Adams arrived at the hospital to find Sims waiting for him at the main entrance. She looked anxious as she scanned the stream of people walking from the car park. As soon as she saw him she cut a bee line through the throngs to join him.
“What’s going on?” he asked. She turned on her heel to match his steaming march toward the open hospital door.
“He’s behaving like some caged animal trying to escape. He wouldn’t say anything to me, other than telling me to go "f" myself. I left the protection guys up there with him and told them not to let him leave,” said Sims as she hurried along by his side.
“Something must have happened, he was fine yesterday.”
“No idea, apparently one minute he was lying in the bed as quite as a mouse, the next he was trying to get dressed. He literally ripped the drip out of his arm.”
“I guess there's only one way to get to the bottom of all his, come on,” said Adams taking the stairs and ignoring the lift. He raced up the flight of steps two at a time and was feeling his lungs tug at him by the time they reached the third floor. Sims on the other hand seemed completely relaxed. He had to slow down a bit to get his breath back and tried to hide his heaving chest from her. They pushed open the heavy fire door on the third landing and checked the direction sign on the landing for Collin’s ward.
“Has the Chief approved the protection plan?” asked Sims as they moved along the length of the building.
“Not a dickey bird from him all day. I thought about calling but it might just get his back up. He hasn’t even approved what we’ve done already.”
“We?” asked Sims arching her eyebrows high and a hint of humour in her voice.
“Fair enough, me.” he conceded.
She smiled and gave him a light punch on the shoulder, “You know I’m behind you, just don’t get us in too much hot water.”
They moved swiftly down the corridor and Adams had time to reflect on how this might all come down on more than just him if he pushed things too far. He was long enough in the tooth, and close enough to retirement to weather any storm that might come but she was a completely different. Sims was only starting out and she had already reached a level in the force it had taken him half a lifetime to achieve. She could and should do great things, as long as he didn’t mess things up for her on the way. Since the day she'd saved him on Honeysuckle Lane she had aligned her destiny with his. That day, she put her neck on the line for him and he would never forget that.
The last room on the ward was being guarded by a very alert officer. Adams smiled to himself, this was a real pro. The man’s eyes locked on them the second they opened the swinging double doors. He knew Sims but Adams was a stranger to him. The man’s hand slowly moved inside his jacket and Adams knew he had just unclipped the restraining clasp on his gun. Adams made sure both his hands were in clear view as he continued to walk in a calm and steady pace. When he was in hearing distance he said, “Detective Inspector Stephen Adams.” Adams made no effort to remove his ID until the man nodded slightly. Adams got out his wallet hand handed it over for inspection.
“Thank you, Sir,” said the man when he was satisfied and handed back the wallet. As Adams put it away he heard the snap of the gun holster being refastened.
“Where’s your partner?” asked Adams.
“He’s inside with Mr Collins, sir,” the man said moving aside to allow Adams and Sims enter the room. When Adams opened the door the scene unfolding inside stopped him in his tracks. Collins lay sprawled on the floor, with a pair of grey tracksuit bottoms stuck around his knees. They were snagged on the cast covering the injured knee. He was struggling one handed to get the pants free because his other hand was handcuffed to the bed. The second protection officer was lying on top of the bed with his muscled arms crossed over the prone man’s crutches and a bored look on his face.
“Get these things off me!” yelled Collins at the officer on the bed, not realising that Adams and Sims had entered.
“What the hell?” asked Adams to the room in general?
“I was told to keep him here. Mr Collins wasn’t co-operating, so…” the man indicated the handcuffed arm. “He even tried to drag the bed with him so I had to take his crutches and add a bit of weight.”
“What the blazes is all this about, Fergal? I thought we had a deal?” said Adams as the man on the ground turned his head toward the new voices in the room.
“Stuff your deal, now let me go,” he said rattling the handcuff against the metal bed frame.
“You know what’s going to happen if you walk out of here,” said Adams hunkering down to be at eye level with the floored criminal.
“You can’t protect me, you’re only making things worse!” yelled Collins, fear filled his eyes.
“That’s rubbish, Fergal. You have round the clock cover, your family too!”
“It’s not enough, I’ll never walk away from this. You can never get away from the likes of Jimmy Kingston.”
“At least you have a chance this way. What is the alternative?”
