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Authors: Adrian McKinty

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Hidden River (Five Star Paperback)

BOOK: Hidden River (Five Star Paperback)
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Hidden River (Five Star Paperback)

Adrian McKinty

Scotland (2015)

Denver, Colorado: a pretty, clever young girl working for an
environmental charity, Victoria Patawasti is sleeping peacefully,
unaware that she has barely an hour to live. As her killer slips into
her apartment and draws a revolver in the darkness, Alex Lawson wakes up
in Belfast. Twenty-four, sickly, and struggling to kick his heroin
habit after a disastrous six-month stint in the drug squad of the
Northern Ireland police force, Alex badly needs a chance to get back on
track. Victoria was his high school love, and when he finds out she has
been murdered, he volunteers to help Victoria?s family hunt down the
killer. But once in Colorado, Alex has a fight on his hands: wanted by
both the Colorado cops and the Ulster police, and uncovering corruption
at the highest levels of government, he can solve the case only if he
manages to stay alive. 

Adrian McKinty
was born and grew up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, at the height of the Troubles. He studied politics at Oxford University and after a failed law career he moved to New York City in the early 1990s. He found work as a security guard, postman, door-to-door salesman, construction worker, barman, rugby coach, book-store clerk and librarian. He now lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter.

Serpent’s Tail also publishes Adrian McKinty’s
Dead I Well May Be
and
The Dead Yard
.

Praise for
Hidden River

“[A] terrific read… this is a strong, non-stop story, with attractive characters and fine writing”
Morning Star

“This is genuinely hard to put down until its conclusion is reached”
Buzz

“Fast-paced thriller… McKinty’s short, sharp delivery manages to make
Hidden River
an engaging read”
Big Issue

“From an impressive debut to a rock-solid second, neither will disappoint and I am seriously looking forward to number three”
The Barcelona Review

“A dark, lyrical and gripping voice that will go far”
The List

Praise for
Dead I Well May Be

“A darkly thrilling tale of the New York streets with all the hard-boiled charm of Chandler and the down and dirty authenticity of closing time… Evocative dialogue, an acute sense of place and a sardonic sense of humour make McKinty one to watch” Maxim Jakubowski,
Guardian

“The story is soaked in the holy trinity of the noir thriller – betrayal, money and murder – but seen through here with a panache and political awareness that gives
Dead I Well May Be
a keen edge over its rivals”
Big Issue

“Adrian McKinty’s main skill is in cleverly managing to evoke someone rising through the ranks and wreaking bloody revenge while making it all seem like an event that could happen to any decent, hardworking Irish chap. A dark, lyrical and gripping voice that will go far”
The List

“A roller coaster of highs and lows, light humour and dark deeds… Once you step into
Hidden River
, the powerful undercurrent of McKinty’s talent will swiftly drag you away. Let’s hope this author does not slow down anytime soon”
Irish Examiner

“Adrian McKinty is a big new talent – for storytelling, for dialogue and for creating believable characters…
Dead I Well May Be
is a riveting story of revenge and marks the arrival of a distinctive fresh voice” Susanna Yager,
Sunday Telegraph

“A pacy, assured and thoroughly engaging debut… this is a hard-boiled crime story written by a gifted man with poetry coursing through his veins and thrilling writing dripping from his fingertips”
Sunday Independent


Dead I Well May Be
is a startling, dark poem of a thriller that takes you to the heart of New York City’s most bloody era. McKinty writes with élan, and his dialogue is as hard and true as the streets. His hero’s quest for vengeance and redemption kept me reading into the loneliest hours of the night. McKinty is the real deal” Thomas Kelly, author of
The Rackets
and
Payback

“McKinty’s Michael Forsythe is a crook, a deviant, a lover, a fighter, and a thinker. His Irish-tough language of isolation and longing makes us love and trust him despite his oh-so-great and violent flaws. When you finish this book you just might wish you’d lived the life in its pages, and thought its thoughts, both horrible and sublime” Anthony Swofford, author of
Jarhead

“McKinty is a cross between Mickey Spillane and Damon Runyon – the toughest, the best. Beware of McKinty” Frank McCourt

H
IDDEN
R
IVER

H
IDDEN
R
IVER

ADRIAN McKINTY

A complete catalogue record for this book can be obtained from the British Library on request

The right of Adrian McKinty to be identified as the author of this workhas been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Copyright © 2004 by Adrian McKinty

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, dead or alive, is coincidental and not intended by the author

First published in the USA by Scribner, New York in 2004

First published in the UK in 2005 by Serpent’s Tail, an imprint of Profile Books Ltd

3 Holford Yard

Bevin Way

London WC1X 9HD

www.serpentstail.com

ISBN: 978 1 84765 512 7

O Arjuna. Why give in to this shameful weakness? You who would be the terror of thine enemies.

