Sunday 10 December 2017
Christmas time had come around again, quicker than it had last year. Or so it felt to Jeremy. Every year, the milestones in his life sped past faster than the year before, and people always told him it was because he was getting older. At this rate, he thought, I’m going to be a hundred before I realise it. He snickered at the image that had popped into his mind of an ancient, doubled over Jeremy, shuffling his feet along the High Street as he gandered in the windows at suits and ties he’d never wear. The sound of a blaring car horn caught his attention.
‘Jesus, Jeremy! Will you get a fecking move on?’
‘Alright! I’m comin’!’ Jeremy sidestepped a passing motorbike as he crossed the road to Brennan McCormack’s transit van. ‘What took you so long anyway?’
‘I got caught in traffic, y’pillock. What else?’ McCormack sneered.
‘Is that what you’re callin’ it these days?’
‘Don’t know what you’re talking about,’ replied McCormack. He checked the side mirror for approaching vehicles, and then pulled seamlessly into the flow of traffic.
‘How old was she?’ Jeremy didn’t really want to know, but he couldn’t sit next to McCormack for the next four hours without making some sort of conversation.
‘Twenty-two, and raring to go. Kept me up all night. Let me tie her up too.’
‘Shit, Brennan, I don’t need the details of your sordid encounters with jailbait. Twenty-two? She’s young enough to be your daughter, y’filthy, old fucker.’
‘I know. Grand, isn’t it? She was –’
‘Don’t want to hear it. Just drive.’
* * * * *
A tray of perfectly cut and polished diamonds sat to Brian Hennessey’s left. He’d been specific about which diamonds he wanted to buy, and his dealer, Groban, had seen to it that only the best were delivered to his most valued customer
‘I think you’ll agree, Brian, that the quality of these gems is unlike any you’ve ever purchased before.’
Hennessey sighed. ‘Shut up, for fuck’s sake, will you?’
Tilting the specimen he had in his hand into the light, Hennessey picked up an unexpected glint.
‘Are you trying to rip me off, Groban?’
‘No, of course not. What do you mean?’
Hennessey heard the faintest tremor in Groban’s voice and pounced on the dealer’s vulnerability. ‘You promised me perfect diamonds, Anthony. This is not a perfect diamond. It has a fucking great flaw right through the middle of it.’
Groban reached for the gem. Hennessey closed his fingers around Groban’s and squeezed as tightly as he could. Groban squirmed under the pressure.
‘Argh, Brian, you’re hurting me.’
‘How many others are flawed?’
‘None. I don’t know.’ Groban was sweating like a pig. ‘I was assured, assured of their perfection. I’ve never had cause to doubt my contact. This is a first. I’m sorry. I’ll fix it.’
Hennessey stared at Groban. ‘Yes, you will. And you’ll fix it by midnight tonight or there will be repercussions. Do you understand?’
‘DO YOU UNDERSTAND?’ Hennessey repeated.
‘Yes, yes. Yes.’
* * * * *
The beach was where Gina felt at home, especially in winter. The waves crashing into the shore, the ferocity of the water, everything about the beach in winter relaxed her. She loved the violence of winter on the coast; had done since she was a child. Rugged up in her favourite winter coat, the bottom of her jeans drenched by the waves, she wandered back down the beach for the third time in fifteen minutes.
‘You’re going to wear out that patch of beach, you know.’ Caroline James joined her friend, ankle deep in the freezing waves. ‘What’s going on?’
‘Nothing. Same old, same old.’
Gina wormed her arm between Caroline’s waist and arm, and pulled her childhood friend closer. She pulled Caroline back from the water, and wandered back towards her house.
‘You’re coming in for a cuppa.’
‘Never say no, do I?’ Caroline replied.
‘No, never have.’
‘You going to tell me about Ciaran McCourt?’
‘Nope,’ Gina whispered, her reply almost lost in the sound of the waves.
‘He break your heart?’
‘Not talking about it, Caz.’
‘He feckin’ broke your heart! Oh, he’s goin’ to have to pay for that, the slimy, little bastard.’
Gina picked up her pace, and dragged Caroline up to the house. ‘Please, Caz, leave it alone. I really don’t want to talk about him. And I don’t want you to go off and do anything to the poor lad. Just let me sort this out myself. Okay?’
‘I can see you’re thinking the opposite, Caz. Just leave it.’
‘Okay, fine! I’ll not say a thing to him. Or his lousy brother. Or his shady mates. Or his mam. I promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.’
‘Don’t say that,’ Gina snapped. Caroline realised what she’d said and immediately apologised.
‘I’m so sorry, Gina. It slipped out. I didn’t mean anything by it.’
. . . To be continued . . .