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

Shovel.

Always knew that death was a strong possibility in my line of work, but it was absurd that that banal case of the dead drug dealer in Carrickfergus could have led to this. As standard a homicide as you’re ever likely to see in Ulster. Ridiculous.

Earth.

Shovel.

Earth.

Shovel.

Gasping for …

Having trouble breathing again.

Gasping for—

Gasping for—

They think I’m faking it.

I have taxed their patience.

Someone pushes me and I go down.

Spreadeagled on my back in the black peat.

“Let’s just top him now,” a voice says from a thousand miles away.

“Yeah, all right.”

Above me tree-tops, crows, sky.

And the yellow dark, the red dark, and the deep blue dark …





1: NO HAY BANDA

County Donegal is certainly not the wettest place on planet Earth; 130 inches of rain a year in Donegal may be a typical average high, but that’s nothing compared to, say, Mawsynram in India, where over 400 inches of rain can fall in a calendar year. Crucially, however, that rain comes during the monsoon and the monsoon only lasts for about ten weeks. The rest of the year in Mawsynram is probably rather pleasant. One can imagine walking in the foothills of the Himalayas or perhaps taking a guided excursion to the tea plantations of Barduar. Donegal may not have the sheer amount of precipitation of Mawsynram but it makes up for this in the dogged persistence of its rain. Rain has been measured in some parts of Donegal on 300 days out of the year and if you add in the days of mist, mizzle and snow you could be looking at a fortnight in which some form of moisture does not fall to earth.

It is somewhat of a paradox then that until the arrival of cheap packet flights to Spain, Donegal was the preferred holiday destination for many people in Northern Ireland. All my childhood holidays were taken in Donegal at a succession of bleak caravan sites on windswept, cold, rainy beaches. Scores of parents wrapped in thick woollen jumpers and sou’westers could be seen up and down these beaches driving their small, shivering children into the Atlantic Ocean with the injunction that they could not come out until they had enjoyed themselves.

My memories of Donegal had never been particularly good ones and when my father took early retirement and my parents moved to a cottage near Glencolumbkille I was a reluctant visitor.

Things had changed, of course, with the birth of Emma. My folks demanded to see their granddaughter and Beth and I had driven out there for Christmas and now here we were again in the early spring. Glencolumbkille is in the Gaeltacht, with almost everyone in these parts speaking the quaint Donegal version of Irish. It is a little whitewashed place straight out of The Quiet Man with a spirit grocer, a post office, a pub, a chapel, a golf course, a small hotel, a beach and a cliff-path. A pleasant enough spot if you didn’t mind rain or boredom or the hordes of embedded high-school students from Dublin practising their Irish on you. One of these kids stopped me when I was out getting the milk. “Excuse me, sir. An gabh tu pios caca?”

“No I would not like any cake, thank you.”

He tried again, this time apparently asking for the way to the bandstand.

I explained in slow, patient Irish that there was neither a bandstand nor a band in Glencolumbkille.

He cocked his head to one side, puzzled.

“There is no bandstand. There is no band. No hay banda, il n’est pas une orchestra.”

“Oh, I see,” he said in English. “No I was looking for the way to the beach hut, we’re supposed to meet at the beach hut.”

“It’s just over there on the beach. And the word you’re looking for is bothán trá.”

“Thanks very much, pops,” he said and sauntered off.

“Pops, indeed,” I muttered as I bought the milk and a local paper and I was still muttering as I walked back to the house where Mum and Beth were talking about books.

My mother, Mary, had taken immediately to Beth, despite her being a Protestant, monolingual, well off, younger and, worst of all, not a fan of Dolly Parton.

“Don’t you even like ‘Little Sparrow’?” she had asked on hearing about this calamity.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs Duffy, it’s just not my cup of tea. But I’ll listen again if you want me to,” Beth had said conciliatingly.

This morning they were talking about Beth’s master’s thesis which she was trying to do on Philip K. Dick, something the stuffy English department at Queens were none too happy about. My mother’s sympathies lay with Queens, as, secretly, did mine.

“But Mr Dick, apparently, is only just deceased. You can’t tell if a writer’s any good or not until they’re dead a generation, at least,” Mum was saying.

Beth looked at me for support but there was no way I was stepping into that minefield.