Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trust and Fear

I haven't posted a short story for a while, so I thought I'd push this one off into the wider world.

‘You have two options, Cathal – jump or be pushed. You can go in your time or mine. It’s up to you.’

‘There … there must be another way.’ It was dark on the balcony, barely underlit by light pollution from the street below, diffused through a fine drizzle. The thin bar of the railing had numbed his buttocks, his feet dangling into thin air, strong hands from behind holding him in place. You could see most of Dublin twinkling into the distance, the relatively flat skyline punctuated by the millennium spire and the twin towers of the Pigeon House power station in the harbour.

‘This business is all about trust and fear, Cathal. I don’t trust you. And fear, well that’s what this is about.’

‘I … I … I can change.’

‘No. No you can’t, Cathal. You’re a pathological liar and a junkie. You’ll always be a junkie.’

‘I ... I can. I’ll get you some money. Tomorrow. I’ll get it for you tomorrow.’

‘This isn’t about money, Cathal. It’s about respect. It’s about doing the job assigned to you. It’s about trust. I trusted you to deliver that consignment. It didn’t arrive.’

‘I … I …’ He was shaking now, unable to control his panic.

Neither man spoke for a few moments.

‘Where’s the consignment, Cathal?’

‘I … It’s … I’ll get it for you. I can get it back.’

‘Where is it, Cathal. You want to live, don’t you?’

‘It’s … I can’t.’

‘You can’t? You're more worried about someone else even though the only things keeping you alive at the moment are my hands?’ He jerked Cathal forward whilst holding him in place.

The world shifted in and out of focus. ‘Fuck! Shit … shit. Oh god!’

‘The only god here right now is me. And praying will make fuck all difference. What did you do with the drugs?’

‘I … I … Jesus. Jesus. Please, Jimmy.’

The hands jerked him forward dislodging his bony backside from the railing, but holding him aloft. The soles of his runners scrabbled for purchase on the wire-enforced glass, his hands seeking the railing.

‘Argh … h …. Argh … h. Fuck. Oh, fuck. Please. Please.’

‘The drugs, Cathal.’

‘Me da. Me da’s shed. Behind the bikes.’ It was a release to say it. To let go.

‘Your da?’ The hands dragged Cathal back onto the railing.

‘In his shed.’

‘Why are they in his shed, Cathal?’

‘I … he … we … fuck.’

‘Goodbye, Cathal.’

The hands caught him unawares pitching him forward into the void. The man had expected him to scream, but instead he tumbled silently until a dull thud.

Trust and fear. Reputation was everything.

‘My time,’ he mumbled to himself.

* * *

It took a while for the front door to be opened, light spilling from the hallway onto the driveway to reveal the sodden visitor.



‘How are things?’

‘Like shite. Streets are full of gombeens and fuckheads regardless of how many we put away.’

‘The world is full of gombeens and fuckheads, Tommy; you’re wasting your time. Are you going to invite me or what?’


‘For fuck’s sake.’ He shook his head frustrated. ‘You’ve been pushing your nose into my business, Tommy.’

‘Every guard in the city is trying to stop people from putting your business up their noses.’

‘I want it back.’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘He shouldn’t have given it to you.’

‘You drove him to it, Jimmy. All your threats and posturing; he was scared stiff. I was the only person he felt he could trust.’

Jimmy snorted a laugh. Trust and fear. ‘If it ever came out what he was up to it could cause a lot embarrassment. He could go to prison.’

‘Better that path than yours.’

‘There might not be any path once news of the missing consignment reaches my partners.’

‘Is that a threat?’

‘That’s life. Some of them are not very forgiving, Tommy. You know how they work.’

‘Look, you better fuck off before you force me to take you down the station.’

‘I don’t think so. Brothers are, after all, brothers.’

‘Stay away from Cathal, Jimmy.’

‘I want the consignment back.’


‘Let me rephrase that. If you don’t give it me back they’re going to kill him.’

‘They’re going to what? He’s your nephew, Jimmy, not some fuckhead hood.’

‘Business is business. They don’t give a fuck that he’s family. I don’t give a fuck! He should have delivered the consignment.’

‘I can’t give it to you.’

‘Not even for your son? It’s just drugs, Tommy. Everyone gets their fix; nobody gets hurt.’

After a long pause Tommy eventually conceded. ‘They’re in the garage.’

Trust and fear.

‘Thank fuck,’ Jimmy muttered.

If that consignment wasn’t delivered he was a dead man.

