Detective Adams was working on his next team briefing when Sims hurryed across the office toward his desk.
“Boss, there’s been a development,” she said and by the look on her face he knew the development was going to add to his workload.
“What now?” he asked flipping his pen onto the pile of paper littering his desk.
“Fergal Collins has been found lying outside St James’s hospital. He's beaten to a pulp.”
“Collins?” wondered Adams aloud. The name was familiar but he wasn't able to put a face to it in his mind.
“Collins?” wondered Adams aloud. The name was familiar but he wasn't able to put a face to it in his mind.
“Fergal Collins, he’s on Jimmy Kingstons’ payroll. Not a major player by all accounts. He has some convictions for assault, receiving stolen goods, possession of narcotics, but not in any great quantities. Lately he's been spotted spending a lot of time with Pete Byrne, and he was one of the men involved in the set-to out at the Red Cow Inn a while back."
“Now I know the fella, what happened to him?” asked Adams leaning back in his chair to give his full attention to Sims.
“No idea. His feet are a mess, and he’s been kneecapped. Whoever did it wanted to inflict as much pain as possible. I'd say someone wanted to make him pay for something or they wanted something from him.”
“What’s happening with him now? Has he been interviewed?"
“Not yet, I've sent a car over to the hospital to keep an eye on him. I told them not to let anyone speak to him until we get there.”
“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re fantastic, Sims?”
“Ha!” she said going a little red.
“Well you are. Grab your coat and let’s get over there.”
When they arrived at the hospital the Accident and Emergency lobby was filled with the usual assortment of kids with broken bones, old folks looking grey and miserable, and of course the dross of society who seem to be constantly finding ways to poison themselves with drugs, drink or both. Adams knew he could put a name to a dozen people scattered around the reception area if he put his mind to it. He approached the reception desk which housed a bored looking woman behind a complete glass barrier. She was better protected than any bank teller in the country. A round steel speaker was mounted in the middle of the sheet of glass. Adams held up his ID and asked, ”We’re looking for Fergal Collins, he was admitted a while ago.”
The woman rolled her eyes and a tinny voice emanated from the round circle floating between them. “You and everyone else. He still hasn’t been admitted but your guy arrived about twenty minutes ago and is in there with him,” she said throwing a careless nod vaguely behind her.
“Where?” asked Adams looking around him.
“Go to the door, I’ll buzz you in.”
“Cheers,” said Adams flipping the woman a half-hearted salute. Adams moved to the door beside the impregnable desk and pulled on the handle but it didn't budge. He glanced at the woman behind glass was rolling her eyes at him again before pressing a button which disengaged a magnetic lock with a click. Once they were through, Adams gave Sims an bemused look and said, “She’s a right ray of sunshine.”
Sims gave a little laugh and said, “Pot calling the kettle black if you ask me.”
The halls inside the door were a hive of activity. Men and women in green and blue scrubs moved about with controlled speed. I guess the last thing any patient needs is to see a doctor running at them with panic in his eyes. Adams had spent enough time in hospital recovering from the injuries he suffered on Honeysuckle Lane to have deep respect for what these people did every day, but he also knew that this was the one place in the world where life and death situations were foregone conclusions. A doctor appeared from an opening on the right, stripping blood-stained gloves to drop them in a bright yellow container with a contamination warning sign printed on the side. Adams ducked into the opening and saw rows of beds half cordoned off with drapes. Right at the end, a uniformed officer was lounging on a hard plastic chair and texting on his phone. Adams walked toward him and was standing right over the man before he looked up from his screen and was shocked to see a glaring detective hovering.
“You scared me,” said the man dropping his leg from his knee and holding his hand to his chest.
“Is this Fergal Collins?”
“And what do you think you’re up to. What if I was someone coming to finish off the job and you’re checking Facebook?”
“I was just…”
“I don’t care, put that away and look sharp about it.”
The man stood and hurriedly put the phone away as Adams moved past him and drew back the green screen which surrounded the bed. Laid out top of the bed was a heap of battered skin that had once been a man. Both his feet were swaddled in miles of bandage but the blood was still seeping through. His face, head, arms and torso were a mass of cuts and bruises. An oxygen mask covered his ruined mouth and Adams could see spaces where teeth would normally be.