—Bhagavad Gita 2:3

1: CREATOR, SUSTAINER, DESTROYER

S
even time zones west of Belfast the murdered girl was alive yet and well. She was confident, popular, young and clever—this last virtue was going to be the death of her.

That and a slug from a .22.

She lay snug in the groove of the futon mattress. Over her: a cotton sheet and a fleece blanket. The fan on for noise. The humidifier for moisture. The heat in the middle of the thermostat. She was comfortable, as comfortable as one could be in this bed, in this room, in this building, in this town.

I know all this because I read the police report.

Perhaps the humidifier cast off a little light that illuminated her face. An interesting face. Imperious, marked, beautiful. Of good background, of good stock. Actually—and although she said it was unimportant—of good caste. She had dark eyes and dark hair. An aristocrat, you might have said, or someone who could play the archetypal rich girl who disdains and then ultimately falls for the poor but handsome boy in the silliest of Hindi films.

Victoria Patawasti was clever but even the cleverest can’t be experts at all things. The encryption software for her computer diary had said that the FBI’s Cray supercomputers would take years of processing time to break her password; all that she wrote would be safe, certainly from office gossips or other ne’er-do-wells. Of course, the encryption software meant nothing if the password wasn’t secure. But who would ever think of a long word like
Carrickfergus
—the small town where she’d grown up, in Ireland.

She had confided everything to her computer diary: her thoughts, her ideas, her suspicions. Suspicions. What a big word. Probably nothing she should worry about. Klimmer had been right. Not the sort of thing that should keep her up at night.

Not the sort of thing that would get her killed.

She lived in Denver, where the mountains met the plains in the middle of the continent and where seemingly all climatic conditions were possible within one twenty-four-hour period. She hailed from a place where the moderating currents of the Gulf Stream turned every day into a hazy rain, warm and temperate, even in winter. A place of fog and sea spray and men with flat caps; cows, sheep, stone walls, muck, slurry, more rain. The weather as predictable as bad news.

Even where her grandparents lived, in Allahabad, India, on the rolling brown plain along the Ganges, it wasn’t hard to guess what the day would be like. Hot and dry nine months a year, hot and wet three. No mystery. Here, though, things were different. The mountains brought down snow and the deserts kicked up sand and the wide expanse of prairie could conjure up just about anything. They’d had drought for years, drought punctuated by big storms. Drive a few hours east and apparently a tornado could transport you to the wonderful land of Oz. Yes, here weather was weather, and thunderstorms and ball lightning and rains of frogs all seemed as likely to occur as anything else.

Perhaps she woke for a time. She told her mother she woke five or six times a night, having never really adapted to the wooden futon bed or the altitude or the aridity. Tonight it would actually be good that she was awake, she had only had about thirty minutes of consciousness left. Better to make the most of it.

She could have read the book next to her bed. Kerouac. Or she could have pulled on the toggle on the furry musical sheep that Hans Klimmer had given her. It played “Beautiful Dreamer” over and over and as it slowed and stopped perhaps she yawned and threw it on the floor.

Or maybe she looked out the window. She’d be surprised. A blizzard. She couldn’t have been expecting that in June.

Monday, June 5, 1995, two-thirty Mountain Time…

At precisely the same moment, it was raining in Belfast, and the man who would eventually find Victoria’s killer was not yet up.

Me.

I was half awake in a boat I’d broken into at Carrickfergus Marina, a girl with me whom I’d met in Dolan’s the night before.

I was twenty-four, underweight, bearded, pale and sickly, with black curly hair that badly needed a cut. The girl: pretty, redheaded, skinny, and (unknown to me) only seventeen, at Carrickfergus Grammar School, a prefect, a member of the choir and scripture union but rebelling and well on her way to dropping out, failing her A levels, moving to Dublin and becoming a singer/model/prostitute/junkie. Breaking and entering and plying her with stolen gin would do nothing to alter the course of this trajectory.

