Dark Times in the City

Dark Times in the City

by Gene Kerrigan

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Overview

The author of The Rage delivers “an absorbing, beautifully written, gritty tale of Irish detection and corruption” (The Times, London).

Danny Callaghan is having a quiet drink in a Dublin pub when two men with guns walk in. They’re here to take care of a minor problem—petty criminal Walter Bennett. On impulse, Callaghan intervenes to save Walter’s life. Soon, his own survival is in question. With a troubled past and an uncertain future, Danny finds himself drawn into a vicious scheme of revenge. Dark Times in the City depicts an edgy city where affluence and cocaine fuel a ruthless gang culture, and a man’s fleeting impulse may cost the lives of those who matter most to him. Gene Kerrigan’s new novel is his finest yet; a CWA Gold Dagger Crime Novel finalist, it’s gripping from start to finish, powerful, original, and impossible to put down.

“Following The Rage, Kerrigan delivers another spare, cut-to-the-bone noir in which a well-meaning ex-con finds himself trapped in the vice of circumstance. . . . Kerrigan’s grasp of contemporary Dublin and its underworld denizens puts him shoulder to shoulder with the best Irish crime writers.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Kerrigan gives us a Dublin we never knew in sharp clear prose and neatly bounded dramatic scenes of Irish cops and robbers that leave us fearing that some of the dust and other detritus they stir up may very well end up splattering on our shoes.”—The Boston Globe

“Kerrigan’s gripping police procedural . . . is good news for readers who can appreciate the moral complexities of this flawed hero.”—The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609451448
Publisher: Europa Editions, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 863,684
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Gene Kerrigan is an award-winning journalist and the author of the novels The Midnight Choir, Little Criminals, and The Rage, which was awarded the CWA’s 2012 Gold Dagger Prize for Best Crime Novel Of the Year. He lives in Dublin.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

On that part of the street, at this hour of the evening, only the pub was still open for business. Near the middle of a row of shops, between the flower shop and the hairdressers, it offered the street a welcoming glow on a chilly winter's night. There were two entrance doors, one to the bar and one to the lounge. The windows were small, high on the wall, and barred. The pub front had been recently painted off-white. The blue neon decoration high on the wall was a bog-standard outline of a parrot. The pub was called the Blue Parrot. It was owned and managed by a man named Novak.

This was a neighbourhood place and most of the younger set travelled into the city centre or favoured local pubs that featured entertainment. Novak didn't believe in pub quizzes, pub bands, comedy nights, or DJs. He just sold drinks and provided a venue for companionship.

On the other side of the street, it was all terraced houses with well-tended front gardens. They were of a standard municipal design that was duplicated throughout the Glencara estate and across similar council-built estates throughout Dublin — Finglas, Cabra West, Drimnagh, Crumlin, Ballyfermot. Small and narrow, most of the houses now bristled with extensions. Many had colourful cladding or fanciful embellishments — columns flanking the front door or tiled canopies overhanging the windows.

From the far end of the street a motorbike made its way towards the pub. Traffic was light here, far from the main routes through the estate, but the motorbike was taking its time, easing gently over the speed bumps installed to discourage joyriders.

The passenger was first to dismount at the pub. He took something from a saddlebag. At the entrance to the lounge he paused and gestured to the driver to hurry up.

When the man in the black motorcycle helmet came into the pub, Danny Callaghan slipped down from the bar stool and looked around for anything he might use as a weapon. His hand grasped the only possibility he saw within reach — his half-empty beer glass.

A few feet inside the entrance the assassin paused. The helmet hid most of his face, with just a gap behind which his eyes glanced from table to table. He had a revolver in his right hand, held casually down by his side. Behind him a second man in a matching motorcycle helmet came in, cradling a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun. Both men wore dark blue boiler suits.

Most of the drinkers were seated at the tables and booths around the edges of the pub, half a dozen of them sitting or standing at the bar.

The first assassin spotted his target and began to move forward. By now, most of those in the vicinity knew what was happening. The motorcycle helmet indoors, the armed minder watching the killer's back and the quick stride towards the intended victim — in recent years, a routine as recognisable as a Riverdance twirl.

The panic subsided in Danny Callaghan's chest.