“Has he woken up at all?” he asked the standing Guard without looking back at him.
“Once or twice but the doctors gave him a shot for the pain. His feet and knee are busted up fairly bad according to what I heard.”
Adams moved to the head of the bed and Sims moved to the other side. Adams made a scribbling motion with his hand and Sims took out her note book. Adams placed a hand on Collin’s naked shoulder and shook him a few times before the eyes above the hissing mask flickered open. It took a second or two for them to focus, first on Adams then over to Sims and taking in the uniformed officer standing stiffly near the end of the bed.
“Feeling up to answering a few questions there Fergal?” asked Adams with fake good humour. The man lying in the bed mumbled something unintelligible behind the mask. Adams pinched the flexible plastic between two huge fingers and lifted it away from Collin’s nose and dropped it onto his neck.
“What was that?”
“Get lost,” croaked the man, turning his head into the pillow.
“Don’t be like that, Fergal. We just want to know who did this to you,” said Adams, still smiling at the man as if he was visiting a maiden aunt. The man in the bed said nothing.
“Come on, Fergal, you know I’m going to find out anyway so why not tell us,” said Adams leaning lower, resting his hands on the mattress. Adams right hand happened to brush against the injured man’s bandaged knee which caused him to nearly fold in half with pain.
“AHHHHH! Fu…” screamed the man, before stifling the cry by biting down on his knuckle.
“Did that hurt?” asked Adams, smiling even wider. Slowly he straightened up and the smile vanished from his face. He hovered his open hand above the knee and gave the man in the bed a steely look. “No more messing, who did this,” Adams hissed. Sims gave a worried look but he didn’t even look in her direction. The man in the bed watched him with huge eyes, flicking from Adams face to his hand and back again. When Fergal Collins had taken three breaths and still hadn’t said a word, Adams let his hand brush the knee. He felt something move under his fingers like a loosely connected doorknob and the man in the bed went ridged with pain. He let lose a string of curse words while veins danced under his crimson skin.
A nurse appeared at the curtain looking for the cause of all the racket. Adams smiled at her and said, “Mr Collins is finding his knee very uncomfortable, can you get him something for the pain?”
“He’s just had some Morphine I can’t give him anymore for a while.”
“Sorry about that Fergal,” said Adams, turning his smiling face back to the man in the bed who mumbled a strained “Fucker” under his breath. The nurse went from concerned to annoyed in the blink of an eye.
“Try and keep him quiet, will yea. He’s upsetting the other patients.”
“I will, tell them he’s a bit of a drama queen is all. You’d swear his leg was falling off or something,” said Adams smiling. The nurse huffed and yanked the curtain across. Adams looked over at Sims and got a dirty stare back for his trouble.
“Now, where were we?” Adams asked Collins holding his hand over the injured knee once more.
“Don’t touch me,” pleaded Collins trying to move away from the threatening hand but finding nowhere to go.
“Just tell me who did this,” said Adams. He saw Collins press his lips tightly together and breath rapidly through his nose while shaking his head from side to side. Adams began to let his hand lower. When it was only millimetres from making contact, Collin’s lips exploded apart.
“Alright, it was the Griffins, the fucking Griffins.”
“And why did they do it, Fergal.”
Again the man’s lip’s clamped shut.
“You may as well tell me everything now, it’s the only way you’ll keep me quiet. If not, I’ll just have to tell those crazy bastards your making accusations about them, the watch them finish the job they started.”
“They’ll kill me,” whimpered Collins, fear induced tears spilled over his eyelids.
It was Adams time to say nothing and let the fear do its work. Eventually Collins broke down completely and began to blubber. In between the sobs he began talking.
“It’s because I didn’t warn them about the hit on John Griffin. They think I knew about it.”
“And, did you?”
“Of course I didn’t but they don’t believe that.”
“Because you work for Jimmy Kingston. He ordered the hit.”
“Come on! Every gobshit in Dublin knows he did but that don’t mean shit.”
“And why would they expect you to tip them off, Fergal?”
Again the lips clamped down. Adams sighed and went to grab the injured knee again making the man dance in the bed.
