In 2012 Nikolai Raisov, a Menshevik of uncertain age, died in Dublin.
He was found with notebooks of various quality containing writing of varying clarity on his person and in the two bags he carried.
In one of the older notebooks this poem was found-
Trouble in the peapod
It’s cramped in here
Not enough room for all of me
As it should be
When the telephone rings,
great ugly black bug of a thing,
the whole place vibrates.
but the phone will ring
in the peapod
and shake up everything important.
It keeps the spark ignited
between the world outside
and the things that drive
In another notebook this was found scribbled in the margin in German-
“If this had been the ruling way
Who knows what
I might have done.
My thoughts are easy led astray
by any shining sun.”
Thanks to Detective Sgt. Connor O’Connor for access to the records. This book is dedicated to him and to Nikolai Raisov.
Copyright Hovel Press 2013
Preface (remote and intimate causes)-
It can safely be stated that there is no such thing as an individual human being.
I understand that this, as a first sentence, does not promise a riveting plot but bear with me.
Whether we look at the supposed individual from the physical or the mental perspective we quickly find, with only the least effort that the illusion of selfhood falls to pieces in our hands and turns to dust.
Physically we are not just a collection of limbs, of systems, of tissue, organs, cells and genes whose functions and interactions are impossibly fluid and multiple but we are also home to colonies of microorganisms. These organisms enjoy a particular kind of environment and they seek actively to create and reinforce it. They influence the choices we make in order to maintain the conditions they need to thrive within our bodies. Could we be simply vehicles for these tiny creatures?
Think of the nervous system; that wonderful electrical and chemical dance of the CNS. The volume of information that our Central Nervous Systems can process is vastly larger than the amount of information of which we can be consciously aware at any moment and so the CNS is making most of our decisions before we become aware of them. It promotes the feeling that our consciousness is being created “elsewhere”- perhaps in a shed in the garden next door or in your shoes.
Even that celebrity of modern times the brain turns out to be only A brain and to have competition from a similar collection of cells in the gut.
In traditional Chinese medicine the brain is referred to as “The Sea of Marrow” and appears to have little function. Most of what we think of as the work of the brain is carried out in this paradigm by the Liver and the Heart.
From the point of view of the consciousness the actions and functions that make us who we are happen too fast and in too complex a manner for us to understand.
We run along behind all this trying to piece together a story from the best available evidence like characters in a fairytale chasing crumbs and trying to create another, discrete individual from them- a golem of bread perhaps.
The imaginary individual we are dealing with here was called Connor O’Connor and he was as unaware of the factors that caused him to be Connor O’Connor and act in a Connor O’Connorish way as the rest of us are.
He woke without an alarm and from the same dream as always. He never remembered the dream, he never knew he even had the dream; all its effects were in his body.
If you had asked him he would have told you that he awoke with a Tom Waits song already playing in his head- the quality of Waits’ voice and the concept of time mixing together to make him feel disoriented and somewhat sad.
He looked at the alarm clock and shook that mood music right out of his head. “It’s time..time.. time..”
As he sat up he stretched and clicked his jaw, removing the split he wore at night to stop him clenching his teeth. No wait, nothing stopped him clenching his teeth but the “fully adjusted hard occlusal splint” stopped the painful side effects in the teeth and gums, mostly. One good side effect was that he had very large Masseter muscles, which made him harder to knock out. Perhaps there was some rationalisation there.
He winced slightly as he put weight down on his left leg and felt a little bolt of electricity shoot up to his hip.
He straightened up and began the joint mobility exercises he did every morning if he could. Rolling all his joints in turn from this neck to his ankles gently feeling all the cracks and pops.
In the kitchen he made coffee that he put in a blender with butter and coconut oil. This was a variation on the traditional Tibetan Yak ‘s milk tea. The idea was that the fats in the oil and butter caused the elements of the coffee to be absorbed more slowly.
This was often the kind of thing he thought about and yet he also wondered if he should expend energy on thoughts like this.
He remembered a poem by Leonard Cohen that he had found in a book that belonged to his mother. He remembered being shocked; when he had found the book in his parents’ home in his late teens, that his mother should have such a book. It was a short poem:
“A person who eats meat,
wants to get his teeth into
A person who does not eat meat
wants to get his teeth into
If these thoughts interest you for
even a moment
you are lost.”
At the time he had felt the poem was surprisingly glib for Cohen. However as he got older he began to feel more and more that it had something to say regarding the ego and the proper use of energy.
Life was full of these contradictions or paradoxes, one opening into the other like a labyrinth that stretched exactly as far as you wished it to go and opened back into the world with a shake of the head, mostly.
Then he mixed up some oak meal with peanut butter and cinnamon.
He put the coffee and the oatmeal on the table and drank about half a litre of water before he sat down to eat.