Not me.

He relaxed his grip on the beer glass and put his hand in his pocket, to try to stop it shaking. The assassin was walking towards an alcove over by the large fireplace, where three men were now white-faced and standing up.

The man in the middle — small, middle-aged, grey-haired — was named Walter Bennett. Where his companions' expressions were a mixture of fear and bewilderment, Walter's pinched face was all dread.

Danny Callaghan felt the Swiss Army knife in his pocket. It had a small pliers, with a screwdriver, a bottle opener, and a two-inch knife blade. A hopeless weapon, but he held onto it anyway. He used a fingernail to pick at the knife blade.

Just in case.

Less than ten seconds had passed, and by now even the dimmest customer in the Blue Parrot knew the score.

The noise from the fifth-rate soccer game on the sports channel continued, but much of the pub chatter had been replaced by the coarse sounds of startled men releasing gasps and swear words.

Several just turned their faces away, crouched or ducked. Some stared open-mouthed, not wanting to miss a thing.

'Ah, come on, fuck off.'

Novak, the pub owner, was behind the counter, sucking in his gut, holding up an open-fingered hand towards the first gunman. The man, almost at the alcove now, ignored him.

From across the pub floor, Walter made eye contact with Callaghan.

'Help me, Danny!'

Four feet from his victim the gunman raised his arm, aimed the revolver at Walter's forehead, paused a second, then squeezed the trigger.

It didn't even make a clicking noise.

Nothing.

No sound, no recoil, no wisp of gases. Just a gun not working.

The gunman ducked when Novak threw a bottle of gin. And Walter moved, one foot stepping up and backwards onto the seat behind him, his other foot up and forward onto the table, the table lurching, drinks falling over. He hit the floor running.

The gunman turned, crouched, arm extended, revolver pointing at the moving figure. A clamour of shouts and screams from the customers was followed by the loud, flat sound of the gun going off.

Walter, unhurt, was coming Callaghan's way.

'Help me, Danny!'

One hand clutching at the lapels of Callaghan's jacket, Walter paused a moment and then he was past, head twisting from side to side as he sought a way out.

'Danny!'

The fuck does he think I can do?

Callaghan released his grip on the Swiss Army knife and took his hand out of his pocket.

Walter turned towards the toilets, but even in his panic he knew they offered only an enclosed place to die. No time to get across the counter, through the archway, and out into the bar. He turned to the approaching gunman, then twisted and crouched sideways, as though he could shrink his body beyond harm's way.

Grunting a warning as he passed Callaghan, the gunman pointed his revolver at Walter and Callaghan hit him square across the back with the bar stool. The gunman went down, landing heavily on his side. As the gun flew from his hand, Callaghan dropped, one knee pinning the gunman to the floor.

Walter ran forward and kicked the gunman hard, connecting with his ribs. He bent and snatched the gun, a small grey pistol, and before he could do anything with it Callaghan's left hand gripped both Walter's hand and the revolver itself. With his other hand he unpeeled Walter's fingers from the gun and looked around.

There wasn't a customer above table level.

Novak was out from behind the counter, standing with his back to Callaghan, one hand held up, palm towards the gunman at the front door, the other hand holding a hammer. The gunman waved the shotgun and shifted from one foot to the other.

'Anybody hurt?' Novak shouted.

Silence.

Then the man with the shotgun let out a hoarse roar. 'Let him go!' Novak lowered the hammer, his voice unnaturally calm. 'It's over, okay, just take it easy.'

Callaghan bent down, bunched the prone gunman's boiler suit under his chin and pulled him up. The gunman was heavy, but Callaghan took him easily. He heard a satisfying gasp as he twisted the man's arm up behind his back, a squeal as he pushed him past the bend in the bar and around towards the front door. The gunman's movements were awkward, his vision limited by the helmet.

Novak's voice was strained. 'Take it easy, no harm done.' Holding the gunman in front of him, Callaghan moved along-side Novak. The one with the shotgun was a dozen feet away. Callaghan said, 'Don't be stupid, okay? You piss off, and we let him go.'

The one with the shotgun hesitated. Callaghan pointed the pistol at him and said, 'Leave that and go.'

