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


A smallish crowd had gathered in front of 15 Mountbatten Terrace in Sunnylands Estate. No doubt the crowd would have been bigger if it hadn’t been raining and this wasn’t a Monday. Monday was one of the two signing-on days at the DHSS and more or less everyone in this particular street was either unemployed or on disability and therefore needed to sign on. This had not always been the case. When the Sunnylands Estate had been built in the early 1960s Carrickfergus had three major textile plants and the shipyards in nearby Belfast employed over twenty thousand people. Now the factories had all been closed, the shipyards were down to a rump of 300 men at Harland and Wolff and every scheme the government had tried to bring employment to Northern Ireland had failed miserably. Emigration or joining the police or civil service were your only legitimate options these days. But illegitimate options were to be had joining the paramilitaries and running protection rackets, or if you were a very brave soul you could try your hand at drug dealing.

Independent drug dealers were few and far between because the Protestant and Catholic paramilitaries liked to make an example of them from time to time to show the civilian population that they, not the police, were the ones who could be trusted to “keep the streets safe for the kids”. Of course, everyone east of Boston, Massachusetts understood that this was hypocrisy. In a series of agreements worked out at the very highest levels in the mid 1980s the paramilitaries from all sides had effectively divided up Belfast between themselves for the dealing of hash, heroin and speed and the two newest (and most lucrative) drugs in Ireland: ecstasy and crack cocaine.

Such independent drug dealers that there were had to be very discreet or pay through the nose if they didn’t want to get killed. Obviously this particular dead drug dealer hadn’t been discreet or hadn’t paid the local paramilitary chieftain his cut. I’d been thinking about the crossbow bolt in the car. Guns were to be had aplenty for the paramilitaries but a private citizen might have difficulty getting one, which made you think that maybe some kid has a heroin overdose and his dad goes out looking for justice. He can’t get a firearm but you get could bows and crossbows at a sports goods shop … Something like that, perhaps?

I parked the BMW and got out of the vehicle. It was a grim little street and it must be truly hell around here in the summer when the only distractions to be had were hassling single women at the bus stop and building bonfires. Frank Sinatra’s upbeat “Come Fly with Me” was playing from an open living-room window, but the crowd of about twenty people was sullen and malevolent. I could almost smell the stench of cheap ciggies, unwashed armpits, solvents, lighter fluid and Special Brew. They were mostly unemployed young men who had been drawn away from wanking over page three by a murder on their doorsteps. I hated to leave my shiny new BMW 535i sport on a street like this, but what choice did I have?

Several wee muckers came over and began touching the paintwork.

“Get your hands off that,” I said.

“Are you a policeman?” a very little girl asked.


“Where’s your gun, then?”

I patted my shoulder holster.

“What type of gun is it?”

“A Glock. A man called Chekov sold it to me. I figure I’ll use it at some point.” Pearls before swine but hey it’s these little things that keep you going. I tried a different one on the girl: “Why don’t blind people skydive?”

“Dunno, mister.”

“Because it scares the crap out of their dogs.”

No smiles at all. I was going to have to go slapstick with this lot and it was too early in the morning for Buster bloody Keaton.

“Is that your car, mister, or did you knock it?” a tall particularly sinister-looking child asked with an unsettling lisp.

“Why aren’t you in school, sonny?”

“I got a note from the Royal. I get these terrible headaches. I only go to school when I want to go now,” he explained.

“What’s your name, son?”

“Stevie, Stevie Unwin,” he said and I filed the name away for the future, when the thing in his brain that was giving him the headaches would drive him to the top of a tower with a rifle.