Authors: Ken Bruen
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Thrillers, #Crime
Stood there for a moment, thinking,
“If I continued to dig the hole, I was going to need
the headstone sooner than expected.”
Always do sober what you said
you’d do drunk.
That will keep your mouth shut.
I walked down Quay Street, stepped into Café Du
Journal. Real Irish place, right?
I half hoped I’d run into Vinny from Charlie
Byrne’s Bookshop but, no, the place was half
empty. I got a corner table, old cop habit, so you
can see who’s coming at you. Ordered a double
espresso, a large Danish. I had no appetite but
figured it would soak up the inevitable Jay. The
sugar rush wouldn’t hurt either. Far end of the café
was a Goth girl. I’ve always had a soft spot for
them. They are harmless, do their gig, despite
ridicule, and carry a continuous torch for The
I admire tenacity.
The girl, beneath the white makeup, the black eye
shadow, black lipstick, couldn’t have been more
than nineteen. She was staring right back at me.
She was pretty, in a sort of wounded way; even the
Goth stuff couldn’t quite hide that. Her eyes, a
deep brown, were boring into mine, so I asked,
“Help you with something?”
She moved from her table, took the seat opposite
me, and, when she spoke, I noticed the stud in her
tongue. How do they eat with that?
Maybe they don’t.
“You don’t know me.”
“Any reason why I should?”
Allowing a hint of force in there. If she was here to
bust my balls, she’d chosen the right fucking day
and the right fucking time to try it.
Her accent was the new cultivated Irish that spoke
and fuck you.
As alien to me as a Brit.
“You put my brother in the mental hospital.”
As lines go, it’s a showstopper.
She took my spoon, asked,
Cut a corner of my Danish, said,
“I like sweet things.”
She’d thrown me. The only person I knew for sure
I’d put in the home for the bewildered was my own
Years ago, a young man had been beheading
swans. I’d nailed him and, yeah, he came from a
family, meaning cash and clout. No jail time,
sent to a hospital. She asked,
“Coming back dude? The booze hasn’t destroyed
all the brain cells?”
I’d met most brands of psychos during my career
as a half-arsed investigator. They all shared the
same total lack of empathy. Not so much they
lacked a human element, more like they were a
whole other species. A highly lethal one. But that
kid, he’d used a samurai sword to decapitate the
swans. What I most recalled was the absolute glee
in his eyes. He didn’t so much enjoy his deeds as
revel in them. I’d used a stun gun to knock him
back into the water. The swans had gone for his
eyes. He lost one. Every fiber of my being had
been to let him drown. But I’d dragged him out. I’d
hoped never to see the creep again.
Years later, he’d turned up,
he told me.
The medicine hadn’t been invented to rewire his
kind. They simply changed their act. The deadly
impulse even more honed and ferocious than ever.
He’d then vanished from my radar. I always knew
he was out there and I was unfinished business. I
“I remember him; he told me he was a student.”
She gave me a look of pure defiance, said,
“He got his degree.”
I couldn’t resist, said,
“Long as it wasn’t as a vet.”
She pushed the Danish back, said,
I wanted to say,
“He was born missing,” but went with
“And I should care………….why?”
“I want you to find him.”
I laughed, said,
“I’m the very last person he’d want on his case.
You never gave me your name.”
Her whole body language was screaming that she
had ammunition. She said,
I signaled to the waitress for the bill, said,
“Your family as I recall has lots of resources, and
at last count, there are nine professional
investigators in the city. They’d be glad to take
your money. Me, I couldn’t give a rat’s arse what
happens to your whacko brother.”
I paid the bill, stood up, and was turning to leave
when she near whispered,
“I have something you want, Taylor.”
I shook my head, had already reached the door
when she hissed,
“I know what happened to the priest,”
“and the retard.”
Stopped me. But she was up and brushing past me,
I went after her.
Pursuing a young girl on the busiest street in
Galway. My mobile shrilled, I said,
Pulled it from my jacket. Bethany had reached
McDonagh’s Fish ’n’ Chip shop, the bottom of
Quay Street. Christ, that girl could move. She
turned, stared back at me, then ever so elegantly,
gave me the finger. She disappeared among the
horde of tourists being off-loaded from a coach.
I answered the mobile, heard,
“Jack, it’s Stewart.”
“Where are you?”
“The bottom of Quay Street, the fuck does it matter
where I am?”
He wasn’t fazed, he’d heard it too often, asked,
“I’m at the Meyrick, can you come? We need to
I said OK and rang off . The Meyrick used to be
the Great Southern Hotel. It was never great but it
was one more fading landmark on the city’s
landscape. I’ve always had a sneaking fondness for
it, mainly as they allow me in. It had moved further
up the ladder in its new incarnation. And me, I just
I headed up Shop Street, marveling at the new
outlets, a new one every day. The street was
ablaze with buskers, mimes, panhandlers, and the
dying remnants of a drinking school. I stopped
outside the GBC Café. The name had come to me.
