The premise for this story is simple – a ‘talking heads’ piece involving two, long in the tooth, unreconstructed male cops sitting in a car all night on a stakeout.
‘Do you know something, Harry? I’ve stopped fancying women.’
‘What?’ Harry had the passenger seat tipped back as far as it would go, his eyes closed.
‘I said, I’ve stopped fancying women.’ Pete kept his gaze fixed on the back door of The Village Tavern, his hands resting on the steering wheel.
‘I got that. I’m just not sure what you’re trying to say. Are you, like, y’know …’
‘No, no. Jesus. For fuck’s sake, just cos you stop fancying women doesn’t mean you’re a fucking fudge-nudger. What I’m trying to say is …’ Pete trailed off, then let out a deep sigh.
‘For Christ’s sake, Pete, what the fuck are you trying to say?’
‘I dunno. Forget it. I was just saying … I dunno what I was saying.’
‘They’ve got pills for it now, y’know. Viagra or whatever the hell they are.’
‘What?’ Pete turned his gaze from the door to his partner.
‘I said, they’ve got pills for it. Impotency. Y’know, limp dick and all that.’
‘I’m not fucking impotent! Jesus. I can get the beast hard as fucking nails any time I want. Use it as a fucking sword. What I’m saying is … I mean, what I’m trying to say is, I don’t want to.’
‘You don’t want to?’ Harry opened an eye and stared across at Pete.
‘Used to be a time that I’d wanna fuck anything in a skirt. She could be pug-ugly, or semi-retarded, or both; it didn’t matter, if she had a tits and a hole, I’d fancy a piece of her.’
‘Nice. And I thought you were one of those so-called new men. Respected women and all that.’ He closed his eye again. ‘What’s your point?’
‘My point is, I’ve stopped fancying women. Take Chloe Gaines,’ he said referring to the best looking cop in their station, ‘she’s the fucking business, right? A body men would die for, smart, funny, the works. I …’
‘Chloe Gaines?’ Harry interrupted. ‘She’s way out of your league; different fucking stratosphere. My advice is, just forget about her.’
‘That’s my point! I don’t need to forget about her. I’m profoundly indifferent to her. She could get in the back of this car wearing nothing but her handcuffs and I wouldn’t care.’
‘Good, because she’d be getting in for me not you, you fucking sap.’
‘In your dreams.’
‘Well, I’d be the only one who could actually give her what she wants. Look, Pete, is there a point to all of this? I mean, what do you want me to say?’
‘I don’t want you to say anything! I just … Jesus. Forget it. I was just killing time.’
‘Well, that’s the fucking problem right there – killing time. Sitting around for fucking hours at a time waiting for some gobshite to make a fucking mistake. It starts messing with your head. Too much time to think shit over so that small things become fucking monsters. That’s what’s going on here – you’re head’s all messed up. Wires have got crossed. Why don’t you put the radio on?’
‘It’ll drain the battery.’
‘Got to be better than listening to the fucked up voice in your head.’
‘Thanks, Harry. It’s nice to know that someone cares.’ Pete turned on the radio and a song from the 1980s purred through the speakers.
‘No bother. What are friends for?’
‘Here we go.’
‘Jimmy Burke’s just tumbled out the door.’
‘Fuck!’ Harry pushed himself upright, his belly folding over his belt.
* * *
‘I’ll swap you some coffee for some hot chocolate,’ Harry offered.
‘What?’ Pete replied, drumming on the steering wheel in time to a Kinks number playing on the radio.
‘I said, I’ll swap you some coffee for a sup of your hot chocolate.’
‘Ahh, come on. I’ll be fucking buzzing if I have to sup this stuff all night.’
‘Well, you need it, you’re practically comatose. What’s wrong, you not getting any kip at home?’
‘Fucking kids on the estate; always fucking shouting. Little bastards need stringing up.’
‘Four of them are yours.’
‘As I said, the fuckers need stringing up. So, you tight bastard, are you going to swap me some hot chocolate or not?’
‘Well, since you asked so nicely …’
‘Thanks.’ Harry reached in behind the seats and fumbled around for the flask.
‘Did you hear that Frankie Tuoey’s being transferred to CAB?’ Pete said referring to the Criminal Assets Bureau.
‘He’s what? That fat bastard?’ Harry turned back in his seat and screwed the flask cap off. ‘He couldn’t add up his shopping bill.’