“Because I was working for them, JESUS! I was telling them what was going in with the Kingstons, playing both sides but it got out of control. I knew nothing about the hit on John until it happened but then it was too late. It's too late for everything now, I’m as good as dead,” said Collins falling in to a full blown bawl. Adams looked at Sims with confusion.
“It’s too late for what, Fergal. What’s going on?”
“Jimmy’s going to kill me.”
“Yea, he knows I helped the Griffin’s rip him off and that I was touting for them. I’m as good as dead.”
The cogs in Adams brain went into overdrive and he beckoned Sims to follow him out into the corridor. Once they were out of earshot they huddled in a corner and spoke in whispers.
“This could be the break we were waiting for. Collins is a nobody but he’s a nobody that could pin Kingston to the murder of John Griffin. He can defiantly pin the Griffins to an assault and battery charge against himself. God only knows how much more stuff he could spill.”
“There is no way he will testify against the Griffins and definitely not against Jimmy Kingston.”
“That's just the thing. He's the only one who might. He's convinced he's a dead man walking. We might be his only chance of staying alive, no, we are his only chance,” said Adams dashing back toward Collin's bed. He stopped before opening the curtain to tell the uniformed guard to go get a doctor in charge for him. Once he opened the curtain Collins regarded him with huge dread filled eyes. Adams drew a chair closer, getting down on the man’s eye level. Speaking evenly, like someone giving a friend some hard advice, Adams began his sales pitch.
“You’re in some fix, Fergal, of that there is no doubt. If the Griffins don’t kill you for letting John getting blown away, Jimmy will sure as shit kill you for double crossing him. I can’t understand why you’re still alive.”
“Money, Jimmy wants his money back.”
“Ah, I see. So it’s a matter of time.”
The crying man in the bed nodded sadly.
“I can help you.” Adams watched those words start working on the man in front of him. He watched as a desperate man started clutching at straws until those straws looked like lifesavers to a drowning man.
“If you give evidence about what you know, on both the Griffins and the Kingston’s, we can protect you.”
“Bullshit. There is no way you can stop them getting me.”
“We got a better chance than you have.”
Collins said nothing to that.
“It’s like this, Fergal. You are stuck between no hope and a longshot. Any betting man would see the sense in that. I’m not going to blow smoke up your arse, you’ll always be a wanted man, and forever looking over your shoulder, but at least this way you have a chance.”
“What about my family?”
Adams had to think. He was promising things he had no control over. He knew he had to hook Fergal Collins and hook him now but he didn’t want to agree to something now and then lose everything later on an unfulfilled bargain.
“You know how this works, Fergal, I got to go back to my bosses with something to trade and right now I got nothing. But that is up to you. If they think you can get the likes of the Griffins or the Kingstons out of business, you might win a new life far away from this place. At least you'll have a chance.”
A pregnant silence stretched out as Collins worked out his options. Glances flicked between Sims and Adams while they waited. It was like playing poker with a gun pointed at your head.
“Alright, go back and tell them I'll testify. I can give you Pete Byrne, the Griffins and Jimmy Kingston. You name it, they've done it. I got names and dates by the dozen.”
“What about the murder of John Griffin?”
“I know Pete Byrne contacted a hit-man but that is as much as I know.”
“Who was the hitter?”
“None of our guys, he’s independent. Look, the drug stuff is more than enough to put them out of business. Is it a deal?”
“I’ll shake on it but I got to get the brass to stump up the cash. In the meantime I am getting you moved into a private room straight away and you will get round the clock protection.”
“Not that donkey that was here earlier?”
“No, full bore. Nobody is getting to you. Sit tight and I will be back within the hour,” said Adams standing up to leave. Sims went to follow but he held up his hand. Stay here with Twiddle-Dum until I get a proper protection detail arranged. When the Doc turns up, get Fergal here moved, no records to go to that yoke on the front desk, and take no arguments.”
“You got it boss.”
Adams barged out of the emergency room with his phone already suck to his ear, that was until he was abruptly halted by the same door he had to be buzzed through earlier. Frustrated as hell he went off to find someone with the code to get him the hell out of here.