Authors: Ken Bruen
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Thrillers, #Crime
The Magdalen Martyrs
The Killing of the Tinkers
Funeral: Tales of Irish Morbidities
Shades of Gracve
Sherry and Other Stories
Time of Serena-May/Upon the Third Class
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
an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Copyright © 2011 by Ken Bruen
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Published simultaneously in Canada
Printed in the United States of America
The Mysterious Press
an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
New York, NY 10003
Distributed by Publishers Group West
11 12 13 1410 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To Philip Spitzer, agent extraordinaire
Lukas Ortiz, mi hermano
Joel Gotler, the wizard
Renate Hutton, who, wonderfully, buys the books
He drained the last of the pint, thought,
“Christ, that was good.”
But he’d had two alongside the batter of pints
already. Primarily, he needed a cig. That tipped the
balance. He could already feel the first hit of
ferocious nicotine. He moved from his stool,
brushed the dandruff from his jacket. Normally he
didn’t notice it but he’d caught sight of himself in
the old mirror with the slogan,
“My Goodness, My Guinness.”
And a frazzled comic zookeeper chasing a pelican
with pints of the black in his beak. Nearly made
him smile; you just didn’t see those ancient slogans
anymore. More’s the Irish pity. He cursed anew
those damn black jackets that showed up every
fleck of white. Like stranded drops of snow. He
Got a few muttered,
No warmth though.
Fecking media had given his profession the taint of
leprosy. Grudgingly, he conceded the fact he hadn’t
paid for any of his drinks the whole evening might
be a factor.
“Bad cess to ye.”
Outside, he stared at the church. Saint Nicholas’s.
One of the two Protestant outfits in the city and,
they claimed, some hoofmarks inside the door
were made by Christopher Columbus before he set
sail to find the New World. He figured they needed
all the lures they could conjure. He got out his pack
of Major, the strongest Irish cigarette, none of the
Marlboro Light shite for him. Smoke or fuck off .
He wouldn’t be surprised if the decaffeinated tea
rumor was true.
Flicked his Bic.
Got the first lethal drags of smoke into his starved
When the blow came to the back of his skull.
He dropped the cig, nearly fell. Then a massive
kick to his stomach did drop him to his knees. The
mix of Jameson and Guinness spewed forth like a
nervous confession. He heard,
“Fucking bastard’s spewing.”
Another forceful kick laid him flat on his back. He
could barely see, had the mad thought,
“Nothing good happens outside a Prod church.”
He could barely see from pain but he registered
Was one a girl? He heard,
“He’s wearing his dog collar.”
And it was ripped from his neck with the chant of
A hand in his jacket, ripping out his wallet.
Holding it up for the others to see, a male voice
“He’s got a photo in here.”
“Who is it then?
“Some old cunt.”
He made the drastic mistake of trying to get up,
surely the young people still had respect?
The next kick broke his nose.
He fell back.
The girl stood over him, sneered,
“Trying to see up my skirt, yah pervert.”
And shredded the photo into his face, paused,
“Nearly forgot this.”
Spat in his face.
“Who’s for a pint then?”
As they moved away, he allowed himself a tiny
amount of hope till one hesitated, came back, and
with slow and deadly aim, kicked him in the side
of his head, laughed,
“Forgive me Father, for
A light rain began to fall, drenching what remained
of his mother’s torn photo. She’d always wanted
him to be a priest. As his eyes rolled back into his
head, he muttered,
“Top of the world, Ma.”
A headstone is but a slab of granite
lashed by an indiff erent wind.
Things were looking up. Late October had brought
a week of Indian summer. Be it global warming,
the world going to hell?
We grabbed it while it lasted.
Eyre Square, people lying out in the sunshine. Ice
cream vendors peddling slush at five euros a pop.
The country had, on a second referendum, said
to the Lisbon Treaty. We took that for what it was,
…………………………………..a brief stay from
I was coming off the worst case of my bedraggled
career. Literally, a brush with the devil. I muttered,
“Never, never going down that dark path again.”
Whatever it was,
it had shaken me to the core. I still kept the lights
on in the wee hours. In my apartment in, get this,
Who said God had no sense of the ridiculous?
To add bemusement to bafflement, I met a woman.
After the devil, I’d gone to London on one of those
late deal Internet offers. Met Laura. An American,
aged forty-two, and, to me, gorgeous.
She made my heart skip a beat. She was a writer of
crime fiction. At my most cynical, I thought I was
simply material for her next book. A broken-down
Irish PI, with a limp and a hearing aid.
Yeah, that would fly.
Did I care?
Did I fuck?
She liked me.
I grabbed that like the last beads of the rosary. She
had rented a house in Notting Hill and was due to
come and stay with me for a week. But hedging our
collective bets, we went to Paris for five days, see
if there was any real substance in what we thought
we had. February in that wondrous city. Should
have been cold and bitter.
Such Gods there are gave us the Moveable Feast.
Glorious freak spring weather. We had a lovely
hotel close to the Irish Institute and were but a
Bonjour from the Luxembourg Gardens, where we
spent most of our time. I was nervous as a cat, so
long since I’d been in a bed with a woman, a
woman I hadn’t paid for, that is. My scarred body,
I dreaded she would be repulsed by it. The
opposite, she seemed to embrace my hurt and pain.
Whispered as she ran her fingers along one lengthy
“No more beatings Jack, OK?”
Worked for me.
In Hemingway’s beautiful memoir, pastiche, he
writes of the miraculous time he and Hadley had
and how they felt it would last forever. And . . .
wood was all around them and he never touched it
for luck. I said that to Laura, she answered,
“You touched my heart, that’s all the luck we
Would it were so.
I’d sworn that despite Paris and their customs,
you’d never catch me eating food in the park, I’d
never be that uninhibited to grab a French roll and
eat it as I lay on the grass. I did, loved it, a bottle
of Nuits- Saint-Georges, the French amazing
sandwiches, wedges of cheese, the almost warm
sunshine, and Laura. Jesus, it was heaven. I even
rolled up my shirtsleeves. Made her laugh out
loud, she said,
“My God, you heathen you.”
We did all the tourist crap and relished it. Got our
photograph taken on Boulevard Saint Michel. I
carry the photo in my wallet and never, never now
look at it. I can’t. But it’s there, like the blessing I
once believed I’d be granted. Went to the Louvre
and again made her laugh when I said the Mona
Lisa was little more than a postage stamp.
In Montmartre on the second-to-last day of our