John Brady

A Carra ring

Everyone is born a king… and most die in exile.

— Oscar Wilde


The driver braked late for the lights and the Fiat began to slide. Larry Smith cursed and eased off the pedal. What the hell was he doing with this law-abiding routine, stopping for an amber traffic light on a Sunday morning? He shifted into first before the car came to a stop halfway across the white line and groped under the seat for the pistol. It hadn’t shifted.

A Toyota van turned on to Strand Road ahead. Some fella delivering the Sunday papers? He looked across the bay. The tide north of Dublin was out. Lambay Island like a slab sitting on the gray, flat water of the Irish Sea. Frigid looking, the color of water out of the washer, or an old, battered saucepan. There was piles more rain on the way too. What a poxy start to the day.

Even the golf clubhouse looked like a dump. It’d been twenty years since Zipper Brophy and his brothers had destroyed that clubhouse. There’d been two days of questioning, he remembered, and a hammering from head cases in the Special Branch. All because a lot of Guards were members. Zipper was dead three years now. It was pure heroin, one of the first loads to hit town. Zipper’d always been careless. It was April first too, of all days, and they found him in the toilet out at the Jolly Rover, that dump that had burned down in Finglas last year. Plainclothes Guards all over at the funeral too, trying to mix in. They’d almost caused a scrap with Zipper’s brother outside the church.

He looked in the rearview mirror again. The early mass in Sutton was started already. He shifted in his seat to get a better look at the sea. He thought of the last holiday he’d had with Yvonne. It’d been like a honeymoon all over again in Portugal.

He yawned until the tear almost broke away from his eye. He’d been shaky enough getting up. He drew the pistol out from under the seat and laid it in his lap. Nice weight to it, balancing there, and the little knob under the trigger guard. He’d been on the move for a month now, after he’d heard the rumors. Moving around every night had left him restless, washed-out. You couldn’t really get a night’s sleep like this. He couldn’t even use the cell phone to talk to Yvonne. Someone had heard the law could get in on the new ones even. Well how was that anyway, wasn’t it an infringement on a person’s basic rights and all that?

He leaned over the wheel and stared at the red light. He should give up on the Fiat really. The blind spots were making him jittery. Cheaper to fix the smashed wing mirrors, sure, but it was burning a bit of oil now. He swore at -

A screech and a flicker in the side mirror made him drop his hand on the pistol. He looked out the passenger window. A seagull drifted down onto the footpath. That’s all it was? He looked at the twisted edges on the mirror frame. Both of them smashed in the one night a fortnight ago. Christ, if he got his hands on the little bastards. His back was tightening up on him already. He leaned over the wheel again but it didn’t help. He let out the clutch a little, let the Fiat roll into the junction.

That van ahead was taking its time. Well what if he were to just drop it all and get into Australia or someplace? On his own, and then send for Yvonne after he was set up right — and on the QT of course. Shouldn’t be that hard. A car, a Renault, was cruising up to the lights now. There was only the driver. He looked up at the red light again. Christ, were they broken or what? The road ahead looked suddenly huge and empty. He couldn’t be sitting here in the middle of nowhere on a lousy, rainy Sunday morning. He let out the clutch.

The banging came steadily from the back. He jammed the accelerator to the floor. The Renault had come through the junction. The back doors of the van were opening. Spots appeared on the panel of the passenger door, and a burning smell stung in his nose. He banged the pistol on the ashtray as he went to find second gear. Glass showered across the seat at him. He kept the wheel turning. The growl and burr of the impacts didn’t seem to be so loud now. The glove compartment shattered a split second before the windscreen went white. He banged at the glass with the end of the pistol but it wouldn’t give.

The first shot hit him in the shoulder, knocked him hard against the door. The steering wheel went nuts and then locked as the Fiat mounted the footpath, slid along the seawall, and stalled. He heard himself shouting. The spots on the steering wheel were blood, he knew. He wondered when he’d begin to feel his arm, why he wasn’t panicking.

He rolled out onto the footpath. The glass grinding into his elbows didn’t register with him. He thought of the rocks under the seawall, if he could get over there.

“Who are yous?”

The Fiat twitched with more impacts.

“We’ll work this out…!”

Seaweed, he smelled; rubber, oil, sewage.

“Give me a chance to talk…!”

He waited. Still nothing.

“Just tell me what you’re after…!” It wasn’t a shout now, a screech that ripped at his throat. “Just let me fucking talk!”

The buzzer from the open door was driving him around the twist.

“Whatever it is…! Come on…! Who are you?”

There were more shots from the front. It was a steady pattern now, like those drum rolls he used to do in that band the social workers organized for them back when they were in fifth class, that stupid community band. Something stung as it flew into his cheek. He pressed his face to the panel by the wheel. The bullets slamming into bodywork resonated through his cheekbone.

“Jesus,” Larry Smith whispered. “Yvonne.”

Running feet were zigzagging his way. They weren’t stopping, slowing down even. The panic broke over him then. He shoved the pistol around the side of the bumper, fired twice, ducked back.

Larry Smith was turning to see if others had come up behind him when a bullet shattered the base of his skull. It was a firearm of similar caliber if not the identical weapon, the Garda press release stated two days later, that was also used to blow parts of Larry Smith’s head across Strand Road. The postmortem report contained three further sentences which were to be much remarked upon in the Murder Squad. They concerned what appeared to be the marks of a kick to the face delivered, it seemed, prior to the coup de grace.

“Lads,” said APF Colm Brennan. He waited until they looked over at him. At least they’d see the uniform and cop on that he was Airport Police. “Lads? Come on now, for the love of God. This is Dublin Airport now, not a bloody rave-up. Yous can’t be blocking the way here.”

There were five of them now. Brennan looked around at the faces of these die-hard fans of Public Works. Nobody had actually complained. The trouble was that the big fella, the dopey-looking one with the four hundred studs in his ears, had started drinking out of something from inside his jacket. He could be fifteen or he could be twenty, couldn’t be sure. But he was the one to watch. He might lose the head handy enough, that one.

“Well, turn it down at least. Do you hear me?”

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