“You want an alternative, I’ll show you the alternative,” said Collin’s digging around in his crumpled pants. He produced a phone and flicked it on. On the screen was a photo of a white haired woman sleeping in a bed.
“That came today. That’s my mother."
Adams said nothing, the photo said all that was needed to be said but he had to try and make Collin’s see that the Kingstons’ had nothing but threats to rule their world. If they started knocking off bedridden old women every time something didn’t go their way, they would be out of business, and business was first and foremost.
“That was sent to me an hour ago. Nobody knew where she was being cared for and they still found her. How can you protect me from people like that? What about her or my sisters and their families? I was stupid to think I could run,” said Collins letting his body go slack as he gave up struggling with his bound wrist. He put his free hand over his eyes and Adams had a good idea that under it he was crying.
“Do what you want, I aint saying a word,” said Collins not showing his face to Adams.
He stood up and looked at the man on the ground. He knew what lay ahead for Collin’s and in some deep dark corner of his soul he felt pity for the man. He couldn’t make him testify and with the Chief being less than enthusiastic about the whole situation it might be for the best. He knew he was losing the one good card he had to play in this stupid game, it was going to set them back to square one.
“It’s a bluff. You got to call it, it’s the only way. Kingston would be a fool to touch any of your family,” said Adams, knowing he had to try one more time to change Fergal Collin’s mind.
“It’s not a chance I can take. Just let me go, please."
Adams shook his head and looked over at Sims. Her face gave nothing much away, he knew the decision was his, just as the decision to offer the deal had been in the first place. Adams looked up at the officer who was watching intently from the bed.
“Un-cuff him,” said Adams with a sigh. The officer just shrugged and dropped the crutches on the bed. It only took him a second to unlock the handcuffs and haul Collins to his feet but he stopped short of helping the man get his pants hoisted all the way up.
“Let’s go,” said Adams to the others and they all moved as one toward the door.
“That’s it?” asked Collins as he held himself up with one hand on the end rail of the bed and the other battled with his tangled clothing.
“Yep, that’s it,” said Adams as he let the door swing closed behind him. The four officers moved down the corridor and Adams could not help thinking he'd just closed the door on Fergal Collins’ life.
The Ferryman decided to choose a movie theatre for the next drop. He selected a busy city centre eight screen Omniplex for the job. Instead of texting instructions he decided to call. He was curious and wanted some answers before he decided whether he should trust Jimmy Kingston or not. He dialled the number and the call was answered on the fifth ring.
“Have you my money?”
“Of course I have it,” snapped Jimmy Kingston at the other end of the line.
“That is not the first time I have heard that particular line.” On the other end the Ferryman could hear Kingston taking deep breaths which became lower and more even with each that passed. Jimmy was clearly a man who struggled to keep himself in check.
“Yes, well there will be no mistakes this time. Where do you want to do this thing?”
“Not so fast Mr K, I wish to be satisfied as to the validity of your situation. What happened with yesterday’s delivery.”
“Joey fucked up, that is what happened. Look I have your money, lets get this shit finished for once and for all.”
“I wish to satisfy myself that this is not a setup, or shall we proceed directly to my alternative?”
“There is no need for that.”
“Did you recover your money from the currier?”
“As it happens, I didn’t. He said someone took it from him.”
“And you believed him.”
“He’s not stupid enough to steel from me. What does it matter if I got it back or not. You are going to be paid.”
“I guess that is so. Last chance Mr K, two thirty matinee for Screen one in the Olympia cinema on O’Connell St. Get you man to sit in seat K 14 and wait for instruction.”
“He’ll be there.”
The Ferryman killed the connection. What Kingston had just told him tallied with what he had seen yesterday with his own eyes. He had an hour to go before the show. The Ferryman arrived at the cinema early and purchased a ticket for screen four and made his way inside. At three pm he exited his screen and visited the gentleman’s room. On exiting he made his way into screen one and walked up the steps in the dark. Seat K14 was three in on his left and the bulk of Pitbull Byrne was easy to pick out. He was the only one who had no interest in the rehash of star wars playing itself out on the silver screen. The Ferryman settled down to watch the movie. About thirty minutes before the end the Ferryman sent a text to Jimmy Kingston. Tell your man to leave the money under his seat and leave, NOW!.