After breakfast (energy, inflammation and brain function dealt with orally to begin the day) he took the hottest shower he could take. He looked in the mirror. He could get away with not shaving for another day or two. It was winter and a cold one and he liked to grow as much of a winter beard as his job would allow.
He looked out a window at the street. Grey and dark and cold- even for October in Dublin. A good place to set some kind of detective book.
A deep breath and time to go to work.
Chapter one (a boy named Sue):
“I tell you, life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue.”- Shel Silverstein
It was bad enough being called Connor O’Connor but the sad truth was that his name; proper and complete, was Connor O’Connor Junior or Connor Òg O’Connor as his father insisted on calling him- although when he was young his father didn’t speak to him much at all.
His name had been a constant source of amusement to the other boys in school. His initials “C.O.C.” was pronounced as ‘Cock’ of course and he seemed to be easily associated with Daniel O’Donnell*, who appeared to be the only person in the public eye with a similarly alliterative name that anyone could come up with.
His uncle could play guitar and would song Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue” sometimes. It quickly became Connor’s favourite song. At least it gave him an opportunity to attach a gritty kind of dignity to his predicament. With his eyes closed he could imagine himself as someone made formidable by his name but with his eyes open he felt only small and ridiculous.
St. Stephen’s Christian Brothers School, an old building that had that particular large grey presence achieved only by Catholic schools and reformatories, was surrounded by a series of concrete blocks called “the sheds” and sat heavy as phlegm under several large crucifixions. It was a tough place to be for anyone, make someone an obvious target and things got really tough.
In Primary School and the early years of Secondary the teachers dominated the boys with violence and the boys dominated each other the same way. When the boys got to be fifteen or so the teachers stepped back and let the boys get on with it.
You learned things there though; learned things by rote. It was a reality that many of the boys in the school would be emigrating and exam results were one way to stay in the country. Whether one was right to want to stay in Ireland at that time was a question which was not discussed.
Away from school he grew up towards a pair of old running shoes thrown over a wire.
Fear and violence ran the school. The place where he lived as a child was run not by fear and violence but by heroin, which kindly provided the fear and the violence should you have gotten used to them in the education system.
There’s a story by Chekov, something about a gardener, in which a crime is committed that is so terrible that no one can believe a human being could have been responsible for it. Therefore when they find the criminal he is released, simply because no one wants to accept that anyone could be capable of such a thing. Better to pretend it never happened.
That’s how anyone with any power felt about the presence of heroin in Dublin from the time it started coming in in the late seventies until the people at the top of the government and the police started to take any notice of it by the end of the eighties. By then King Heroin ruled in parts of Dublin.
There is a strong argument to be made for the social and personal benefits of the use of certain drugs but there is no such argument for heroin. Heroin, as William Burroughs observed, is pure need, pure commodity. “You don’t sell heroin to people, you sell people to heroin.” People find it strange when heroin is compared to or described as a supernatural, monstrous force but nothing describes it better.
Brewery Field was never a genteel place but generations were ruined in only a decade or so by the evil spirit opiate.
Connor observed it as a child, only half aware, the reverse of evolution, families of junkies with broken bodies, baby’s skin and nothing behind the eyes. The sickness getting worse and taking hold faster in each successive generation like drosophila in a lab or pigs in a factory farm too close together and full of too many antibiotics.
His father was a Garda, the jailer in the holding cells in one of the two biggest police stations in the centre of the city and he was also at the centre of a simple but catastrophic mistake of strategy. He lived and worked within a fifteen-minute walk door to door. This meant that the people he locked up were also his neighbours. This made things tough for him. People knew where you lived and might come to the door. A man in that position; and he was in it for twenty years or more, had to have a certain presence about him and it came at a price.
The other factor in the atmosphere in which Connor grew was, of course, religion- more specifically- The Holy Roman Catholic Church.
The influence of this organisation was everywhere in Connor’s early life. It might safely have been described as the Prince to Heroin’s King- a strange coincidence of history. When he was in his early teens Connor would conflate King Herod and “King Heroin” in his mind, not consciously, it just happened.
The character of Irish Catholicism was for Connor best expressed in the person of his severe Grandmother who lived next door to him for the first thirteen years of his life.
His grandmother went to mass at least once a week her whole life and for all the time that he knew her, never paid attention to one moment of it as far as he could tell. He later believed she deeply resented being told what to do by anyone, priests included, but a combination of superstition and cultural pressure made it impossible for her ever to express that feeling.
She sat with her family or in a long line of old ladies like herself. They all wore thick stockings; sheep’s wool lined zip up brown suede boots; long skirts and headscarves and they all rocked gently back and forward, eyes blinking rapidly, threading the beads of their rosaries between the proto-arthritic knuckles of strong thumbs and first fingers. They were all old and established in this role in their fifties.
