Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Closing a bit more of "Place of Safety"...

I'm winding my way down to the end of this restructuring...and my head's letting me know it's ready to be done. Nasty aches, the last two days, barely controlled by Advil. Maybe it's tension-related because I'm pushing to keep the story as honest and brutal as it wants.

This bit is after Brendan was grabbed off the street in Derry, one night, by constables and taken to a hidden location to interrogate. One of the constables is a former friend, Billy Corrie, who's Protestant.  Then they dumped him near his mother's home. Brendan's grabbed a pistol he hid for his brother, Eamonn, years ago, and despite his injuries is headed off to kill the men who tortured him. It's well into darkness, and is at the height of the hunger strikes, in 1981.


I headed back up the hill and took a long way around the Bishop Gate to avoid the checkpoint, aiming for The Fountain. I could easily get to the Craigavon checkpoint from there and cared not whether I was seen by them. I knew Max, Pug, Slim and Billy would be chatting up the Paras, trying to prove themselves as hard and cold as any ever were. Telling them all about the stupid Taig they'd learned about, and weren't they the bright lads for finding him out before the Brits did? I had only seven shots in the clip -- I hadn’t slipped one in the chamber -- but that would be enough. Jeremy had shown me well how to fire a pistol and be accurate.

The streets were deserted, of course, there being a curfew with plenty of patrols running about. I’d hear the Saracens and jeeps roaring up and have plenty of time to find a shadow to cover me, but most of them seemed to keep back from the Bogside and down Cityside. My only real problem was walking.

My adrenalin was abating and every step had turned back into pure torture from the shooting pains in my balls. They were swollen and getting worse. I had to walk like I was bandy-legged and hold my briefs in a way to cradle my testicles so they wouldn't be rubbed. With it came the deep dull ache in my sides and with my nose being so brutalized, I could breathe only through my mouth. My lungs began to fight for air from the exertion of my strides first up a small hill then down a short road then up another small rise and I began to feel dizzy. I stopped, now and then, to lean against a wall and let my lungs catch up to me and give my stomach the time not to spew whatever was left in it.

I finally noticed my hands shook from the pain and emotional turmoil building up inside. The realization I’d just been snatched off the street, taken to a secret location and tortured into giving up information, as though I were a criminal well known to all, was finally taking hold. Just like in Houston. That what I gave them meant nothing to anyone but me and Joanna was beside the point. A sense of brutal shame swept over me mixed with a horrible understanding of just how powerless I’d been to do anything about it. And how like a mad dog I’d been treated.

My mind exploded into a thousand directions as I tried to fight my way back into control. But the pain between my legs and in my sides and about my face mixed into memories of what had been done to me in Deer Park and I felt madness taking over and welcomed it, if it would just end the screaming in my heart and head. End the pointless fury filling my soul. Show me a way back to a life I’d once hoped for and dreamed of away from this diseased circle of hell.

Yet somehow I still kept on and drew closer and closer to where I could put a bullet in the limited brain of Max or Pug or even Slim, and the thought gave me strength and brought a low chuckle to my breathing ... until I heard whispers from misty shadows in an alleyway and I turned to face down whoever it was ... 

And it was Danny.

Standing there, half in shadow, almost glowing.

Goddamned fucking Danny.

I froze as he floated up to me and put his hand on mine and took the pistol away, as gentle as with a child, and slipped his other hand around my neck and led me into his shadows and I had to remind myself to breathe.

"Am I dead, Danny? Were you sent for me?"

He put his fingers to my lips, his eyes tender and filled with hurt, and brought out a handkerchief to dab at the blood on me. And he smiled. An honest smile. First I'd seen from him in ten years.

I tried to smile back. "You're my second ghost."

His expression went quizzical then he nodded. Put a hand on my left shoulder. Right over Joanna's name. His eyes deep and dark and filled with sadness and sorrow.

Another car approached. He listened then put a finger to my lips and nudged me out of the shadows.

A Renault zipped up the street, lights off, and pulled to a halt before me -- and out popped Colm, looking around like a wild man, choking his voice to keep it soft. “Brendan, what the hell d’you think you’re doin'?! You round the next corner and you’re into a fuckin’ Army checkpoint! Holdin’ that pistol!?"

I looked down to see the Colt was still gripped by me. And the shadows were silent and motionless. I hadn't moved, not one bit.

Colm grabbed the pistol away. "You'd try to shoot up a checkpoint now? When we’ve got the world on our side? You’ll hurt everything we’re trying for and -- and -- ”

I looked at him. Gave him a clear view of my face. He couldn’t help but gasp, “Jesus Christ, Bren.”

“This -- just what -- you can see -- ” And I began to shake.

He took my arm. “C'mon, me china, you're in no condition to be out, like this. Not physically or mentally. Let me take you home. Maeve’s there, with Gina. They’ll tend to you till I get a doctor over.”

That's when the pain rolled in, again. Sharper. Larger. Shot down my legs and across my chest and wrapped itself around my spine and gripped me even tighter than before. I could not breathe, it controlled me so. Tears filled my eyes and gasps escaped me mixed with whimpers of grief and confusion and simple physical hurt. At that moment, I didn’t care what happened, if I lived or died. I couldn’t think or move -- hell, it was all I could do just to keep standing on my feet, even with naught but shadows against my back.

Colm drew me close and wrapped an arm around me and two more lads joined him as he whispered, “Come along. You’ll be all right. You’re me China, Bren. Remember? Come along.”

And like a child, I let them lead me over to the car.

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