The would-be killer put the shotgun down on the floor and backed away, pushing the door open. He called back, 'Come on, Karl, come on!' Then he was gone.

Callaghan reached around and pulled the helmet off the gunman. Karl was about twenty, a bulky little guy with hair cut tight to his skull and the shadow of a moustache above his quivering lip. Callaghan's hold on his arm was solid, but he could feel the strength there.

'Toddle along, Karl — you come back here, you'll get your pimply arse kicked.'

Callaghan jerked the gunman forward, leaned him against the front door, and pushed. Outside, the second gunman was astride the motorbike, the exhaust already belching. His partner jumped onto the pillion and the harsh revving noise the motorbike made as it carried them away was maybe meant to be aggressive but it came off like a petulant bark.

Novak was standing beside Callaghan, watching the motorbike accelerate towards the far end of the street. 'Jesus, Danny,' he said.

Callaghan nodded. 'Jesus.'

In the distance, the motorbike passed through an orange beam from a street light, then jumped and wobbled as the driver forgot to slow for a speed bump. The tyres screeched as the motorbike turned sharply into a side street. In seconds even the noise of the engine had disappeared.

Novak was breathing as though he'd done a couple of laps around the block. 'This bloody city.'

Callaghan said, 'Recognise anyone?'

Novak shook his head. 'Someone'll tell the cops — I'll have to call it in.' He raised an eyebrow. 'Were you in tonight?'

Callaghan just looked at him.

Novak said, 'You better go, son.' He nodded towards the shotgun down by his side. 'What should I do with this?'

'Raffle it.'

Holding the revolver with the hem of his brown suede jacket, Callaghan used the front of his black T-shirt to wipe it. He offered it to Novak. 'Raffle this too.'

Novak said, 'This is going to screw the place up for a couple of days, with the coppers making a fuss.'

Walter Bennett came out of the pub in a hurry, brushed past Novak, and began the jerky stop-and-start lope of a man unused to such exercise.

Novak and Callaghan watched him go. Novak snorted and said,

'You're welcome, Walter.'

CHAPTER 2

In the ten minutes it took Danny Callaghan to walk to his apartment, he sought to keep thought at bay by repeatedly cursing his own stupidity.

Fucking idiot.

That's how it happens — one moment —

He cursed himself again and realised he'd said it aloud.

'Fucking idiot.'

There was no one to hear him. The air was cold enough to show his breath and the street was deserted. Callaghan was tall, with the build of someone capable of making a living with his hands. He had an unfinished look about him. His hairstyle was an old-fashioned short-back-and-sides that might have been done by a third-rate barber in a hurry. The peppered grey of his hair aged him beyond his 32 years.

The roar of a boy racer announced the arrival of a young man in his early twenties, in a light blue Ford Fiesta. The car came to a too-abrupt stop at the T-junction just ahead. Windows darkened, decorative blue lights reflected from the road underneath the chassis, the entire body of the car seemed to throb with the hiphop beat of the pulsing music. The night was cold but the driver's window was rolled all the way down. Nothing to do with ventilation, all about youth and image and the insistence that everyone should listen to his chosen music. Callaghan remembered the feeling.

The kid might well be on his way home from a job that paid under the minimum wage, in some kip where the manager didn't bother to ask his surname. In his head, though, he was motoring through the 'hood on his way to score a couple of keys of blow, ready to get down and dirty with a bitch or two and waste any muthafucka that got in the way. The kid gunned the engine, leaning forward as he glanced to his left, then turned right and kicked off, the screech of the tyres almost as loud as the scream of the engine.

The first time Callaghan had got that buzz he was fifteen, and behind the wheel of a stolen Lexus. Fifteen and immortal, fifteen and in no doubt he was a natural-born driver who could fishtail his way out of the tightest corner. And so it was, until two years later, lost in the wagon-wheel layout of Marino, with a squad car somewhere behind, he cut a corner too close and ended up clipping a lamp-post. When the ambulance crew took him out of the wreck he was smiling, his head still full of that buzz.

Callaghan felt a shiver now, remembering. There was no cure except time for that mixture of testosterone, arrogance, courage, and stupidity.

