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Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly (Detective Sean Duffy #6)
Author:Adrian McKinty

“It’s the slope,” I tell him and look back into his balaclava-covered face.

“Don’t turn your head, keep walking,” he says and pokes me in the back with the revolver again. If my hands weren’t cuffed I could use one of those pokes to disarm him the way that Jock army sergeant taught us in self-defence class back in 1980. When you feel the gun in your back you suddenly twist your whole body perpendicular to the gunman, presenting only air as your hands whip around and grab his weapon hand. After that it’s up to you – break the wrist and grab the gun or kick him in the nuts and grab the gun. The Jock sergeant said that you’ve got about a 75 per cent chance of successfully disarming your opponent if you’re fast enough. Lightning turn, speedy grab, no hesitation. We all knew that the sergeant had pulled those statistics right out of his arse but even if it was only one chance in ten it was better than being shot like a dog.

Moot point this morning, though. My hands are behind my back in police handcuffs. Even if I do spin round fast enough I can’t grab the gun and if I suddenly make a break for it I am sure to fall over or get shot in the back.

No, my best chance will be if I can talk to them, try to persuade them; or if that doesn’t work (and it almost certainly won’t) then I’ll have to try something when they uncuff me and give me the shovel to dig my own grave. I will certainly be going into a grave. If they just wanted to kill a copper, they would have shot me at the safe house and dumped my body on a B road and called the BBC. But not me, me they have been told to disappear. Hence this walk in the woods, hence the man behind the man with the gun carrying a shovel. The question is why? Why does Duffy have to disappear when killing a peeler would be a perfect morale boost for the cause at this time?

There can only be one reason why. Because if my body actually shows up it’ll bring heat on Harry Selden and Harry Selden, despite his professions of innocence, does not want heat.

The gradient increases and I try to calm my breathing.

Easy does it now, Sean, easy does it.

I walk around a huge fallen oak lying there like a dead god.

The earth around the oak is soft and I slip on a big patch of lichen and nearly go down.

“Cut that out!” the man with the gun growls as if I’ve done it on purpose.

I right myself somehow and keep walking.

Don’t dilly-dally, he said earlier.

You don’t hear that expression much any more. He must be an older man. Older than he sounds. I might be able to talk to a man like that …

Out of nowhere a song comes back to me, played 4/4 time by my grandfather on the concertina: My old man said “Foller the van, and don’t dilly dally on the way”.

Off went the van wiv me ‘ome packed in it, I followed on wiv me old cock linnet.

But I dillied and dallied. Dallied and dillied, Now you can’t trust a special like the old-time coppers, When you’re lost and broke and on your uppers …

The concertina playing is note perfect but the singing … my grandfather, who was from a very well-to-do street in Foxrock, Dublin, can’t do a Cockney accent to save his life.

Isn’t that strange, though? The whole song, lurking there in my memory these twenty-five years.

Oh yes, concertinas look fiendishly complicated, Sean, but they’re easy when you get the hang of them.

Really?

Sure. Have a go, let me show you how to—

“Jesus, will you hurry up, you peeler scum!” the man with the gun says. “You think you have nothing to lose? We don’t have to make this quick, you know. We don’t have to be easy on you.”

“This is you going easy?”

“We’ve let you keep your bollocks, haven’t we?”

“I’m going as fast as I can. You try walking through this lot with your hands cuffed behind your back. Maybe if you undid these handcuffs, which you’ve put on far too tight anyway.”

“Shut up! No one told you to speak. Shut up and keep bloody moving.”

“OK. OK.”

Trudge, trudge, trudge up the hill.

The slope increases again and the forest is thinning out. At the edge of it I can see sheep fields and hills and perhaps to the north that dark smudge is the Atlantic Ocean. We are only a forty-five minute drive from Belfast, but we are in another world completely, far from planes and machines, far from the visible face of the war. Another Ireland, another age. And yes, the stars are definitely less clear now, the constellations fading into the eggshell sky. Dawn is coming, but dawn won’t save me. I’ll be dead before sun-up if they are even halfway competent, which I think they are.

“What is the matter with them?” the man with the gun mutters to himself. “Hurry up you two!” he yells to the others.

I’ve been told not to look back, but this confirms what I’ve suspected. Of the five men who lifted me, one is waiting back at the car, one is waiting at the bottom of the trail to be a look-out and the other three are going to do the deed itself.