Clare thought the ringing was in her dream until Darren sprang out of bed. In a microsecond she was wide awake watching Darren's naked body stretching tall to reach a hidden compartment built into the top of their wardrobe. Seeing the silver 9mm pistol in his hand made her heart to leap into her throat. She bundled the bed clothes against her naked chest as the doorbell sounded impatiently.
"What is it?" she asked, a quiver in her voice.
"Stay here no matter what happens," he said and ran out without a stitch of clothes on. Clare bounded from the bed and grabbed a towel from the back of a chair to wrap around herself and followed. She stood at the bedroom door and craned her neck. Darren approached the front door carefully and quietly, the gun raised and ready to use. Keeping his back and feet against the side-wall he leaned his head forward to take a quick look through the spy-hole, then flattened himself against the wall. Clare knew he was being careful in case someone started shooting and hid most of herself behind the bedroom wall.
"What yea want?" he yelled to whoever was on the far side. Clare could hear a deep male rumble but she was too far away to make out what was being said. What she could see was the gun being lowered and Darren un-flatten himself from the wall to take a longer look through the peephole. The muscles on his back stood out like golf balls under his skin, but as the seconds ticked by his shoulders relaxed slightly.
"What kind of a time do you call this?" barked Darren, while his eye remained glued to to the door. More mumbled talking could be heard, this time it sounded like a different voice.
Darren backed away from the door and saw Clare watching him. She could tell he was annoyed and when he waved her back with his free hand, she ducked inside their bedroom. He heard him say, "You can wait there till I'm dressed, there is no way I'm opening the door with my knob hanging out."
When he skipped back into the room he made straight for the wardrobe to hide the gun.
"Who is it," she asked?
"The cops, put something on," When they were both dressed in jeans and tee shirts, they padded out of the bedroom on bare feet. Martin's door was open a crack and Clare could see him peeking out at them.
"It's all right, Martin. Go back to bed," she said and the bedroom door eased closed. Clare hurried to catch up with Darren and when she was at his shoulder he turned and whispered, "Say nothing."
He drew back the dead bolts, unlocked the latch and swung the door open reviling two detectives wearing bored looks, holding warrant cards out for inspection. The large man with a marked face said, "I'm Detective Stephen ..." but Darren cut him off.
"I know who yous are, what do yea want?" he snapped.
"Can we come in?" asked the big guard holding out his hand to include the smaller woman by his side. Her smooth young face was just as hard as the man's, even if she didn't have his impressive array of scar tissue.
"It's vital we talk to friends and family of the deceased while details are fresh in their minds."
"John. My brother you mean, not the deceased. John!"
"Yes of course. We do have to talk about John and who might have wanted to kill him."
"I know nothing about it," said Darren.
"Don't give me that, Darren. You and I both know that this didn't drop out of the blue," said the detective showing his annoyance. Darren set his face and crossed his arms but made no reply. Clare could see the guards scars start to stand out against his reddening skin. He looked like a boiler building up a head of steam. The tension hanging between the two men was not lost on the female guard as she picked that moment to speak.
"Had John fallen out with anyone lately?" asked the woman in a kind way, trying to give the men time to cool off but Clare knew she was wasting her time with Darren. When he was like this, there was no talking to him. She was tempted to say something but thought better of it. Instead she just watched while the seconds ticked away and the men glared at each other. In the end, even the woman copper had enough of the silent treatment.
"Do you not want us to catch this guy?" she asked in an exasperated tone, expecting to get agreement from a grieving brother. Clare watched Darren unlock his arms and she knew he was going to explode. She unconsciously took a step back.
"You two couldn't catch a cold!" Darren yelled stabbing the air with an accusing finger. "Why aren't you out there doing your jobs instead of standing here, harassing the family of a murdered man. It's because our name's Griffin, isn't it? You fuckers think were scum, and what's one more dead scumbag?"
"We're doing our jobs, as it happens. You're the one that's refusing to co-operate. You're the one hiding what you know. If John's killer gets away, you'll have nobody to blame but yourself." snapped the big copper.
"So you want me to do your job for yea? Is that what it’s come to? The man blew my brother away in front of a hundred witnesses and it all comes down to what I know? Get real!"
"We'll do everything possible to catch this guy, with your help or without it. Telling us what you know would be a huge step in the right direction," said the guard, his face visibly throbbing with indignation at Darren's attitude toward him.
After thirty seconds of silence, the detective had enough and turned to the woman at his side and said, "Come on, I told you this was pointless." He'd begun to walk away when he twisted and said, "I thought you'd have more sense than this. If not for yourself, for Clare and Martin." When he'd said that last bit he'd looked over Darren's shoulder and right into Clare's eyes, as if it were her he was talking too. "You are putting your family in danger by saying nothing."
"I can take care of my own," snarled Darren, bunching his fists.
"Yea, great job so far," he half laughed and stalked away leaving the woman alone on the landing. She extended a business card toward a seething Darren, "In case you change your mind."