It took a minute for Pete Byrne to start moving around in his seat and take out his ringing mobile. There were angry Shushes from the people seated around him which were quickly withdrawn after a look at the man taking the call. The call was brief and the response instant. Pete bent over, then stood and walked out of the movie without even looking over his shoulder. For the last thirty minutes of the movie the Ferryman’s eyes never left Pete Byrne’s vacant seat. Nobody ever came within reaching distance and as the final credits started to roll the Ferryman was first out of his seat. He quickly moved down the four levels and snatched up the bag under K14 before finishing his exit in the comforting scrum of people. He ducked straight into the same toilet he had visited earlier and withdrew the bundles of money from the backpack. He flicked through each stack and removed the paper wrappers to check for tracking devices. Once he was satisfied he stowed the notes in his own computer bag and left the cubicle with the now empty rucksack left behind.
All through the trip home he could not help but think about the twenty grand floating around which belonged to Jimmy Kingston. The Ferryman had not liked the way the gang boss had spoken to him since the first time they had made contact. He had never treated him with the respect a professional deserved. It would serve him right never to get that money back at all. As the evening ended and the night began, the thought would not leave him. By morning he was sure that Kingston deserved to pay far more than the thirty grand he had received, fifty had a nice round ring to it. The Ferryman turned his deadly gaze on the boy living on the top floor of a shitty apartment block in the depths of Dublin city.
About the time the Ferryman had decided to take an interest in his life, Joey was waiting outside the airport McDonalds hoping for an egg McMuffin and a strong coffee. He hadn’t been able to sleep for even a minute during the night, his hands kept straying to his bag to make sure the bundles of cash were still there. This morning brought a new worry into his life, what would happen if the security guards spotted all that cash in his bag when it went through the x ray machine. Joey had no idea if it was against the law to bring in cash into another country but he sure as hell couldn’t explain where he got his hands on it or who it belonged to. Joey’s mind never worked so well in the morning and he hoped having some food inside him would help.
By the time the strangely circular egg was resting like a greasy lump in his stomach he was no nearer an answer. In the end he decided the best thing to do would be to have it on him rather than having the cash go through the x ray machine. He went into the toilet and locked himself into the cubicle. He started stuffing his pockets with notes but they were bulging before he even got half way done. He tried putting some bundles in his socks but they stuck out the top and flapped as he walked. It might work if he had longer socks, like football socks or something. He repacked the notes into his bag and went in search of a sports shop.
Funny thing about airports, they don’t have that many normal clothing shops, lots of designer suits and very expensive women’s clothes but not a pennies in sight. He was about to give up when he spotted a rack of women’s tights in a shop selling sweets, magazines and other assorted goods. It just might work he thought and picked a pair of dark black ones. He had no idea of sizes so he hoped it was a one size fits all.
After rushing back to the toilets he stripped down to his underwear and slipped his legs into the ladies stockings. It was a first for him and they were surprisingly warm for such thin material. He soon had all the bundles of cash stowed and he pulled up his pants. He didn’t have to look in the mirror to know this would not do. He looked like a sock full of conkers. He stripped back down and removed all the cash bundles again. This time he broke the banded notes apart and started to spread them out more evenly working his way from his ankles upward. By the time he was done even he couldn't tell that something lurked under his clothes.
He unlocked the cubicle and walked out to see himself in the mirror. He twirled, it was as good as he could do. So long as they didn’t pat him down he should get away with it. He allowed himself a little self-confident smirk, and just then he felt the need to pee. He looked down and realised he was going to have to undo everything and start again.
“Damn,” he said as he went back into the cubicle and locked the door, again.
An hour and a half later he slowly edged along the snaking queue approaching a dozen or more metal detectors which were of no issue, he had stripped himself of everything that might set one off. It was the army of airport police manning the scanners which would or could be his undoing. He was trying to pick the best gate to use when the decision was taken from his hands. A steward closed the queue by drawing one of those rope barriers across in front of Joey and opened a direct line to a newly opened gate. The biggest surliest and ugliest copper of them all stood glaring at him. He was so big the metal detector looked like a frame around his body. Joey felt like throwing his hands up without further delay but instead he walked up confidently and popped his bag into a plastic tray and shoved it down the gullet of the x ray machine. He tried to look bored and assures as he stepped through the wall-less doorway and stopped before the menacing figure blocking his way. He tried a smile but the officer failed to return it. His only concession seemed to be a slight turn of his head toward the man operating the x ray belt. Some silent signal must have passed between them as the police man sent him on through with a flick of his finger. Joey tied not to look too happy with himself as he picked up his bag and moved deeper into the guts of the airport. He had made it through the gauntlet.