He walked through a narrow passageway and out into a wide and overgrown area of green stretching across a dozen acres. With a bit of work it might make a nice little park, but that wasn't in anyone's budget, so it wouldn't get done. The landscape was uneven, full of hillocks and hollows. The tarred surface of the pathway that cut through it was encrusted here and there with sprinklings of broken glass.

Who'd want to kill Walter Bennett?

One man with a gun could be a personal grudge. Two — main man and backup — that had the smell of a drugs gang solving a problem.

Hard to believe, though, that Walter Bennett had graduated to that level of action. They'd met in prison during the final year of Callaghan's sentence, when Walter came in to do five months for breaking and entering a car showroom. Since Callaghan got out, they'd bumped into each other a couple of times, had a drink once. Walter's life had been repeatedly interrupted by prison terms, leaving his ageing face with the perpetually resentful look of a loser. Callaghan couldn't imagine how such a small-timer fit into the quarrels of young men with serious weapons, and he didn't care.

Fucking idiot.

Whatever he'd got himself into, Walter couldn't help being a fool, but Callaghan ought to have known better. If heavies with guns wanted Walter dead, for whatever reason, he was going to die. Interfering in that kind of squabble was pointless.

That was the logic of it, but logic didn't allow for impulse. It was impulse that made Novak get involved, defending his pub and one of his customers. It was impulse, fuelled by his friendship with Novak, that drew in Callaghan.

Near the centre of the green there was a mound covered with bushes, behind which stood some kind of municipal storage shed. As Callaghan approached, three teenagers, wearing the hoodies of their tribe, emerged from the bushes. One of them saw Callaghan and gave him a nod, which Callaghan returned. The kid — his name was Oliver — shared a flat with his grandfather two floors above the apartment that Callaghan rented. They'd met on the first floor landing, on the day Callaghan moved in. Shuffling up the stairs with a suitcase in each hand, Callaghan had cursed as an uncooperative travel bag slipped from one shoulder. It wasn't the kind of area where you could leave a case on the street for a couple of minutes while you carried the rest up. Oliver, coming down the stairs, paused, then nodded and reached for one of the suitcases. 'Fucking lift,' he said, 'it goes dead every second week. And it takes them a couple of days to get it going.'

He carried the suitcase up to Callaghan's floor. He said he lived two floors up, then he nodded at Callaghan's thanks and set off down the stairs, whistling. He didn't seem to have regular work and spent a lot of time hanging around the area. Danny saw him a couple of times in Novak's pub. The kid was right about the lift.

Oliver was one of a group of local kids who regularly used the bushes in the centre of the green to store their booze, bought earlier in the day from a supermarket. The bushes were visible from the apartment block and apparently no one had ever been stupid enough to risk stealing the drink. Later in the evening, the kids would come back and cluster in some hollow with their bottles of cider and cans of beer and build a fire to keep warm while they drank.

In his apartment, Callaghan poured himself a Scotch. The five- storey apartment block was known to its tenants as the Hive. There were bars on the windows of all the ground-level flats. Callaghan's third-floor bedroom was just about big enough for a bed and storage for his clothes. It was slightly smaller than the space that served as combined living room, dining room, and kitchen.

Having sipped at the whisky for a while, Callaghan decided he wasn't enjoying it. He poured what was left in the glass down the sink.

Fucking idiot.

He'd switched on the boiler but it would be a long time before the radiators had an effect on the icy air. He put his hands in his jacket pockets and hunched his shoulders against the cold. Finding the Swiss Army knife in his pocket he took it out and opened the blade. He used it almost daily for one chore or another, but in a fight it might as well be a toy.

What kind of fool goes up against a handgun and a shotgun with no weapon to hand except a bar stool?

Dumb.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Dark Times in the City"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Gene Kerrigan.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher


"Kerrigan’s gripping police procedural...is good news for readers who can appreciate the moral complexities of this flawed hero.”
—The New York Times
 
“With a dexterous use of language married to masterful plotting, Kerrigan has something of James Joyce’s ability in conjuring up a vivid Dublin--but this modern city is very different than the one Leopold Bloom wandered through.”
—The Independent
 
“Kerrigan’s prose is luxury stuff.”
—The New Yorker

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