And yet it was not such an illogical leap that, two weeks later, I’d be on my way west to the United States to investigate a murder that confused the local police. No, it wasn’t so strange because in fact I’d been a detective for the Royal Ulster Constabulary—Northern Ireland’s police force. A copper for six years, a detective for three of those and a DC/DS for my last six months on the force. Those last six months the key to my current geographical, moral, physical, and spiritual condition.

Detective Constable/Drug Squad.

The girl rolled over sleepily in the bunk, went back to sleep. I stroked my beard and lit the remains of her joint. I never smoked pot, never, it made you stupid. My drug of choice…

But that’s another story. Well, part of this one, but we’ll get to that.

Still raining. Cold. Pissing down.

The boat stank. Why a boat? I couldn’t go home—my father, retired from teaching math, always bloody there. And her house was out of the question. The marina had an emergency turnstile locked with a Yale standard. Easy. You break in and you find a boat that looks expensive. The bunks were narrow, though, and there was no way to get warm unless you turned on the power on the dock but that would set off a light in the marina office. Suffer for your sin.

I had things to do but the rain had hypnotized me into apathy. I slid out of the bunk and went along the passage to the head. For it to work properly, you had to turn a cistern on, piss, pump it out, and turn it off again. A lot of effort. I went down there in my boxers, T-shirt, jacket. Trailing a duvet. Shivering. Smoking. A notice on the wall: “Trust in God and keep your bowels clean—Cromwell.” I regarded it for some time. Was it supposed to be funny? My brain felt addled.

I looked out through the thick glass. Pissing was right. The sort of gray, heavy downpour chief constables pray for during riot season. Not that I cared about it, not anymore. Nope, all over, done with. I was no longer part of the solution but had migrated to become part of the problem. I smiled.

I tugged the blanket around me. I smoked and rested my head against the bog wall. Something troubled me still. Something I didn’t want to forget. I searched my memory and then the jacket pocket, but neither place revealed its mystery.

Sleep on it, I told myself.

I got up and walked to the chart table. I found the gin bottle and a square of Cadbury’s chocolate from the night before. I threw the square in my mouth. Stale. I reached down again, found some fags, and lit one. Climbed in the bunk next to the girl.

Filthy habit, smoking in bed, for God’s sake. I took a few puffs, coughed for half a minute, and added the cigarette to what I hoped was an ashtray lying down there.

I pulled the covers up over my head and kicked away a hot water bottle, icy and rubbery as a dead seal pup. I folded the duvet tighter. All now quiet—only the easing rain on the window ledge and a drip, drip, drip coming from off the mainmast and down the hatch. The girl woke, whimpered. I slept….

And as the sky above eastern Ulster started to clear, on another continent, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and a thousand miles into the Great Plains, a wide, suffocating blanket of snow had closed down the railways, the highways, and every other road to all but the hardiest of souls. Cops, night shift workers, emergency personnel, stranded drivers, or the horde of high-altitude insomniacs staring through their windows.

And, of course, Victoria Patawasti’s murderer.

Few vehicles moving, fewer people around, everywhere an eerie quiet.

Denver smothered in low clouds reflecting back the street and building lights, turning them sickly orange and neon red. Snow falling slantwise and hard but then diminishing as the pressure systems rotated around themselves in enormous anticlockwise ellipses. And in those moments of relative tranquillity, from high apartment windows came the peculiar sight of the snow falling upward, bobbing on heat thermals and heading into some icy purgatory in those awful clouds.

A truly impressive storm system that stretched from Canada all the way down into the Sangre de Cristos. Great swirls of low pressure that bounced off the Rockies and sucked up moisture from as far away as Puget Sound and the Gulf of California. The overnight man on the Weather Channel was dizzy with excitement. After a winter of drought, this was the biggest snowfall of the year. In fact, this was the biggest June storm since 1924, snow in six states, sixteen inches in Aspen, power outages in Utah, fourteen airports closed, all the east-west highways, America effectively cut in two, families trapped in cars, trucks overturned, El Niño, La Niña, Global Warming, Instability, the End Times, the Second Coming….

Not that it bothered Victoria’s killer.

No, you didn’t care, did you?

