Saturday, 7 January 2017

Thirty Pieces of Silver - Falling back to Earth (cont)

Adams happened to be in the city centre when the call came naming Kenny Kningston as the injured party in an incident in the St Stephens Green Shopping Centre. It only took him a few minutes to get there and he abandoned his car with the blue lights flashing in the middle of the footpath. He arrived just after the ambulance crew who were getting the young man strapped to a back board. Kenny lay in the middle of a destroyed Jean Junction cabana on the ground floor. The place was littered with broken glass from the obliterated roof. A huge crowd had gathered to rubber neck and two security guards and a few shop assistants were doing their best to control the area. Actually they were doing quite a good job. One skinny little girl wouldn't let him pass until he pulled out his badge and showed it to her. As it turned out he was the first officer on the scene.

“Did you see what happened?” he asked the girl but she shook her head. She pointed out one of the security men.

“I think Mark might have," she said.

Adams walked over to the man and repeated his question.

“Not all of it. The first I knew was when someone screamed and I looked up to see this guy dangling from the top of that banner,” he said point toward the roof where a ripped piece of advertising hording hung in mid air.

“Jesus, he fell from there?” said Adams, amazed that Kingston was alive at all.

“Na, the banner ripped and he kind of, rode it down. He only fell the last ten or twelve feet. Mind you he went through the shop roof on the flat of his back so it was still a long way to go. Myself and Chris ran over to help him but he couldn’t move. We checked him for cuts but only found scratches so we called the ambulance and kept him still.”

“Did he say how he ended up hanging from there?”

“No, he wouldn’t say a thing. I did spot a bunch of scumbags hanging around but they didn’t come near him. They were on the third balcony though. I saw one ugly head hanging over the rail looking out at the young lad while he was hanging on for dear life.”

“I guess I'd better have a word with him,” said Adams crunching through broken glass and spilled clothes to get to the injurd guy. The paramedics were strapping him down when Addams appeared over him. Even though the boy lay unmoving his eyes raced around the room like a nervous puppy. He was clearly in a lot of pain as there were huge drops of sweat peppering his brow.

“Kenny Kingston?” asked Adams.

“Yea,” croaked the boy. His eyes were alert

“I’m Detective Adams. Can you tell me what happened?” he said standing over the boy with his hands in his pockets.

“I fell,” said the boy.

“I gather that, how did you fall?”

“Can’t remember,” said the lad and his eyes closed. Adams knew he was lying.

“Pull the other one, Kenny. There is a four foot barrier up there. You have to try hard to fall over that. Were you trying to kill yourself?”

“Bullshit!” snapped the boy, his eyes opened wide with anger. He had a short fuse, just like his old man.

“What happened?” demanded Adams in a no-nonsense voice.

“He already told you,” snarled someone behind Adams. The detective turned around to be confronted by a harried looking Jimmy Kingston glaring at him.

“Unusual to see you out in public, Jimmy. Are you not worried that someone might take a pop at you?” said Adams, he threw a leer on his face because he knew it would drive the gangster mad.

“If you lot were more competent, law abiding citizens like me could walk the streets in safety,” spat Kingston his nose wrinkling with dislike that bordered on distaste.

“Ha! That’s a good one. I didn’t know you were taking up comedy,” laughed Adams, not rising to the bait. He saw the man’s face go even darker in colour as his temper rose.

“Look, I haven’t time for this shit. My boy’s hurt and that's all I care about right now. Do you mind?” he said trying to walk past the guard but Addams held out his arm halting his progress.

“I do actually. I want to know why your lad flattened a shop.”

“He said he fell. Is it a crime to have an accident now?” said Kingston balling his fists and placing them on his hips. He jutted out his head like a cock turkey looking for a fight.

“Criminal damage at least,” said Adams kicking some of the smashed glass for emphasis.

“Well charge him so, and be quick about it because we’re going to the bloody hospital,” said Jimmy pushing past Adams. It was clear he didn’t give a stuff about any trumped up charges Adam's might come up with. The likes of Jimmy knew more about the law than any wigged barrister you'd find in the high courts. He knew it, and used it to his advantage.

