. We might be able to swing a deal if you could help us.”
“No way! I’d be dead meat as soon as I stepped out of here.”
“Listen boyo. Take your chances because if you don’t you’ll be dead meat in Crumlin Road. At least you’ve a chance my way. You can go back to the cell and think about it.”
Sweeney opened the door, put his head round and spoke to a constable. Chris was taken back to the same holding cell and thrown through the door. Doors opened, keys turned, grating bolts scraped through narrow apertures, and clanged shut. He fell asleep, and was wakened by a tray put into the cell by a burly policeman. He looked at it, and took a bit but couldn’t face eating much at all. The weak light filtering though the small window high up faded and night came. He thought he was asleep but sometime later when all light had gone, the door was opened and he was led back up the corridor. He couldn’t face more of this. He hated to admit it but that bastard Sweeney was right. He’d give P. to them. He wouldn’t last 2 minutes in Crumlin Road Prison.
Sometime later, Sweeney came back into the room after a break with a mug of builder’s (no, must be policeman’s) tea in a chipped mug.
“OK Chris. I’ve spoken to the Chief Inspector. You turn Queen’s Evidence against Dr P. and we’ll give you a new identity and put you on a witness protection scheme. Australia you said… no wonder that place has such a terrible reputation. Full of shits like you…”
Chris said nothing. He was led back to the cell. The night seemed endless. He awoke sometime in the night. Someone was shouting and banging rythmically on a door, maybe they were kicking it. No one came to sort it out. Eventually the protest died down and he drifted off again. In the morning a policeman brought a tray into the cell. Chris tried talking to him but the policeman blanked him. Sometime later Chris was allowed out of the cell for 30 minutes to walk about in a cramped quad outside the cells. He looked up at the sunshine high up in a square bounded by concrete. The thin sound of traffic somewhere outside slipped into the quad. Chris kicked the walls fitfully. There was no way out of this situation. He’d never felt so low. And then he remembered Joosy… he’d give anything to have her lick his face!
The days passed like water dripping from a tap. Unsteadily, with no promise whatsoever. One day a guard brought him a solicitor and they spoke about his impending witness appearance. A few long days later, Chris appeared at Belfast Crown Court for Padraig O’Connell’s hearing. He gave the necessary statements to the officers of the Court and the Judge as a protected witness. As he left the witness box Dr P. was also led away and shouted as he was taken down the stairs by 2 officers,” You’re a dead man Connolly! A dead man!”
The police sorted out the details of Chris’ protection. They changed his appearance and provided him with the necessary to start a new life in some god forsaken spot called Point Stewart, near Darwin. He wondered which would get him first, the IRA or the crocs.
At the airport he was waiting at the Quantas check-in desk when a guy looking very like Charlie Flannery approached him. He wasn’t sure it was Charlie. He seemed to have lost a ton of weight and his eyes were dark underneath. He looked at Chris.
“I’d know you anywhere Chris Connell. ”
“I’m sorry, do I know you? I’m just returning to Australia… over here on holiday…” Just as he said it Flannery handed him a photograph. “Maybe this’ll jog your memory Chris.” It was a picture of Mrs Flannery lying twisted on the pavement. Her dress was torn off her. He only just recognised her because half of her face was almost burned away. Across her lap was the remains of a dog, its coat matted with dark blood. It was Joosy. “They were just getting a taxi at the station.” His voice faltered, “She was just up for the weekend to her sister’s in Ormeau Park. She took Joosy to give her a little holiday.”
As Chris opened his mouth to speak, Flannery took the gun out of his pocket and aimed it at Chris. The picture fell out of his hand as he keeled over backwards striking his head on the desk. The Quantas girl had started high pitched screaming just before part of the contents of Chris’ brain cavity hit her beautifully clean uniform.
Then Flannery pointed the gun at himself and fired.
© 2009 adewils