Ken Bruen

He drained the last of the pint, thought,

“Christ, that was good.”

Another Jay?



But he’d had two alongside the batter of pints already. Primarily, he needed a cig. That tipped the balance. He could already feel the first hit of ferocious nicotine. He moved from his stool, brushed the dandruff from his jacket. Normally he didn’t notice it but he’d caught sight of himself in the old mirror with the slogan,

“My Goodness, My Guinness.”

And a frazzled comic zookeeper chasing a pelican with pints of the black in his beak. Nearly made him smile; you just didn’t see those ancient slogans anymore. More’s the Irish pity. He cursed anew those damn black jackets that showed up every fleck of white. Like stranded drops of snow. He said,

“Night all.”

Got a few muttered,

“God bless.”

No warmth though.

Fecking media had given his profession the taint of leprosy. Grudgingly, he conceded the fact he hadn’t paid for any of his drinks the whole evening might be a factor.

He thought,

“Bad cess to ye.”

Outside, he stared at the church. Saint Nicholas’s. One of the two Protestant outfits in the city and, they claimed, some hoofmarks inside the door were made by Christopher Columbus before he set sail to find the New World. He figured they needed all the lures they could conjure. He got out his pack of Major, the strongest Irish cigarette, none of the Marlboro Light shite for him. Smoke or fuck off. He wouldn’t be surprised if the decaffeinated tea rumor was true.

Flicked his Bic.

Got the first lethal drags of smoke into his starved lungs.

When the blow came to the back of his skull.


He dropped the cig, nearly fell. Then a massive kick to his stomach did drop him to his knees. The mix of Jameson and Guinness spewed forth like a nervous confession. He heard,

“Fucking bastard’s spewing.”

Another forceful kick laid him flat on his back. He could barely see, had the mad thought,

“Nothing good happens outside a Prod church.”

He could barely see from pain but he registered three figures.

Was one a girl? He heard,

“He’s wearing his dog collar.”

And it was ripped from his neck with the chant of

“Woof Woof.”

A hand in his jacket, ripping out his wallet. Holding it up for the others to see, a male voice going,

“He’s got a photo in here.”

The chorus,

“Who is it then?


Lindsay Lohan?”

An answer.

“Some old cunt.”

His mother.

He made the drastic mistake of trying to get up, surely the young people still had respect?


The next kick broke his nose.

He fell back.

The girl stood over him, sneered,

“Trying to see up my skirt, yah pervert.”

And shredded the photo into his face, paused, added,

“Nearly forgot this.”

Spat in his face.

He heard

“Who’s for a pint then?”

As they moved away, he allowed himself a tiny amount of hope till one hesitated, came back, and with slow and deadly aim, kicked him in the side of his head, laughed,

“Forgive me Father, for you have sinned.”

A light rain began to fall, drenching what remained of his mother’s torn photo. She’d always wanted him to be a priest. As his eyes rolled back into his head, he muttered,

“Top of the world, Ma.”

A headstone is but a slab of granite lashed by an indiff erent wind.

Things were looking up. Late October had brought a week of Indian summer. Be it global warming, the world going to hell?

Who cared?

We grabbed it while it lasted.

Eyre Square, people lying out in the sunshine. Ice cream vendors peddling slush at five euros a pop. The country had, on a second referendum, said yes to the Lisbon Treaty. We took that for what it was,

….a brief stay from Death Row.

I was coming off the worst case of my bedraggled career. Literally, a brush with the devil. I muttered,

“Darkness visible.”

Had sworn,

“Never, never going down that dark path again.”

Whatever it was, the occult, devilment,

Xanax, delusion, it had shaken me to the core. I still kept the lights on in the wee hours. In my apartment in, get this, Nun’s Island.

Who said God had no sense of the ridiculous?

To add bemusement to bafflement, I met a woman. After the devil, I’d gone to London on one of those late deal Internet offers. Met Laura. An American, aged forty-two, and, to me, gorgeous.

She made my heart skip a beat. She was a writer of crime fiction. At my most cynical, I thought I was simply material for her next book. A broken-down Irish PI, with a limp and a hearing aid.

Yeah, that would fly.

Did I care?

Did I fuck?

She liked me.

I grabbed that like the last beads of the rosary. She had rented a house in Notting Hill and was due to come and stay with me for a week. But hedging our collective bets, we went to Paris for five days, see if there was any real substance in what we thought we had. February in that wondrous city. Should have been cold and bitter.

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