The priest walked around the coffin rocking the incense burner over and back. The gilted chains rattled with each swing. Puffs of pungent smoke drifted through the church, the smell caught in the back of Darren’s throat and tickled him. Clare rested a hand on his arm but she still stared ahead with a tear glistening in the corner of her eye. She had been off with him yesterday, he knew she suspected something even though she hadn’t actually said a word. He nearly died when Molly had appeared, he didn’t know where to put himself. He wanted to kill the woman nearly as much as he wanted to do something else to her. Thankfully she hadn't shown up today. Once this was all over with he was going to find her and lay down the law. Today was all about family, his family.
He never had time for the church or religion. Too full of gangsters for his liking. He wasn’t even listening to the old lad in the dress as he spouted shite from the pulpit. It was all rubbish anyway, haven, hell, none of it was real. He had seen too much of life to believe in fairy tales. He felt bad that John had been killed but not bad in the way he should be feeling. The reality was that he was a bubbling cauldron of emptions. He felt sad, angry, hurt, venerable and vengeful or combinations of these all the time. He actually surprised himself when he realised that he resented John for getting himself killed, and for messing up the life he’d made for himself and Clare.
The rest of the mass passed without incident. At the end, the priest indicated that Darren and his brothers should come forward.
“Ti’s time to take the coffin out, are you going to use the trolley or carry it?” asked the priest in a solemn voice.
“Him, not it,” snapped Terrance. The priest’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly like a landed fish.
“Its fine, Terrance, he meant nothing by it,” said Darren to sooth his brothers hurt. Terrance was taking John’s murder worst of all. Darren actually thought his brother was more deeply damaged than Emma.
“We’ll carry it,” said Darren, and stood by the top left hand corner of the coffin, Tony and Terrance moved in opposite him and his uncles took up the remaining three spots. The funeral director quickly appered at the top of the coffin and laid his hand on it as if holding it in place.
“Right so, lads. All together on the count of three but don’t hold it by the handles, they are just for decoration,” he said in a low but dominant way, like a rugby captain giving instructions before the scrum.
“One, two, three,” he said and as quick as that the coffin settled on Darren’s shoulder. The funeral director had the trolley folded up and half way down the aisl before they had a chance to gather themselves. They started walking without anyone telling them they should. Slowly and instep they moved between the pews. Row by row, the people joined as they passed. Most people were buried in the grave yard on the edge of town but that was not going to do for John. Darren had made a substantial donation to the church and in the process he had told the priest that he would be making a space available right there in the church grounds. The priest had originally said no but Darren had made it clear, it wasn’t a request.
They made their way down the steps and around the side of the church were a newly opened grave stood among the century old grave stones. Darren knew the priest must have moved someone to make room for John, or perhaps he just took the headstone away and dug a hole anyway. Whatever it didn’t matter.
As they moved into position before the grave, a phone started ringing. It was coming from Tony’s pocket.
“Jesus H Christ,” snapped Darren but he couldn't see Tony’s face for a reaction because of the coffin.
He saw Tony’s hand scrabbling for the phone but he couldn't reach it. There were a few twitters from deep in in the crowd.
“Turn it off,” said Darren but the funeral director interrupted.
“Let’s get John down first lads.”
The phone stopped ringing as the Coffin was dropped from shoulder to waist level. Tony was red faced and angry at being made look stupid in front of everyone. They no sooner had the coffin been laid across the supports over the open hole in the ground than Tony’s phone began ringing again. He pressed the button and snapped into it, “Don’t you know what we’re doing today?” Instead of hanging up, Tony listened in silence for a few seconds before taking the phone from his ear.
“Over here, quick,” he said to Darren and walked a few paces away from the grave. Darren followed, furious at his brother for even taking the call.
“What the hell is going on?” demanded Darren.
“It’s Dippsy and the boys, they are driving right behind Kenny Kingston, and he’s alone.”
“Where is he?”
“Middle of town. What will I tell them to do?”
Darren thought for a second, but only a second before saying.
Darren thought for a second, but only a second before saying.
“An eye for an eye. Tell them to take him alive if they can, or not.”
Tony repeated the order and finished the call. He looked at Darren in a way he had never done before. It might have taken the death of their brother, but they were at last on the same page.