You had already murdered Alan Houghton up on Lookout Mountain.

And now it was three in the morning. Perfect. They say that that’s when the body is at its weakest. The storm had come out of the blue. But it wouldn’t matter. It would erase your footprints like a shaken Etch-A-Sketch. You probably liked the darkness, the low clouds, the fresh snow. The deciduous trees like scarecrows, the pine and spruce drenched in white. Trails on the path from people walking their dogs. Here and there a glimpse of the mountains. How long did you stand outside Victoria’s apartment building?

You must have come in by the fire exit next to the garage. The only entrance that did not have a security camera. What would you have done if some old lady had spotted you down there?

You’re going in late? Don’t I know you? You’re the

You wouldn’t hesitate. Jump down, rush her, kick the dog, take out the knife, slit her throat, knee drop on the dog, break its neck. That’s the sort of thing you didn’t want. Messy. Ugly. A whole night’s adventures and you wouldn’t even be in the building yet. And besides, you’d had quite the night already.

Absolutely no turning back now. Alan Houghton already dead. His body probably dumped in a quarry or under the extension of Interstate 70. What an effort that must have been for you, lifting his dead weight into the plastic sheeting in the trunk, driving through the snow, finding the trench you’d picked out yesterday. Necessary.

As was this.

Houghton had no proof of Charles’s involvement in the murder but once the smear got out there it wouldn’t go away. The bleeding had to stop. It had literally been millions of dollars over decades. If Charles was going to go anywhere, Houghton had to be silenced. And now with the first step taken, the job had to be finished. Oh, the surprise on his face. I’m sure he’d been expecting an envelope stuffed with benjamins….

The fire exit. You took out a magnet and greased it over the pass sensor. The light went green, the lock clicked. Easy as pie.

The door. A blast of heat. You rode the lift to the thirteenth floor.

Unlucky for some.

The apartment. You produced the copy of Victoria’s key that you’d had ample time to make. You turned the lock. You applied the bolt cutters of the Leatherman multitool to the security chain. The chain snapped. You listened for a sound. Nothing. You opened the door.

You went into the apartment.

It wasn’t your first time here.

It would be your last.

You closed the door behind you.

Smooth. Very smooth. You took out the revolver—hopefully that wouldn’t be necessary. You’d shot Alan far from anyone on Lookout Mountain. You’d probably met him there once before so that he wouldn’t be suspicious. But even a .22 would make noise. Still, if you had to use it again you would. A superb gun. Handmade by Beretta in Italy, “from CM to AM with love” engraved in gold on the butt. Incriminating, to say the least. They’d never find Houghton, but even if you didn’t have to use it on Victoria it would be safer to get rid of it.

You reached in your pocket and found Hector Martinez’s driver’s license. You dropped it near the door.

You took out the knife. Adjusted to the darkness.

The lights were off, but through the living room window you could see the storm had started up again. You walked across the living room. Opened the bedroom door. The humidifier glowed in the corner. The fan whirred. Victoria slept. So beautiful. Peaceful.

The knife glinted.

Victoria.

Breathing.

Closer.

Closer
.

Her golden neck exposed to the ambient light. Victoria’s carotid artery pulsing slightly. You gripped the knife tighter. A slash rather than a stab.

Closer. But something happened. A loud noise. Maybe you stood on something, a stuffed animal that moaned and played a bar of “Beautiful Dreamer.”

Victoria sat up, opened her mouth to scream. But didn’t scream. Instead maybe she smiled and said in a half question:

“Amber?”

The .22 flashed. A single bullet wiped out that pretty face forever.

* * *

I shivered. Suddenly woke. Looked around. The last of the rain drizzling down the portholes, weaving patterns and rivulets. The boat moving up and down against the dock. The halyards gently clanking against the metal mast.

“I’m going to be late for school,” the girl said.

“School or college?” I said.

“School.”

“Oh, God.”

“I told ya last night,” she said.

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Seventeen.”

“I could go to prison,” I groaned.

“Also for possession of cannabis resin, peddling controlled substances to a minor, criminal trespass, breaking and entering, theft, and a couple of other things,” the girl said, getting up and lowering herself onto the floor.

She had red hair, curly, long, pale skin with freckles, and she looked a lot younger in the cold light, et cetera.

BOOK: Hidden River (Five Star Paperback)
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