Adams had his work cut out trying to negotiate the back streets of North Inner-City Dublin. The lanes were tiny and clogged with parked cars, unloading vans and builder’s skips. He could see the top edge of the Croke Park looming over the low-rise, low-rent, flat complexes. Even though the people here had lived within spitting distance of that great stadium, Adams doubted any of them had ever seen a real live match.
Only a few hundred feet away was one of the busiest streets in the country, but from where Adams sat, it was hard to believe. This place had a hushed air about it, eerie even. Sims had her window down and Adams could hear the noise of his tyres reflected back at him by towering walls which flanked the tiny roadways.
This was a village within a city, where a strange face was regarded with suspicion, and every movement was noted by an army of silent witnesses. Few cars stirred, and the unusually bright mid-day sun made it seem like a scene from a western. A western where a town slumbered until jolted awake by the jangle of a gunslingers spurs as he strode into the middle of the street. Adams thought it was a very fitting image. The first draw had already been made and while the shots were still echoing among the buildings, the lawman were riding into town to quell the trouble.
“Alright there, Partner?” asked Adams, doing his best impression of John Wayne. Sims crinkled her brow and gave him a bemused look.
“You’re weird, you do know that?” she said, only half joking.
“Better weird than boring, Partner,” he said, staying in character and flashing her a smile.
“You love all this stuff. You’re never happier than when you’re about to kick in a door or shake down the bad guys,” she said, leaning her elbow on the open window and resting her head on her hand watching him as he drove. From the corner of Adams’ eye he could see her hair flutter and thought in that moment Sims was beautiful.
“I don’t know about that?” he said, dropping the wild-west accent and becoming cheerfully serous.
“Oh, come on. You love it. You’d never be happy in a safe little nine to five job,” she said flipping her hair in the warm breeze that carried the city smells into the car. Adams indicated and made a turn into an even smaller alley.
“When I get dragged out of bed in the middle of the night because some scumbag has stuck a knife in another scumbag, I pray for a nine to five.” Adams said it because it was true, but it was deeper than that. Some of the things he saw were sickening, and those things made him want to scrub himself until he bled. After one of those days, a boring nine to five job seemed like heaven.
“Still, I think you’d be bored in a day. I’ve seen you when the shit is about to hit the fan, you get this look, it’s a glimmer in your eye, you look totally alive.” Adams took a moment to be honest with himself, and he had to admit she had a point.
“I guess it’s a rush. In that moment everything else is pushed from my mind, the fight I had with the missus before breakfast, the unpaid electricity bill, the pain in my back from sitting in this thing all day. They all vanish in that instant. It’s like taking a vacation from reality . Do you know what I mean?”
“It doesn’t always go the way it should though,” Sims said, the lightness had vanished from her voice. Adams glanced over and saw she was gazing out the open window, her mind was miles and years away from here. He knew exactly what she was thinking about. She was thinking about Brendan Roche and how close he came to killing both of them.
“You saved my skin, girl. I’ll never forget that.”
Sims sighed, “But would I do it again. I feel different than before, scared I guess. I worry that, when push comes to shove, I won’t dive in and be where I should be, that I’ll hesitate at just the wrong time.”
Adams slowed the pace of the car from a stroll to a crawl, giving more of his attention to the woman sitting in the passenger seat. He knew the doubts she was having, he had similar ones his whole career. But Sims wasn’t giving herself the credit she deserved. She had been rock solid during the Brendan Roach debacle. She had rescued a girl from near certain death, and him from being burnt alive.
“That case left scars on both of us, inside and out,” he said unconsciously touching the line running down his nose. “I know you Sims and I know that you’ll always do the right thing no matter what. There is no situation I wouldn’t face with you at my side, you know that, none.” She looked over and gave him a sad smile. She didn't believe it, not yet, but time would help and Adams knew that in the end she would find a way through her doubts.
Sims pointed at a gate on the left, “That’s the one.”
The grubby block of flats was ringed by a rusty iron fence. It was a dirty stained concrete cube bedecked with fluttering lines of washing. It looked for all the world like it was trying to set sail. They parked in the weed strewn yard and got out. Adams noticed black 4x4 parked off to one side with a few likely looking lads inside. Pound to a penny they were John’s men. Sims led the way up a flight of stairs searching for John Griffin’s flat. They eventually found it on the top floor and the noise of kids rose above the antics of SpongeBob Square Pants through the closed door.
Sims knocked and the door opened in a fraction of a second. A hard faced a blond woman with large hoop earrings glared at them and snarled, “Yea?”
“I’m detective Sims and this is detective Adams. We’re looking for John Griffin.”