‘He’s the coming man apparently.’
‘Only if he jerks himself off. Jesus, Frankie Tuoey. For fuck’s sake!’
‘What, you think you’d have been a better bet?’
‘Jesus, Donald fucking Duck would have been a better bet. Even you would have been a better bet. Talk about a fucking cushy job – sitting in a nice, warm office pissing about on a computer all day; surfing the fucking internet.’
‘I’m behind Donald Duck in the pecking order? Thanks a lot, Harry.’
‘No bother. There’s no harm in you knowing your place. If it’s any consolation, you’re ahead of Wily Coyote.’
‘And who are you? Bugs Bunny?’
‘Top Cat? You’re fucking joking me. More like Mutley. Give me back that chocolate, you fucking chancer.’ Pete reached out for the cup and flask.
‘Give over, you sap.’ Harry tried to swat Pete’s hand away. ‘You touchy bastard.’
‘Come-on, give it here.’ Pete made a grab for the cup.
‘For fuck’s sake.’ Harry stared down at the stain spreading on his stretched shirt. ‘What the fuck did you do that for? You barmpot.’
‘Stop moaning. It’s already covered in ketchup.’
‘That could have scolded me if hadn’t been half-cold.’
‘Where the fuck did they come from?’
‘Those fuckers.’ Pete gestured out the window to where a group of men with hooded tops were gathered round a car at the back of the bar.
‘For fuck’s sake, how long have they been there?’ Harry asked, dropping the flask and cup into the foot well and reaching for the camera sitting on the dashboard.
‘How should I know? You’re the one meant to be using the camera.’
‘And that means you stop using your eyes?’ He streamed off a series of shots. ‘Fuck. Fucking Frankie Tuoey. Fat bastard.’
* * *
‘Johnny’s gonna have a fuckin’ fit,’ Harry said scrolling through the lurid green night shots on the back of the camera. ‘I couldn’t get a photo of the reg.’
‘Just drop it, will you, you’re a like a broken record. You’re going to run the batteries flat on that thing.’
‘There’re spares in the back. Jesus. Are you sure you didn’t catch it?’
‘If you didn’t with that thing, how the hell would I see it? Just relax will you, you’re putting me on edge. Can’t get everything. Besides, what do they expect, what they’re paying us?’
‘Jesus, you’re not going to start on that again, are you? We’re paid what we’re paid; the economy’s gone to hell in a handbasket. We’re too small a country to spend our way out of it.’
‘We didn’t create the bloody crisis, but we’re the ones they expect to bail them out. And the same the fuckers who got us into the shit are the one’s that are still in power. It’s not right.’
‘Give it a rest, will you. And you call me a broken record!’
‘I’m just saying, that’s all. Fucking take home pay is down twenty percent.’
‘Tell me about it. I’ve got four kids who all think that money grows on trees.’
‘Well, it’s not right.’
‘You’re right, it’s not right, now shut the fuck up. Shit, I can’t believe we didn’t get a good shot of that car. Johnny’s gonna flip his lid.’
‘You’re going round in circles.’
‘This is important. We’ve been sitting here for four fucking hours for that shot.’
‘Maybe there’s CCTV? Got him on a traffic camera or something?’
‘Yeah, there’s that. Fuck!’ He put the camera back on the dashboard and massaged his eyes.
‘How much longer do we have to hang round here?’
Pete glanced at his watch. ‘Two hours, give or take.’
‘Shit. I’m dying for a slash.’
‘There’s a bottle in the back.’
‘Fuck that. I’m going in that bush over there.’ Harry gestured out the window and shoved open the door. ‘If anyone else shows up, for fuck’s sake, take some shots. And keep the camera facing that way; I don’t want the rest of the squad jealous of the old marriage tackle.’
‘Yeah, right. You’re fucking delusional. It’s going to take you five minutes hunting to find the maggot.’
‘Fuck you.’ The door slammed shut.
* * *
‘Kenny told me a great joke last night,’ Harry said referring to his eldest child. ‘Two elephants fall over a cliff. Boom! Boom!’
‘What?’ Pete’s head was tipped back, leaning against the headrest.
‘Two elephants fall over a cliff. Boom! Boom!’
