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Authors: Gerard Brennan

The Point (7 page)

BOOK: The Point
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On one of their laps, John had pointed out a teenaged Goth-type dragging his clunky boots across the town square.

“See him? That scruffy wee bastard stiffed me for a 10-deal last month. I gave him credit for the first time
and I haven’t seen him since. I’m going to have to knock him about a bit. Can’t have him telling his freakshow mates I’m a soft touch.”

Paul thought John had a bit of a cheek, commenting on someone else’s appearance, but he kept that to himself. “Well, if you want, I’ll get the money off him.”

John gave him a hopeful smile. “Yeah?” Obviously, he wasn’t keen on the violent side of the business.

“Aye. Park here and come with me.”

They hopped out of the Saxo and tracked the teenager at an inconspicuous distance. He led them to a little cul-de-sac halfway up the Bridle Loanan Road. They broke into a sprint as the young fellah fished his keys out of his knee-length leather jacket. The wee Goth jerked to attention at the sound of their trainers pounding the tarmac. He stood wide-eyed, like a stunned cliché caught in HGV headlights. Paul grabbed him by the lapels and shook him.

“Pay John what you owe him or I’m going to get your ma out of bed and tell her you smoke dope.”

The Goth opened and closed his mouth, at a loss for words. Paul shook him again.

“Ten seconds, wee lad.”

“I... I... don’t have any cash on me.”

“That a fact?” Paul said.

“Seriously, I don’t. But I’ve a bit in my room. I can go get it.”

“No. We’re not stupid,” Paul said. He glanced at John. “Well,
I’m
not stupid. You’ve probably got a big knife up there for sacrificing chickens and whatnot. No chance I’m letting you go in and get it. Empty your pockets.”

The teenager had a snazzy Samsung mp3 player and a top of the line Nokia mobile phone on him. Paul handed John the phone and pocketed the wee Samsung sound-box.

“Ach, lads,” the kid protested. “I don’t owe anywhere near that much. It was only an aul’ 10-deal.”

“Sorry, wee lad,” Paul said. “But you have to factor in interest, late payment charges, and then there’s my finder’s fee. It all adds up, son.”

“But they were Christmas presents.”

“Now, to be fair, I’m sure they warned you in school that this sort of thing would happen if you got caught up in drugs. Welcome to the dark side, wee man.”

Paul ruffled the kid’s long, black hair and smiled encouragingly.

“Nice doing business with you,” John said, like any wanker would.

The kid disappeared into his house and Paul and John set off back to the square.

“Paul, that was great,” John said. “Too funny.” He shook his head and chuckled. “Listen, I’m going to do you a favour. Point you in the direction of a real player around these parts. What do you say?”

“Sweet.”

 

The Big Boy

 

Paul thumbed through a newspaper at his table in the corner while he enjoyed an ice-cold lager. John sat beside him, fidgeting and flipping beer mats. Bennett’s was a small pub, even by Warrenpoint’s standards, but it seemed pretty clean and they took care of the details. A very attractive barmaid stopped by regularly and wiped away the wet rings his glass left on the table. She smiled at him each time. Paul imagined what she would look like naked: hardly a huge stretch of the imagination. Her short skirt and unbuttoned polo shirt gave him a good start. He filled in the blanks with ease.

A big man entered the bar and spoiled Paul’s view. This guy’s slow gait could best be described as a lumber. This was a word Paul had come across in books when the urge was in him to read, but he’d never actually seen it in action. The man’s walk, combined with his pure white hair, made Paul think of the clinically depressed polar bear that had died in Belfast Zoo a few years back. An expensive suit jacket stretched tight across his shoulders. John gave Paul a sharp nudge in the ribs.

“That’s him,” John said.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Aye. Richard O’Rourke. Alleged car dealer. Uses his garage as a front for an illegal car smuggling trade. He started out as a mechanic, but look at his hands. Clean. They haven’t touched an engine in years.”

“Fuck me,” Paul said. “He could squish my head in one of those fists.”

“So don’t give him reason to.”

“You going to introduce me, then?”

“Fuck, no. I’m scared shitless of him. But you’re the one keeps nattering about going big-time. O’Rourke’s the man to talk to.”

Paul felt like strangling John but, instead, he nodded and got out of his seat. The three pints he’d downed while waiting for O’Rourke to show up set him at ease. He walked up to the bar and winked again at the sexy wee barmaid.

“Could I have another pint, please? And get this man whatever he wants.”

The barmaid looked to O’Rourke and raised her shapely eyebrows.

O’Rourke didn’t even glance at Paul but was happy to accept the drink.

“Double brandy.”

She smiled, nodded and got busy fixing the drinks.

“It’s Mister O’Rourke, isn’t it?”

His big boulder of a head swivelled on its elephantine neck. He locked on to Paul with a thousand-yard stare. “Until I know you better, son.”

“I’m Paul. You look like a man who can’t pass up a good business opportunity. Will you hear me out for a second or two?”