Darren made no move to take the card so the woman let it flutter out of her fingers to the carpet and walked after her partner. Darren slammed the door and scooped up the dropped card, then stormed toward the kitchen and flung it in the bin with fury burning in his eyes.
"Who the fuck do they think they are?" he demanded and stalked around the kitchen like a caged animal. His chest was rising and falling like he had just run a mile.
"Why didn't you tell him about Kingston? You know it was him."
"Shit, they know all that without me telling them. They just want me to turn rat for them, and buggered if I'll ever do that."
"What harm could it do? Set them on Kingston. It might give things time to die down."
"You have no idea, you haven't a clue! The only thing going to die around here is Jimmy Kingston and the dog he sent to kill my brother. I don't need the likes of those two to fight my battles," he said, slapping angrily at a mug which was sitting on the table, sending it smashing into the wall.
Darren stalked away toward the bedroom, Clare sat at the table twirling the end of her tee-shirt around her finger and watching the shattered pieces of porcelain spinning slowly on the floor. What the guard said echoed around her brain. Clare, Martin, Danger. If those two could walk right up to her front door and know everything there was to know about their life, how hard was it to imagine a killer doing just the same? She didn't know much about Darren's business, she never wanted to know but she wasn't stupid. Could Darren protect her, did he even want to? She wasn't so sure any more.
Clare could feel the headache coming and she knew it was going to be a bad one. The night without sleep didn't help, or the hours of crying while she had waited for Darren to come home. She stood and opened the press where she kept her medicines. Clare punched two pain killers out of their silver foil packaging and took them dry. She swallowed and felt them stick in her gullet and she had to swallow a few more times before they completed the journey to her stomach.
The last twenty four hours had been agony, she was heartbroken over Johns death and Emma's grief, scared witless when Darren went missing and then again this morning when she saw him with the gun in his hand. But they were quickly been overshadowed by a feeling so huge, so all en-composing, it dwarfed all in her world. Betrayal. It's something a woman instinctively recognises, even if she won't admit its existence. Every woman knows her lovers touch and last night Darren felt like a stranger in her arms. Drenched with sweat, her body exhausted, she had lain by his side as he snored softly into her hair. She had tried to convince herself that she was being stupid but her mind was not fooling her heart. Hour after hour she looked to rationalise what her body knew and in the morning light, she had given up. No pretty lies she told herself could cover up that feeling.
From the moment John had died, Clare dreaded what would happen to her man. Darren had always been the steadying hand in that family, the one which walked closest to righteousness. She knew what he did was illegal, but it was an invisible wrong in her eyes. Darren was only filling a need, one which would have been filled regardless. But now things were different. Darren was the head of the family, the head of the crew, and his word was law. The hard decisions would fall to him and him alone, the responsibility lay on his door step but in the same breath those looking to curry favour would seek him out. She knew more than one woman used her body to get what she wanted from John, and she had pitied Emma for it. It looked like she should have saved the pity for herself.
Her world was falling apart. She loved Darren with every ounce of her being, but that was nothing compared to what was in her heart for her son. She wanted it all, but if it came to a decision there was only one man in her life she was willing to die for. Clare opened the bin and picked the crumpled business card from the remains of last night’s uneaten dinner. She flicked a clinging onion from it and stowed the tiny piece of paper in her back pocket while praying she'd never have to use the number scrawled across the bottom.
"What the hell was all that about?" Sims asked as they drove away from Darren Griffin's flat.
"Hum?," asked Adams, who was actually humming a happy tune under his breath.
"Coming down like a tonne of bricks on him. We ended up getting nothing."
"Ah, that. None of this was about asking questions. There was never a chance he'd have said a word even if he had the killers name, telephone number and address."
"So, what was the point?"
"The girlfriend, Clare. She is the weak link in his chain and there is no doubting that. Did you she her face? She is scared out of her mind."
"And rightly so. Do you think she'd go behind his back?"
"No idea but there's always a chance," said Adams winding down his window to stick his elbow out.
"So what now?"
"Breakfast I think, I could eat a horse."
"You could always eat a horse," she said, slapping the paunch which was straining the seat belt. "I meant, what are we chasing down next?"
"How do you fancy ruining Jimmy Kingston's morning?" asked Adams with a boyish grin.
Sims clapped her hands together in imitation of an excited schoolgirl. "Goody, goody, can't wait!"
"Right, that settles it. I know a cafe near by, Nero's. Great breakfast and you never know who we might spot there."
"You just looking for trouble, ain't you?" she said, smiling.
"Would I?" he feigned indignation and gunned the engine.
Joey had slept very badly and was awake before his alarm went off. He'd been trying to think of any possible excuse to get out of going to Jimmy's this morning, but ended up with nothing.
Me Gran is dead?
No, that wouldn't work. Jimmy knew his Gran and his Mam were long gone and Joey'd never even known his Da. A dead grandmother wouldn't knock a blink out of Jimmy.
Got locked up by the coppers?
With Jimmy's connections he'd know it was a lie within seconds.
No, Jimmy would give him something to be sick about.
I don't want to?
Yea, I don't want to.
