After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to rework the book, chopping out a lot of the early chapters to get into the action. This is how it starts now.
Before I can collect my thoughts I suppress that chill progression. Maybe the past is simply lurking, concealed in the depths of an ostensibly impregnable silence.
It’s a past I have attempted to bury, to entomb in preference to a daily life. Doing this job, becoming a normal man. Living a normal life with my woman and my children.
Nothing about this is real anymore. This man, my companion, becoming steadily drunk. The crystal shimmers, half blinding me. His words a distant buzz. Only when he asks, “Do you shoot, Aidan?” do I steer myself away from this grim reality.
“What?” The word adheres to my throat, making me wonder if I have uttered it at all. Harrington paces the red tiled floor, brushing the fronds and clutching vegetation from his face with ill-disguised impatience. Nursing his whisky, he swings around on my query as to why he should want to know that.
“Course Sarah thinks it’s all a bit barbaric. Shooting pheasants and wild fowl. But it’s a sport. Don’t you agree?”
“I guess that’s what the wealthy do,” is all I can possibly add. “Look, Mr Harrington, Paul, if you don’t want to discuss the garden then why am I here? If you’re inviting me to join you for some shooting party then you’re asking the wrong guy. I’m just a humble landscape gardener. I don’t shoot. I agree with your wife. Killing animals and birds for sport is barbaric.”
“But you used to shoot, didn’t you? And it wasn’t birds and animals, was it?”
I hurl myself from the seat. Tension winds around me. The throb of pain in my wounded shoulder reminds me there was a past. As if it rages inside my head.
‘You think you can forget what you did?’ Sure I’d love a whisky right now. The whole damn bottle if it makes me forget.
Instead all I can do is retaliate, while those smoothly polished features smirk and smile, aware he has me now. I wonder why he’s brought me here. “I don’t know what the fuck this is all about, but if you’re not interested in me doing your grounds, then I’m out of here.” I stress his name coldly.
As if he hasn’t heard me, he says, “A man in my position gets to know a lot of people, gets to hear a lot of things. Names get bandied about, if you see what I mean. The name Aidan McRaney kept cropping up. I learned you were once a minder to Frankie Lamond, a big shot gangster nine, ten years ago. You went to prison for killing the guy who shot Lamond’s woman. Now you’ve been out, what, two years?”
“Almost three, but I’ve turned my back on all that. I’m not that man anymore. I have a different life now.”
“A leopard never loses its spots.”
“I didn’t come here to be reminded of the past. So what is this, blackmail?”
“Blackmail? Good God no.” He laughs, but it’s hollow and humourless. “Why should I need to blackmail anyone? I’m a pig in shit here. Just look around you. I’m a wealthy man. I have no need of blackmail.”
“What then?” I try the door in an endeavour to escape, while Harrington is intent on getting drunk. “If you don’t want my business, then there’s nothing to be said is there? What happened was in the past, I told you. I want to forget it.”
Harrington dangles the keys and savours his smile. All I can do is attempt to escape from this madness, while I implore him to open the door. “You know what I promised my kid?” I pause, confronting him. My breath issues hard, ragged, with that inherent rage that I struggle unsuccessfully to suppress.
“To give him everything a young lad should have? My old man was too poor to promise me those kind of things.”
“No, of course not. I love my children, but no way will we spoil them. I meant that I promised my son that I have turned my back on crime. No more bad guys, that’s what I said.”
“Come on, Aidan, if you disillusion yourself, how can you expect your son to understand?”
“I’m sorry, but you’ve lost me there.”
“I mean, you know you can’t escape your past, no matter how you try to tell your son otherwise.”
The conservatory obviously has to be kept at a certain temperature because of the hybrids, the hothouse plants. After all it is February. Now it’s as if he has raised the thermostat. The place has gradually begun to swelter. Harrington, however, scarcely appears unfazed by the intense heat. Maybe he’s used to it, whereas perspiration has begun to seep down my back, enough to saturate through my shirt and jacket. Once again I demand he let me out. I remind him that Caitlan will be frantic by now, that she’s kind of delicate and relies on me a great deal.
A chill slices through the expanse of heat, cutting through my mind like a buzz saw when he says, “Sir George Treveleyan saw the potential in you.”
“What the fuck, Harrington? What do you know about that?”
“You can shout and bluster all you want.”
“I can see why your wife wanted me to leave in such a hurry. I wish I’d taken her advice and not let you talk me into coming back to the house. I still don’t understand why you’re raking all this up anyway. Wherever this is leading the answer is no. I get the feeling you want something from me that I’m not prepared to give.”