“You got to be kidding? He’s hardly going to run away,” stammered one of the paramedics who had been listening.

Adams knew he wasn’t going to get away with charging Kenny with criminal damage. No judge in the country would convict after a swan dive from the third floor into a shop. Particularly if the kid ended up seriously hurt.

“What hospital are you taking him to?” Adams asked the paramedic who was packing away his equipment in a huge green backpack.

“The Mater would be the best. He may need a CT Scan,” said the man coldly, clearly not liking Adams tramping around in his day with his size ten boots. Typical inter service resentment. It happened all the time. Every time the ambulance service, the fire brigade and the police turned up at a scene together it always turned into a dick measuring contest. Ridiculous.

“Fair enough, on you go.” Adams said to the ambulance crew. He turned on Jimmy and glared at the shorter gangster.

“I know damn well this is connected to you. I' find out what happened, you mark my words.”

Jimmy Kingston’s face scrunched up with anger. “I will, you better believe I will! My boy is leaving here on a stretcher and you are treating him like scum. I’ll be on to your gaffer and I expect an apology and your arse on a platter.”

“The last thing you’ll ever get from me is an apology but you have convinced me of one thing.”

“Oh yea, plod, what’s that?”

“You convinced me that we have been pussy footing around you lot for far too long. Be expecting to see me very soon and this time we won’t be knocking on your door, we’ll be kicking it down.”

“Do your worst!” snapped Jimmy walking after his son’s vanishing stretcher without as much as a backward glance.

“Bastard,” snarled Adams to himself.

***

The pub was packed to the door with mourners. Black suits and dark dresses filled the place but there was a good natured hum in the room. Even though it was not yet dinner time the pub felt like it would on a Saturday night, just before closing.  A fog of cigarette smoke hung below the ceiling, despite the smoking ban. When the Griffin’s were having a gathering, it was their rules all the way. The bar staff were pumping out pints and shorts as quickly as they could, but it was a never ending tide of orders and grasping hands.

The door opened and four men entered wearing casual clothes. They stood out among the more formally dressed crowd but they seemed perfectly at home with everyone in the bar. They smiled and moved through the crowd. One of them slid up to the bar beside Darren and leaned on the counter.

“How did it go?” asked Darren easily.

“Not exactly to plan,” said the man holding up his finger up toward the bar man and indicating the Guinness tap.

“What the hell does, not to plan, mean?” said Darren turning to glare at the man.

“We watched young Kingston go into the parking lot. Two of the boys jumped out and went in the front door while myself and Tommy followed him in the car. We found him parked near the top floor so we followed him into the shopping centre,” said the man taking an overflowing pint of porter from the bar man and drinking deeply from it.

“And?” prompted Darren, impatient for the rest of the story.

“Well, he spotted the boys as they were closing in on him and he legged it back toward the car park but we had him boxed in. That was when he jumped.”

“He did what?”

“He jumped off the flamen third floor balcony, like some pimply faced spider man. He caught on to a flag that was hanging from the rafters but he still went straight through the roof of a shop on the ground floor.”

“So is he dead?”

“Na, but he’s fairly fucked up. We had to pull back because there were loads of people watching and a few bouncers turned up. I thought it was better to get the hell out of there. We can always get him again another time.”

Darren thought for a moment and took a swig from the whiskey in his glass. He looked back at the man and nodded his head. “You did the right thing. Kenny was only a pawn but it’s a good start. You and the boy’s did well.”

“One for John?” asked the man looking into the depths of his glass.

“Yea, one, but not the one.” The man looked up from his drink and into Darren’s eyes. The question went unsaid.

“I want the piece of shit that pulled the trigger no matter what it takes. I won’t rest till he's lying in a hole of his own.”

“Nobody knows who did the job,” said the man lifting the half empty pint to his lips.

“Then I’ll kill everyone of Jimmy’s crew until I find someone that does. For today, we’ve done enough. This is John’s day,” said Darren lifting his own glass and the man clinked his pint on the rim.

“Cheers for the pint, Boss.”

Darren nodded and the man walked away to join his friends.