O’Rourke’s suddenly focussed glare conveyed that he wasn’t mad about the idea. But, because he didn’t outright say so, Paul gave him the pitch after the barmaid set down their drinks and disappeared out back.

“I think I might be able to supply you with some good quality used cars. I moved down here from Belfast a couple of weeks ago. I’ve a few contacts in the city and a lot of relevant experience. I think we could help each other out. You don’t have to decide right now, I’m sure you just want to relax after a day’s work. But, if you have a business card with you, perhaps I could call you during office hours tomorrow?”

“I’m a businessman, son,” O’Rourke said. “Every hour is an office hour.”

“That’s my philosophy too. I hope it brings me as much success as it seems to have brought you.”

O’Rourke shrugged off the compliment with a snort. Paul made a mental note. The man was not impressed by arse-lickers.

“Right,” Paul said. “This is how I can see things working for us. I’ll call you once a week and you’ll give me a wish-list of cars. I’ll bring you everything I can from it, as soon as I can, and you decide if the motors are up to scratch. I propose we start small. One or two cars to begin with and we’ll see where it takes us.”

O’Rourke adopted the same approach to conversation as he did to movement; slow, steady and economical. When the barmaid was out of earshot he answered Paul.

“What makes you think I’d be interested in that kind of business, officer...?”

“I’m not a peeler, Mister O’Rourke,” Paul said. “And I’ve done my homework. Eddie Matthews from Twinbrook says hello. You can phone him for a reference.”

O’Rourke gave Paul the hairy eyeball. Paul held his ground and O’Rourke’s gaze. Eventually, O’Rourke nodded.

“Okay.” Even O’Rourke’s whispers rumbled. “I assume that they’ll be basic ringers. A changed number plate as a temporary fix with the serial numbers intact, right? I can move these out of the country but the overheads are high. We won’t be talking about big money.”

“You can quote a price before I search out the car. That way I can assess the risk better.”

O’Rourke handed Paul a card.

“Call me tomorrow and I’ll give you your first job.”

And, as easy as that, Paul had branched out.

 

Coffee and Scones

 

Rachel hid her girlish grin behind her coffee cup. Too late. Karen had caught it and latched on mercilessly.

“You’re smitten!” Karen said.

“Ach, don’t be ridiculous. I’ve only just met him.”

“Oh my God, you’re blushing!”

“Shush you, I am not.”

“You are!”

Rachel sighed. She
was
blushing. And she suspected that she was a wee bit smitten. She couldn’t think about Brian without a dopey grin creeping across her face. Talk about soppiness.

Karen pulled a lump off her blueberry muffin and popped it into her mouth. She chewed quickly and rinsed it down with a sip of tea. She looked from left to right, checking the proximity of their table for earwigs then leant forward in her cushy chair. Her voice was almost drowned out by the café’s customer chatter, but Rachel had pretty much guessed what the question would be, so she’d no trouble picking it up.

“Have you slept with him yet?”

Rachel fought back the dopey grin as it wrestled for dominance again. She nodded.

“You wee slapper!” Karen said, a little less concerned by her volume.

“Keep your voice down.”

“When?”

Rachel grimaced. “On the first night.”

“The night you met him?”

She nodded again.

“You dirty stop-out.”

“Hey, take it easy, you.”

They smiled at each other and fell silent. Sipping on their beverages, they took turns to shake their heads and roll their eyes. Karen had called Rachel that morning to let her know she was in town on company business and had an hour to spare around lunchtime. Rachel was in the mood for a good chat, so she’d arranged to take a long lunch and met her chum at the little coffee shop on Church Street. Talking about Brian lent reality to the dreamlike dizziness of their stupidly intense affair. She’d never known herself to give so much to a relationship so quickly. It was exciting and scary at the same time.

The bell above the café door tinkled. Karen sat facing it and her eyes widened slightly as she glanced over Rachel’s shoulder.

“Um, I think that guy you used to go out with just walked in.”

Rachel froze.
Oh, God. Don’t let it be Sean.

“It’s Sean,” Karen said.

Rachel found a spot on the table and fixed it with a fascinated stare. She wished for a paper bag to pull over her head. But there was nowhere to hide, especially
not in a small town like Warrenpoint. Sean towered over their table and cleared his throat.

“Hi, Sean,” Karen said.

“How’re you, Karen?” Sean paused for a couple of seconds. “Are you not talking to me, Rachel?”

Rachel finally looked at her ex. His expression was unreadable. Cold and emotionless. She shrugged. “It’d probably be best if we didn’t talk at all, Sean. I don’t think either of us have anything to gain from each other’s company.”

“I see. So you think you can just brush me off?” His voice was deadpan, and still his face betrayed no feeling.

“I’m not brushing you off. I’m just... I... There’s no point in us trying to be civil to each other. We parted on bad terms. We’re only going to stoke the ill feeling between us.”

“Bad terms? Is that how you describe it? More like sadistic, perverted assault, if you ask me.”

BOOK: The Point
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ads

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