He had to get out of this mess before he got in too deep. Yea, he was shitting himself, but it had to be done. He'd have to man up and tell Jimmy, face to face, that running gear wasn't his thing. Jimmy would respect that, wouldn't he? What was the worst that could happen? Jimmy was hardly going to bump him off. It wasn't like he was in debt to the man or anything. He was Kenny's friend, a mate, not a mug.
Yea, yea. A mate not a mug, he liked the sound of that.
Joey got out of bed and pulled on his clothes. When he opened his door, Sarah's coat was still hanging in the hall. Joey couldn't remember ever being up before her in his life. He eased his bedroom door closed and considered making tea but discarded the idea. His gut was knotted and he doubted he would keep anything down. He took his jacket down from the hook, left the apartment and eased the door closed gently.
Joey knew the walk to the Garrison by heart and this morning the street was particularly quite. He didn't spot any of Jimmy's lads hanging around but that was hardly surprising considering the hour. Joey opened the little gate at the end of Jimmy's garden with trepidation and approached the brand new door. He rang the bell and waited. There was no answer so after a few minutes he rang again. A brand new close circuit camera looked down on him from over the door way but there was no sign of life inside the house. Joey sat himself down on the step to wait. Ten minutes later he heard the bolts draw back and the door was opened by Jimmy wearing only his y-fronts.
"Joey," Jimmy said groggily, rubbing the sleep from of his eyes.
"You said to be here early," said Joey sheepishly.
"I know what I said," snapped Jimmy walking away from the door into the house. Joey followed him in.
"Don't bother closing it, you're not staying," said Jimmy, stooping to pick up a backpack that lay on the floor. It was similar to the one he had been made carry the last time but this one seemed fuller. Jimmy handed it over and said, "I'll call you later and tell you want to do. Don't go poking around in it."
"The thing is Jimmy..."
"The thing is what!" snapped Jimmy, not one bit happy at being out of bed.
"I don't mind doing a favour like, but I'm not happy doing this kind of thing."
Joey never saw the punch coming. One minute he was speaking, the next he was seeing stars and looking up at Jimmy's snarling face from the floor.
"Favour?" he yelled and kicked Joey in the ribs.
"Fucking favour!" he yelled, spit flying from his lips as he kicked twice more before reaching down and grabbing a fistful of Joey's hair. He yanked so hard that joey could hear the roots pulling free from his skull. Pain rippled through his scalp, it was as if his head had been set alight. Joey grabbed at Jimmy's hand by reflex but that did nothing to deaden the agony.
"You will do exactly what you're told, you got that?" the near naked man hissed as he balled his free hand and landed it as hard as he could in Joey's guts. Joey felt slimy hot puke rise up his gullet.
"Don't you dare spew on my floor!" yelled Jimmy, his eyes bulging and his fist an inch from Joey's nose. Joey swallowed the acid filled fluid and felt the stink of it fill his nose.
"What are you going to do?" asked Jimmy in a way that made it clear he was talking to an idiot. He held a hand up to his ear, making a show of listening for an answer. Joey held his lips clamped shut as he was not sure which way his stomach contents were headed, which enraged Jimmy even more and he drew back his fist.
"ANYTHING! Anything you say!" screamed Joey, stopping Jimmy's fist half way through its ark.
"And don't you forget it," said Jimmy, dragging Joey to the door by his hair. He launched the teenager into the yard causing Joey to lose his balance. Jimmy's fingers never released his grip on the boy's hair and as he stumbled, Joey felt his follicles rip and blood run across his scalp in steaming rivers. Jimmy ducked inside the door, snatched up the back pack and threw it at Joey where he lay writhing in the lawn.
"Don't leave your flat! Don't turn off our phone! Don't go poking in the bag and don't lose the fucking thing!" he said and slammed the door closed.
Joey ran his shaking fingers through his hair which came away sticky and red. On jittery legs he hoisted himself upright. A wave of nausea flooded him and he stuffed his hand against his mouth to prevent the vomit from coming. At last the sick feeling passed and he felt the world spinning to a stop. On the ground, the backpack full of drugs taunted him, daring him to walk away, but he couldn't. He shouldered the bag packed with life-ending misery and staggered out the gate. He had only gone a few feet when a dark colour Ford Mondeo, with the distinctive third aerial in the middle of the roof, glided past. Garda car, Joey thought and ducked his head while quickening his pace. The car stopped directly behind him and Joey heard the door open.
"Hay, young fella!"
Joey pretended not to hear and kept walking. Be cool. Be Cool.
"Hay!" This time Joey knew he had to stop. He slowly turned, the backpack full of drugs feeling like a thousand pound weight on his soul.
"What happened your head?" asked the tall man standing by the open door of the Garda car. Joey touched his scalp and felt the trickle of blood with his fingers.
"I fell, coming down the stairs. I must have cut me-self," stammered Joey, his shaky voice sounding drunk.
"Better get someone to look at it," said the guy, turning towards Jimmy's door. Joey turned and hurried away, any thoughts of being cool vanishing like morning mist.