‘You want me to explain it to you? Jesus, Pete. It’s a Tommy Cooper gag. Two elephants fall over a cliff. What the hell happens?’ He paused waiting for an answer. ‘Two big, heavy fuckers smash into the ground. Boom! Boom!’ He slapped his hands in time. ‘Jesus. How the fuck did you pass the entrance exam?’
‘Right. Very good,’ Pete said without laughing. ‘Here’s one for you. How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?’
‘Fucked if I know.’
‘And you’re calling me thick, you gombeen. How many surrealists …’
‘Never mind. Jesus. What time is it?’
‘Four thirty. It’ll soon be getting light. Half an hour more and we’re out of here, thank fuck.’
‘Talk about a waste of time.’ Pete rolled his neck. ‘It can’t be good for us sitting like this all night. It’s like sitting on a plane; we’ll get deep-vein thrombosis or whatever the hell it is. What I need right now is a good massage.’
‘Saucy Sandra’s will be closed by now.’ Harry failed to stifle a yawn. ‘Oh, fuck,’ he muttered, rubbing his face.
‘You have to take everything to its base level, don’t you? A neck rub, that’s all I’m after. Work the knots out; my back muscles are like coiled rope.’
‘Well, she can work on my coiled rope any time she wants. Saucy cow.’
‘In your dreams. It’s too short to get a knot into it in the first place. Here we go. You got that camera ready?’
Two men had exited the back door of the bar. The shorter of the two caught the older man full in the face with a punch sending him sprawling backwards.
‘Shit!’ Pete clicked open the door.
Harry grabbed his sleeve. ‘Give it a second.’ He reeled off some more shots as the shorter man, shoved his unbalanced victim in the chest sending him to the ground. He followed up with several kicks to the man’s head and back.
‘Boom, boom,’ Pete muttered.
‘I’d say that’s him done,’ Harry said.
The shorter man was leaning over the prone figure, talking angrily.
‘The guy on the ground is Mickie Stewart,’ Harry said lowering the camera as the attacker disappeared back through the door. ‘Drives an articulated lorry. Sometimes does runs to Europe and brings back a little extra cargo. By the look of it, he’s just fucked up.’
‘Who was the other guy?’ Pete asked, closing the door.
‘Fuck knows. Wee, little, hard man, wasn’t he? Had a boxer’s strut.’
They watched the body unfurl itself, Stewart getting gingerly to his feet, staggering away from the bar, massaging his back.
‘I bet he could do with Sandra’s loving touch,’ Harry said. ‘You got any more of that hot chocolate left?’
* * *
There was a knock on the passenger window.
Harry cracked open an eye and pressed the button to lower the pane. ‘Garda Gaines. Good job you’re not wearing handcuffs.’
‘What?’ she said staring at the chocolate and ketchup stains on his shirt, the fetid air in the car wafting out.
‘Romeo here,’ Harry jerked his thumb across at Pete, ‘would have to look profoundly disinterested.’
‘Ignore him,’ Pete interjected. ‘He’s acting the bollix. He thinks he’s got a shot at you.’
‘In his wet dreams,’ she said smiling, internally rolling her eyes. If Harry McKenna ever came onto her he’d be digging his balls out from under his chin.
‘So, how did you get on? Everything go to plan?’ she asked.
‘Yeah, yeah,’ Harry lied. ‘No bother. We’re professionals, you know.’
‘Yeah, right,’ Gaines said doubtfully. ‘You had a party?’ She asked gesturing at Harry’s shirt and the burger and chocolate wrappers in the back of the car.
‘No need to be jealous. We’ll invite you next time as long as you bring a friend.’
‘I’d sooner walk naked down O’Connell Street.’
‘Tell us the time and date and we’ll be there.’
‘I bet you would, you letches,’ she said unable to hide her distaste. ‘Johnny Cronin says that you can stand down now.’
‘That’s Inspector Cronin to you,’ Harry snapped.
‘His exact phrasing was, “Tell those two gobshites they can stand down”.’
‘I’ll see you in my wet dreams in an hour,’ Harry said testily and raised the window. ‘Come-on, let’s get out of here. Frigid cow.’
‘Frigid? She’s got more balls than you, you sap. I’d say that was Gaines five, McKenna nil.’ Pete turned the ignition key, the engine ticking over but not starting. ‘I told you it would run flat.’
‘Fuck! Cronin’s going to flip his lid.’
‘Two fucking elephants,’ Pete said, hitting the steering wheel. ‘Boom! Boom!’