A distant siren was starting to near.

* * *

Jimmy lifted the trunk of his battered red, 98 Toyota Corolla. ‘I told you I’d get them, Mr Doherty.’ The space was full of off-white, brick-sized bundles tightly wrapped in cling film.

‘I always knew you would, Jimmy. I always knew you would.’

Jimmy risked a sideways glance at Doherty. He was a short, wiry man in his early fifties, with salt and pepper hair cut short and stylish wire glasses.

‘It won’t happen again.’

‘I know, Jimmy.’ Doherty turned to face him.

‘There won’t be a problem with the courier either.’

‘I know that as well. You never told me your brother was in the guards, Jimmy.’

Doherty was a head shorter in height but radiated potential violence. His reputation preceded him, and if it didn’t then there was every chance that a smart mouth would discover it first hand. And if Doherty didn’t dish out the pain then his two companions would. Dressed all in black, they were standing off to one side in the deserted factory car park, keeping a close eye on their boss, the smaller of the two casually holding a handgun at his side. The larger bodyguard, his head shaved, had fists the size of turnips that were just as hard. Jimmy had felt their wrath and he had no desire to do so again.

‘Cat got your tongue?’

‘No, Mr Doherty.’

‘Your brother?’

‘He won’t be a problem. We have an understanding.’

‘Even after you pushed his son off the top of the Kilkee flats?’

Jimmy stayed silent.

‘The word is that he thinks Cathal was killed by his brother’s partners.’

‘I … I … look Mr Doherty I think …’

‘Shut the fuck up, Jimmy. The word is that he wants to take revenge on his son’s killer. There seems an obvious solution to me. What do …’

‘Look, Mr Doherty, I think there must be …’

The fist landed firmly in his stomach winding him. A boxer’s punch. Driven home. He folded in half. The knee arrived on cue, rocketing his head back, sending him reeling, skittering backwards trying to stay on his feet.

Doherty danced after him, grabbing him by the hair. ‘Don’t interrupt me Jimmy, y’hear? Ever.’

He tried to nod his head.


‘Yes, Mr Doherty.

‘Good man. So what you think the solution is then Jimmy?’

‘I’ll … I’ll talk to him. Let him know he’s making a mistake.’ He could feel a drip of blood sneaking from his nose, trailing to his upper lip. Instinctively his tongue darted out tasting its coppery tang.

‘And you think he’ll listen to you Jimmy? He’s going to listen to reason when he’s lost his only son?’

‘I … I don’t … I’ll get it sorted Mr Doherty. I got you the consignment back, I can …’

‘And what are you going to say?’ Doherty interrupted. ‘A big boy did it and ran away? He knows he was a junkie. He knows that he was mixed up with you. He knows how he died.’

‘He jumped! I didn’t touch him.’

‘Tell it to St Peter. You put him on the balcony, didn’t you? Hung him over the edge?’

‘I was trying to find out what he did with the consignment,’ Jimmy pleaded.

‘He should never have been trusted with the consignment in the first place!’ Doherty snapped. ‘What the fuck were you playing at?’

‘Playing at?’

‘Jesus, Jimmy, are you slow or something? As I said before, there seems an obvious solution to me. You’ll have two options – jump or be pushed.’

‘Look, Mr Doherty, I’m sure we can find another way.’

‘I don’t think so, Jimmy. Now shut the fuck up or Mac will pop you right now; I can’t stand a man who begs.’

* * *

The view from the balcony was spectacular, the city laid out before him, the Wicklow Mountains rising blue grey in the distance; off to the left was the slate green water of Dublin Bay. He peered over the edge of the rail careful not to put his hands on the graffiti etched wood.

Ten storeys below a group technicians from the Garda Technical Unit surrounded the prone body of his brother. He was lying only feet away from where his son had been found. Fifty metres back a small group of bystanders were congregated behind blue and white crime scene tape, some of them there for the second time in two days. A camera flash popped a couple of times.

What was it his brother used to mutter; his version of the criminal code. ‘Trust and fear, Tommy. It’s all about trust and fear.’ It seemed to him that it was much more about fear; real and imagined.

The message from Jimmy’s death was clear. To him it said, ‘Back off, the person who killed Cathal has paid the appropriate price.’ To the other hoods in the city it let them know the price of failure.

He shook his head slowly. Doherty could go fuck himself.

1 comment:

Dorte H said...

A tight and exciting short story with its own criminal logic!