“Stick another one in there, and a white wine, Buddy,” said Darren as the barman passed. The order was filled lickitty-split and placed on the counter. The whole bar was on a tab, and the Griffin brothers were picking it up, so he simply walked away with the drinks.

Clare was sitting alone in the corner looking deeply into her empty glass. She looked more than sad, she looked devastated. Darren knew there was something brewing inside her, he also knew he was not going to like it. Life had thought him that a pile of shit stinks less when you don't poke it with a stick. 

“Here,” he said placing the wine in front of Clare and slid into the booth beside her.

“Thanks,” she said, pushing her empty glass away and taking a long swallow from the new one.

“Don’t get pissed,” whispered Darren over his shoulder as he took a sip of his freshened whiskey.

“On a day like this, why shouldn’t I?”

“Come on, your acting like you lost your own brother. You don't have to pretend, I know you didn't even like John that much.”

“You didn’t like him either, but it didn’t take you long to turn into him,” she snarled accusingly, drink making the corners of her words turn to slurs.

“What the hell does that mean?”

“You know, running around shouting orders, vanishing for nights at a time, everyone calling you boss and that bitch of course,” she snarled under her breath and took another long swallow of her wine.

“What the hell has gotten into you,” he demanded putting his drink on the table, hard. She said nothing but faced down his glare with a look that said she was not going to back down any time soon. She was never like this and the mention of the woman made every alarm bell in his brain sound. After a long time he looked away and picked up his drink.

“Who is she?” she said again, like a dog with a bone, there was no way she was giving up her grip.

Darren felt his blood freeze in his veins but he kept swallowing whisky. He knew exactly which woman she was talking about. He knew that Clare knew something, but the question was, what did she think she knew.

“Who is who?” he said, brazening it out to the last.

“You know who the fuck I'm talking about, don't take me for a fool. The red head from yesterday,” she said, her voice beginning to rise.

“Keep your voice down,” he snarled under his breath. It wasn't that he wouldn't yell his head off in front of ever last person in this place, its that he wanted to keep a lid on her while he figured out what to say.

“I will not, who is she?” she said but her words were subdued and hard. She wasn't giving him an inch.

“Her name is Molly, alright?” he said at last and swallowed some more whisky.

“Are you fucking her?” Clare said flatly. Her eyes unreadable.

“What the hell? You're nuts, you know that? You think I’m fucking every bird in Dublin, is that it?”

“No, just that one,” she said. There was that dog with the bone again. She was not letting go of nothing, he had to think quick or it would be more than John's funeral today, it would be the death of his relationship as well.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” he snapped, turning away and regretting it the instant he did it. It was a guilty move and he knew it.

“If I’m being ridiculous, tell me how you know her?”

“She works for us, alright.”

“Doing what?” her words still dead-pan expecting the worst. 

“Don’t do this, don’t fucking push me, not today,” snarled Darren looking around the room. The few eyes that were paying attention were quickly averted. It's not good to go staring at the sun.

“What does she do? Tell me, or we're finished.”

“She’s a call girl. There, are you happy!”

“I knew it. You're fucking her.”

“Will you shut up,” he said, rubbing his head with both his hands. This was getting away from him. In that moment he had a flash of inspiration and looked at Clare with his most hound dog look.

“I’m not sleeping with her, John was.”

“What?” she said, shocked, but not shocked at the same time. It was just not what she'd expected to hear and Darren knew it. He had her on the run.

“I just told you and I am not saying it again. That’s the last thing we needed, her turning up at John's grave to play out some big melodrama, it’s the last thing Emma needed,” he said seeming the height of reason now.

“Did Emma know?”

“No... I don’t know, but I’m not going to start asking her over John’s coffin, am I?”

“I thought you were taking up where your brother left off, I...I,” she said, her bottom lip jutting out like a kid about to cry.

“Why the hell would I?” demanded Darren, his face a mask of indignation which he hoped covered the nervousness. She was far too close to the truth for his liking.

“You turned into him in every other way. I’m not like Emma..."

 Darren leaned into her and grabbed her upper arm pulling her ear toward him, “And I’m not my brother, you should know that. Yes, I’ve had to take charge but I’m still me. Perhaps you want out, is that what you’re telling me?”