He pours yet another Scotch. He studies the golden liquid before swirling it around in his glass. His expression is thoughtful. Caressing the crystal base, he raises his eyes to mine. Again I plead to be let out. As if I haven’t spoken he mutters, “You know that old saying, my wife doesn’t understand me?”
All I can do is nod, and wonder what the hell is about to ensue. His face flushes crimson from the drink and he’s beginning to slur. “My wife. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love her so much, but she fails to understand or share my interests. We have shooting parties you know. When we do, she makes herself scarce..”
I fully intend to interject my agreement with her, when he continues with his discourse, as if he hasn’t heard me. “Sarah prefers to meet up with some of her medical friends in the city, but in the evening she’s the impeccable hostess once more. Can you imagine her?”
The fact is I prefer not too. Harrington is right about one thing. She is a stunner, but the Harringtons mean nothing to me. His gaze wanders off into a kind of dreamlike intoxication. While I wonder if I can possibly snatch the keys in order to let myself out of this stifling room.
“Look, I don’t care what you and your wife get up to. Just let me out so I can get back to mine.” I soften my tone, rather in the manner of someone pleading to a potential suicide from jumping off a roof. “Okay,I admit, yeah I used to work for Sir George Treveleyan, since you know that much. I was minder to a gangster, ten years ago. I shot the guy who tried to kill him. I went to prison for almost eight years. If you want my life history, I was born in Dublin. You already know I…”
We have something in common, you and me.” Draining the crystal, a hand slightly trembles on the bottle when he pours another. I remind him that perhaps he’s had enough.
“Bridget? What about her?”
“Not her. The other one. The girl who was raped and murdered.”
“Jesus!” I can’t help but exclaim in surprise. “You have been busy. I don’t like people poking their noses into my business.”
“I didn’t. It was in the newspaper.”
“I still don’t have any intention of discussing my family with you. It’s still far too painful for all of us. So why don’t you open this door and let me out, mate. If you don’t want me to do your grounds I won’t hold that against you.”
“My daughter was raped to.”
He commands my full attention.
He struggles to blink away the tears that stand in his eyes. Slipping a hand beneath his sweater, he extracts a crumpled photograph from his shirt. “Iona. She was just eighteen. She’s beautiful isn’t she?”
I can’t fail to agree. She appears remarkably younger than her eighteen years. Her blonde hair is cut into a short, boyish style, which affords her an almost elfin-like quality.
“Wh-who…?” I ask thickly.
“A man called Ricky Pearson. You know of him?”
“Can’t say I do. I’m sorry for what happened to your daughter. Sure, I can sympathise.”
“Now he’s out of prison, Pearson worked for Marcus Goldsmith. I believe he still does. Pearson was given five years. Now he’s out after three. Lack of evidence, they reckoned. Fuckin’ bastards, what do they know?”A huge globule of saliva erupts from the scornful twist of his lips, narrowly missing my boots.
Marcus Goldsmith is a name I am aware of. From what I have learned of Goldsmith, he currently owns a nightclub called ‘Bronze’ in Southend. Frankie Lamond had once intimated that if there was a man by whom he felt threatened it was Marcus Goldsmith.
I confide that I know of Goldsmith.
“She was at his club one night. That’s where she met Pearson. Iona was taken up with his looks and charm. He left her bruised and bleeding in a back alley. She killed herself by drowning in our pool.”
“Jesus!” Is all I can respond, while my blood congeals to a glacial chill. “I’m so sorry. You know I sympathise, because of my sister. She was eighteen too. I still don’t understand…”
“I heard through the grapevine that you did for the man who did that to your sister.”
I freeze instinctively. The perspiration that beads my hairline drizzles into my eyes and I blink it back impatiently, my heart hammering. “I’ll not admit to that without a lawyer present.”
“It was only a rumour mind. Only you know if there was any truth behind it.”
“If it’s blackmail?”
“I told you I have no need to blackmail anyone. Nothing quite so sordid. So how would it be if you had more than the two men I know you have at your disposal? Be able to drive around all your landscape services in your already paid for GT-R. I could put McRaney’s Landscape Services on the map. I know your business is struggling. ”
“So you have been checking up on me? Why?”
“I’d like to help your struggling business. I have plenty of contacts. From Essex to Berkshire, everyone will clamour to hire McRaney’s Landscape services to attend to their gardens. You could be a multi-millionaire before you’re thirty five.”
“Oh sure,that sounds fantastic, but what do I have to do in return? I’d have to be a pretty thick paddy not to know you have an ulterior motive. One I think your wife know’s something about.”
Paul Harrington’s expression is thoughtful. He savours his words when he says, “I want you to kill Ricky Pearson.”