Bethany’s brother broke the surface of my
The last time I’d met him, he’d been charm
personified. You’d think he’d have a hard-on for
me. But no, despite his eye loss, his incarceration
in the mental hospital, you’d swear I was his best
friend. Did he, as you’d expect, lacerate me, berate
me for destroying his life?
He thanked me!
I shit thee not.
Said, and I quote,
“Thanks to you, Jack Taylor, I’ve turned my life
around. I have great plans for my future.”
He was the real McCoy, a full-blown psycho, the
out and full-focused ultimate predator, and he’d
learnt to hide in plain sight. He could mimic human
behavior to a degree of charm that probably fooled
most people. A good-looking kid, blond hair
falling into his remaining eye. The new artificial
one was, no doubt, the best money could buy, but
disconcerting in its stillness.
His good eye couldn’t quite disguise what lay
beneath, and worse, he knew I knew.
But he’d rattled on, flush with affability and
studied warmth. I hadn’t seen him since but I knew,
one day, he’d show, and so here he was again in
my life. Whatever the gig, it wouldn’t be good.
How could it, with a stone killer just biding his
The Meyrick Hotel lies at the bottom of Eyre
Square and the new renovations should have made
it imposing. All that solid granite, the iron railings,
but to me it was still the hotel of my youth. I
pushed through the freshly polished glass door,
saw Stewart in the lounge. A white porcelain
teapot, matching cups before him. Decaffeinated or
herbal tea no doubt. He stood up on seeing me.
Dressed in an Armani suit, one of those suits that
whispered to you,
“You ain’t never going to be able to afford this.”
He was the personification of the new Irish: sleek,
smug, self-contained. I felt like his bedraggled
grandfather. We sat, he offered me some of the
shite stuff he was drinking, and I gave him the look.
He reached in the pocket of the immaculate suit,
produced a small package, said,
“This came in the post.”
His surprise was evident so I said,
“I got one too.”
He glanced at the package, said,
I gave a short laugh, said,
“That’s the point.”
He waited, apparently believing I had an answer.
I didn’t. Finally, he tried,
“Would it be some kind of Halloween prank?”
“Trick or threat?”
I told him about Ronan Wall’s sister and her
parting shot about Father Malachy. Stewart was
edgy. He liked patterns, things that made sense,
events he could Zen-control. His mobile shrilled
and he checked the screen, said,
“I have to take this Jack.”
Like I gave a fuck?
While he talked, I played with ordering a large
Jay, decided the distaste on Stewart’s face wasn’t
worth the hassle. He finished the call, said,
“Sorry about that, a new venture.”
He’d been a dope dealer, got busted, did a long
jail stretch, and since then I knew he was involved
in all sorts of business gigs. He never shared
details but was always awash in cash. For once,
“What is it?”
He grimaced, said,
“You’re going to laugh.”
“I could do with a decent laugh.”
He flexed his fingers, then,
He was right, I laughed. Galway already had two
of them, selling:
And all the assorted paraphernalia of a doper. A
crazy legal loophole allowed all sorts of illegal
highs to be purchased. How fitting that a convicted
ex-dealer would get a slice of the action.
I shook my head and he asked,
I stood up, said,
“No, I think it’s brilliant.”
He came as close to a plea as his nature allowed,
“What about the headstone?”
“You’ll make a killing.”
Putting headstones out of my mind, I figured I’d
better begin my search for the rogue priest.
Where would a renegade cleric with stolen money
I answered with,
“As far as possible.”
But maybe not.
Back to basics, use my feet. I trudged around the
town, showing his photo. It’s a given. You do this
kind of tedious work, you’re on a hiding to nothing.
People will give you answers. It’s Ireland, no one
is ever . . . ever going to simply say
Would that they could but they can’t. Mostly they
What’s he done?
What’s in it for me?”
And of course, lots of misinformation. You had to
follow that shite anyway. Mostly what you got was
tired. My limp ached. I even did a Google search.
Nope. He had really flown under the radar.
Eventually, I had to phone Gabriel, give him my
report. A very short one. I played with the idea of
stringing him along, saying I had a definite lead.
When I called him, his clipped sarcastic tone
changed that idea.
I hoped he’d fire me. I never wanted to have to
listen to this sanctimonious gob-shite again.
I’d begun the call with,
“It’s Jack Taylor.”
“I know that.”
Great start but I tried,
“I’ve been tracking down every avenue of
Jesus, I disliked this bollix, said,
let it hang for max impact, then,
“I got nothing.”
Silence and an ominous one.
Then he ordered,
“Stay on it.”
Notice the lack of……..
. I fucking did, said,
“Are you deaf, Taylor?”
Well actually, yes, in one ear, but didn’t feel this