- Sun Jan 22, 2017 2:53 am
it was around the time the ink wasn't quite dry on the agreement.
we were up north in august, a beautiful time to be in the province.
a beautiful time to bury one's brother.
when I looked out the window the lights looked like elongated stars.
and when I tilted my head the stars moved in line with the angle.
I imagined this is what the star of bethlehem looked liked... but I was also convinced it didn't really exist.
he walked into the room which consisted of little more than an army cot and cinderblock side table and sat down beside me on the bed.
'how are you keeping?' he asked, not looking at me but staring out the window as well.
"I'm all right" I spluttered "I didn't think we'd be back here."
'so rumour has it he was down market street.' and then he added 'I didn't think he'd be there.'
"nor did I...and those bastards knew he'd be there... they made sure of it. why didn't they ring it in? they always fucking rang it in." I shouted as a snot bubble blew from my nose.
he handed me a handkerchief. it stank of tobacco.
I wiped my nose and handed it back to him. unperturbed, he shoved it back into his jacket pocket.
the rain picked up again, smashing at the seized sash window.
'well, we might as well go pay your mate colin a visit' he said 'I'm sure he's expecting you.'
"yes" I sighed "might as well get it out of the way."
when I left so long ago I also left the love of my life, in the middle of the night, never to see her again.
and it was never my choice... it was my destiny.
the first few years were the toughest but as time went on I realised that we were never going to be good for each other. the few years we had together dictated this. and roughly six months after I left she had taken her heartbroken self up with colin 'bata' breen.
they both went to the same church.
they both went to the same public schools.
their families went to the same social clubs.
and there were some things that my family could never do.
years ago word came down the line that if I was to return I would not fare well. what was once missed now inspired contempt.
they all knew under certain circumstances I would return... and then they would exact their revenge.
he had gone downstairs and made a few phone calls from the box outside the safe house.
when he returned he had a slight smirk on his face.
'I've got the address and the make of his motor' he said 'he finishes his shift at eleven bells. that gives us an hour so make yourself ready.'
I nodded and proceeded to get some clothes from the suitcase.
'and wear black...' he said 'I want you to see this.'
we got ourselves changed into what we were to wear to the funeral.
I'm not sure if we looked more towards menacing than we did towards mourning. such is black attire.
a half hour journey saw us outside the foundry. after a quick search of the carpark we found the ford sierra we were looking for.
the republican stickers on the bumper gave it away.
it was 10:45pm.
'I want you to stand over by the bins' he instructed 'go now.'
I walked over and stood out of the carpark floodlights. "how's this?" I asked.
'good. good' he repeated 'can you hear me? I can't see you.'
"yes" I answered "I can hear you just fine."
'good' he said 'now I want you to stay there until he leaves. do not move.'
I stood there watching him for a bit. he looked inside the vehicle and back at the foundry.
he then started to walk to the railway tracks at the rear of the carpark. he looked about on the ground, stopped and retrieved something.
I wondered what it was and how, if at all, he managed to have something dropped there for him.
as unbelievable as it may be, I had been witness to greater things, and under stranger circumstance.
he then returned to the sierra, waiting at the boot.
ten minutes later we heard a faint whistle blow inside the building and within seconds we saw the workers pile out faster than they would have gone in.
we immediately saw a plume of cigarette smoke above the exit and heard the din of the lads saying their goodbyes and making plans for the coming weekend. eventually they went their separate ways and I could see colin making his way through the carpark.
he was bigger than I remembered. but then again claire was a woman you looked after yourself for.
there was always a queue promising the next fellow to take up where the previous one may have left off. and such was claire.
colin walked past me to his car when our man announced his greeting, emerging from behind the vehicle and somehow making himself look smaller than our target.
'excuse me, sir?' he asked, meeting him at the side of the car.
"jeezus, man! you nearly scared the life from me. what are you getting?" he asked rather accusingly, furrowing his brow.
'I'm here to tell you that I'm representing a client. perhaps an acquaintance, if you like.'
"what? what are you on about, man?''
'I want you to look at me and think hard about whom I may be here to represent. have a think on it hard, son." he said, never taking his eyes from his.
after fifteen seconds of a staring contest colin's face seemed to relax, and then he smiled.