She pulled out of his grip and faced him angrily, “Of course not! That is not what I am saying at all.”

“You could have fooled me!” He knew the words would sting, they were meant to. 

“Don’t go turning this on me. I have done nothing but support you!”

“It doesn't feel like it!” In that instant the argument turned away from him and Molly. He saw the hurt he caused and felt bad, but not as bad as being outed for shagging Molly.

“I’ve been frightened is all, John’s death, everything that’s happened, it's turned my world upside down as much as yours. I’ve been feeling you slipping away from me.”

It was time to turn the tables on her again.

“That’s not true. I’ve always been there for you. You know that you and Martin are the most important things in my life,” he said taking her upper arm again but this time his grip was gentle. He turned her to face him as he spoke the words, the only emotion showing in his eyes was love and compassion.

“More important than your brothers?” she asked holding his gaze.

“You can’t ask me that. How can I answer such a question?” She had hit him with an ace and he knew it.

“With the truth. If it comes to a choice between them or us, I need to know you'll pick us. If not, I have to think of Martin. Do you understand?” He could see she was close to the edge. If he answered wrong it could end them. A lie would not be believed. A huge spike of fear pierced his heart at the thought of losing her and he knew he could never live without her.

“You'll always be my number one. I'll never leave anything happen to him, or you. Nothing,” In that moment he meant every word, and she believed him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. When she pulled away she smiled and looked in his eyes.

“Sorry for being such a silly cow,” she said, embarrassed and ashamed.

“You’re not,” he replied sweetly.

“Come home and let me make it up to you,” she said, her eyes twinkled naughtily.

“I can’t, I have to stay. It wouldn’t be right to leave this early,” he said miserably, nodding toward the crowed pub.

“Alright, but don’t be too late. I’ll take Martin home and get him some dinner,” she said, smiling guiltily at him. She stood up and put on her coat. Young Martin weaved through the crowd on seeing his mother getting ready to leave.

“I’ll get one of the boy’s to take you,” said Darren, standing up to help her with the sleeve and waving over one of the suited men standing near the door.

“It’s alright, I’ll get a taxi,” she said, he knew she didn't want to make any more of a fuss.

“No, you won’t. I promised to keep you both safe and sometimes that means doing what I say,” he said. The huge suited man reached the table and Darren turned to him with a friendly smile.

“Can you run Clare and Martin home?”

“Sure, Boss,” the man said respectfully.

“And walk them up to the flat.”

“Right to the door, Boss.”

Darren watched the door swing closed behind his family and couldn't help wondering if Clare had been right. Was he turning into John after all. He’d used is dead brother to cover up his own sins. Something John would have done in the blink of an eye and laughed about later. He thought about the night he spent with Molly. He remembered how free he felt, as if someone had cut every string binding him to responsibility. He had felt powerful, a aura which always surrounded John. The question remained, is that him?

While in the moment it felt great but he remembered how empty and hollow he felt lying next to Clare the next day. Clare was the one for him, he knew that beyond doubt, but did he love her more than his family, his brothers? How could he tell? Somehow he knew a clash of those emotional titans was coming and he could only pray when the time came, he would pick the right road. As if on cue, Tony appeared with two pints of Guinness and filled the seat vacated by Clare.

“Have a pint, and stop looking so miserable. We’re here to remember John like he’d have wanted. Get pissed, get laid and get in trouble.”

Darren laughed at that because that’s exactly what John would have done. He raised his glass and clinked it against Tony’s.

“John Griffin, the best of us.”

“Now you said it brother!” Tony bounded to his feet and turned to address the pub.

“Hay, you lot! We’re here to celebrate the best God Damn man that ever walked the streets of Dublin.” He raised his glass and roared, “John Griffin!” Everyone in the place responded with gusto and the window glass rattled in the frames.

“Now, drink up. The night’s only beginning,” said Tony, and an even bigger roar came from the crowd. Darren drained his pint in one go and hugged his brother by the neck as he pulled him toward the counter for the first of many refills. 
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