“Not here,” she said, slipping an expensive looking phone into the back pocket of her jeans. Adams noted the movement and knew now how she answered the door so quickly, the heavies in the 4x4 must have called her.
“Mind if we come in?” asked Adams, expecting to be refused.
“If yea want,” she said walking away from the door leaving it open. As Adams stood over the threshold he know one thing, John Griffin was defiantly not in the flat, he might be scuttling down a back stairway, but defiantly not in the flat. The three of them walked into the tiny kitchen, Adams pulled out a chair and sat, Emma Griffin leaned against the sink and Sims stood inside the door with her shoulder against the wall. Adams saw the look that passed between the women, it was pure resentment.
“Any idea where John is?” asked Adams, trying to be pleasant and official at once.
“No,” Emma said crossing her arms, locking herself down mentally.
“When will he be back?” asked Sims, opting for official without the pleasant.
“Not a clue. I’m his wife, not his mother.”
“What about you, Emma, where you yesterday evening about eight?”
“Why should I tell you? What’s this about?” said the blond. She was clearly used to being asked about her husband’s whereabouts but when it came to her, her hackles raised in an instant.
“We’re investigating a serous assault and we have reason to believe you may have been involved, or have knowledge of those that were,” said Sims, her words were delivered cold and hard.
“Bullshit, I know nothing about no assault. I’m ringing my brief!” Emma said fishing her phone from her back pocket. Adams sighed and reached behind his back drawing out his handcuffs. He stood and watched the woman’s eyes fix on the black and silver manacles.
“If you want to do it that way, I guess we better slap these babies on you,” he said, advancing a pace.
“You can’t do that! I’ve got two kids in there to take care of,” she said, pointing at the room where the cartoons were playing.
“Child Protective Services will take care of them,” said Sims and it was hard not to notice the lighter note in her voice this time.
“You can’t, there is no way I’m letting you, or those fuckers, lay one hand on my kids!” Emma snarled and jabbed the air with a razor sharp red talon. Adams put the cuffs behind his back again and said in an even tone.
“Why don’t you do everyone a favour and just answer a few questions. That is, unless you have something to hide.”
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” she said, the phone was in her hand still but it remained unused.
“Well?” asked Adams, raising his eyebrows. A few moments of silence passed before Emma let her hands drop by her side.
“I was here, alright. All night and that includes eight.”
“Were you alone?” asked Adams and he could feel the spectre of Sims glaring at the woman over his shoulder.
“No, John and the kids were here, all night,” she said and Adams took out his notebook to scribble down her answers.
“What did you do?” he asked after a pause.
“What?” she said, confused.
“What did you do all evening, you and John?”
“John and the kids watched some TV. I cooked dinner, lasagne if you are interested, then I did a bit of ironing. After that we went to bed.”
“Who went to bed?”
“We all did.”
“I don’t know. The kids about nine I guess, me and John about eleven. Do you want to know if we fucked?” she snapped, looking to put Adams on the back foot.
“Do you think it’s relevant?” he asked the woman in a deadpan voice but she didn’t answer.
At that moment the door to the flat opened and Adams turned. He was greeted by the face of Darren Griffin standing in the doorway staring at the unusual gathering.
“What’s going on Emma?” he asked.
“These two are asking about where I was last night, and whether or not I let John give me one!”
“Yea, and they told me there were going to drag me down to the nick if I didn’t play ball. She was going to have the flamen kids taken into care.” Adams saw a dangerous glow appear in Darren Griffin’s eyes and knew this was one of those moments they had been talking about in the car earlier. The shit could well hit the fan any second and it caused his heart to race. He stood and faced the enraged gangster.
“ID’s both of you!” Darren knew as much about the law as they did and they had no choice but to produce their warrant cards. Griffin read the name on both in a second then turned his hate filled eyes on Adams. Any headway he had made with Emma Griffin was gone.
“Where were you yesterday evening at eight, Darren?” asked Adams, trying to be as cool as he could.
“Do you want to be taken in for questioning?”
“Knock yourself out,” Darren said, bounding forward and shoving his fisted hands at Adams midriff, wrists up, but his steely gaze didn’t flinch. Adams knew his bluff had been called. He casually pocketed the notebook and turned to Emma Griffin.
“Tell John we were here and we are coming back.”
As he tried to walk out the door, Darren Griffin blocked his path and glared into Adams face from only inches away.
“No need, detective Adams. We’re coming for you.” The threat was clear, and with the likes of the Griffins, one not to be taken lightly. Adams sidestepped the smaller man and joined Sims in the doorway. Adams had opened the front door of the flat when the word, “WANKERS!” rang through the air. Adams felt like going back into the kitchen and slamming his fist into the nose of Darren Griffin, but instead he stored away his hatred for another day and closed the door softly behind him.