"I know why you're fucking well here'' he laughed "and I know who you came with. you tell him I'm looking forward to seeing him... it's been a long time. we've much to discuss, you might say." he mocked.
'yes. well, good. now we know each other's interests.'
"you tell that little fucking scarpering bastard that I'm looking for him and I will find him. his brother's to buried at breandrum with the wake at flannigan's, right?"
'that is correct, sir... but you will be nowhere near either of those establishments. nor will your cousin patrick, nor your brother john, nor your younger brother james, nor your best mate jimmy, nor the lads from hurling' he finished 'in fact, no one you know will be anywhere near him during the duration of this short visit. do I make myself clear?'
colin laughed... long and heartily before asking "and who the fuck are you to tell me and my crew how we go about our business? you're nothing to me... look at you, dressed in black and hanging around my fucking motor. you're like someone's older brother come to meet me after school. to hell with you. in fact, fuck you. he's getting what's coming. it's been far too long.''
'I don't think you understand the situation here.' he said before kicking him to the side of his kneecap and capturing his shirt collar as he slid down his car.
I saw him take something from his jacket pocket and punch him three times in the side of the jaw. he then took something from his breast pocket and stabbed it into his face.
'do you see this?' he screamed, albeit growling 'do you fucking well see this, son?'
he held a railway spike in his hand. and it had been obvious that this was in his hand during those three bone crunching blows.
'I will take these and nail you to your sitting room floor. two through the inside of your elbows and two straight through your fucking knees. I'll crucify you in the true sense of the word... your brother james? I'll ram two of these through his armpits to your front fucking door frame. and john? I'll stick his head on a god damned pole in your garden. do you know who I am now, you little cunt?' he seethed.
colin's eyes grew wide and he nodded, now sobbing through his handkerchief filled mouth of broken teeth.
'and claire?' he continued 'claire will never see the outside of hell's kitchen. I'll put her on the first ship and by the time she's served her purpose she'll look like a fucking rag doll. do you understand me now, sir? do you now understand the implications of whom you've been threatening these last ten years?... or do I need to pay union street a visit? perhaps I need to see someone closer to you... someone who shares your blood as we speak?'
colin started to cry. big blubbering bursts of sorrowful mourning for he knew that this was over. ten years of telling an entire town what was to happen was never going to eventuate.
not without every man, woman and child he knew disappearing from this earth.
as there was only one man in ulster that had performed the atrocities that this man described.
a monster described to children with a plea to behave lest he arrive in the night and snatch every soul.
'now you're going to go home. you're going to go straight home. not the pub, not the infirmary, not your bit of business down union street... home. and you're going to stay there until the 27th. if you make a phone call I will take the skin from your back. and if you leave your house once before the 27th... just once, I'll show you the inside of your skull. you will never, ever, speak of my acquaintance nor myself. if you do, everything... everything goes black.'
he pulled colin up from the ground, opened his driver side door and shoved him in, slamming his now broken arm in the door.
I saw colin pull his arm in with the other and shut the door, his swollen eyes staring straight ahead, never turning back to look at the devil incarnate staring into his side window.
the motor started immediately and he drove away only to stall at the exit. another ignition and he was gone.
and as I imagined, straight home.
I stepped out of the shadows to see him wiping the grease and grime from his hands on his trouser fronts. I supposed it didn't make much of a difference. we'd wear these clothes in three days and on the fourth, burn them.
''those punishments you spoke of" I asked with a shudder "how could you know what happened at antrim? all that was meant to be rumours... rumours started by the english... and all those details were to be suppressed. how could you possibly know every detail? did you do this? how could you bring yourself to do something so horrid... so wicked... that the thought of it takes my breath away from me?"
he looked hard at me, staring into my eyes.
then he reached for a cigarette, lit it and grabbed me by my face... a hand on each cheek and his filtered b&h clenched between his teeth.
'I could never bring myself to do anything like that, feen... never...' the cc said quietly 'but the reason you recognise those details so well is... well, it's because you can.'
we'll always have buffalo, sweet josh.