Their like was to be found in Spain, Italy and all over the Catholic world at that time. I’m sure they are still around, in smaller numbers yes, but they are tough troops.
They ebbed there in a trance and what was going on on the alter was none of their business (or none of their concern). A friend of Connor’s once told him that he imagined them repeating “And then I went through the windscreen, and then I went through the windscreen..” mantra like, hitting the windscreen over and over in an imagined car crash of their minds at the apex of their forward arc.
Friedrich Nietzsche understood the Jesus story as a continuation of the history of religious human sacrifice. That line stretched to Connor’s Nana and her fellows. It stretched to all of them.
It is the power of that central image which keeps so many fixed in orbit around it. The image of the crucifixion, the transubstantiation at the centre of the mass performs the function of a human sacrifice weekly without the need for too much blood shed.
“Er lasst sich nicht lesen”
Edgar Allan Poe talks of a German book which does not permit itself to be read in “The Man of the Crowd”. Mass was something about which, for people in Connor’s local church, opinion was not possible. The facts of Roman Catholicism were as fixed as the five elements.
Opinions were not required. From the old ladies and from the rest of the congregation, only unconscious physical participation was necessary to feed the machine.
*Daniel O’Donnell was the most prominent example of a particularly Irish type of soft country music performer which included such people as “Big Tom and the Mainliners” (the bands name had to be changed for performances in America) and Johanna and Tequila Sunrise. Daniel was famous for speaking in a babyish voice, talking endlessly about his Mammy and making tea for his hordes of elderly fans.
Chapter two (a river song):
“I’ll take all your troubles and I’ll throw them in the river.” – If I was a carpenter- T. Hardin
Detective Sargent Connor O’Connor worked from Brickfount, one of the busiest and largest police stations in Dublin. For a long time it had been a grey brick building- first a new, grey brick building and later an old grey brick building. Recently it had been painted bright blue, one of the blues from the Dublin football strip; the kind of blue that a child might use to paint the sky and it looked ridiculous in the sea of low-rise grey concrete buildings around it.
The old council flats of Cyprus Street were empty now and decaying, part of the process of the gentrification of Dublin that had gone half way; moving the people who lived there out, and then stopped, right there, even before the economy crashed in the mid 2000’s, creating that special kind of hopeless ‘potential’ property developers like.
Connor remembered a time before all that when the buildings along the quays had been falling to pieces, one of them literally collapsing into the street over night. He had walked over the rumble on his way into town the next morning. It had looked like the scene of a bombing- a little blitzkrieg of pure neglect as the property developers had waited, or paid for, the land to be re-zoned.
He remembered when they had later found the body of an old woman on that derelict site. A Welsh woman she was, a wino; she froze to death there.
After a time they built cheap, red brick, rabbit hutch apartments there. Connor still imagined those apartments infested by that dead woman’s spirit. Perhaps that was way they aged so quickly and so badly.
He spent as little time in the station as possible. Its best feature was its proximity to the River Liffey.
Connor was born down by the Liffey and never wanted to live anywhere else. He didn’t have to life in Brewery Field exactly but he had to stay on his side of the river (as a child he was the sort of little boy with such an attachment to the Northside, as opposed to the Southside, of Dublin that he might fight over the question of whether Tayto or King Crisps were better, not knowing they were made in the same factory. (Later, when he was nineteen he found out that they were produced together in Harold’s Cross and it broke his heart)
He just had to be near the water.
Rivers are the reasons cities get started and you find the life of the place down there. At the river’s bank the horizon is narrow as it should be in a city. Big skies in an urban environment should make you very uncomfortable.
European cities in particular need to be seen from the river. An American film can introduce a city like New York with a shot that sweeps down from the sky in a helicopter but cities in Europe need to be seen from the docks and the quays like you see them in German movies from the 1970s. No city has ever looked better, or been seen better, than Hamburg in Der Americkanische Freund.
Connor lived now nearly as close to work as his father had but the problems this had presented his father were solved by the anonymity and isolation of Connor’s present situation. He had no presence in the community where he lived and no children to worry about. Such is the way in which history sweeps its hand.
He had had a relationship with the river Liffey that.. well, that was as long as his whole life.
When he was younger, in his late teens and early twenties, particularly when he was drunk or frustrated, he walked the short distance to the quays, drawn down by the river. He would stand at the little wall and look down slowly to the water.
“Down to the water my creeping eyes recoil”. “Down to the ground my creeping eyes recoil.” The sentence repeated over and over in his head–
“Down from the buildings”.
“Down from the people.”
“Down from myself.”
Looking down he felt a distinct sense of vertigo that wasn’t just a product of the alcohol consumed. It was not even an unpleasant feeling really. The river was the primary image of the city, the dirty green water, solid and fluid, was the dark mirror of the city’s heart.
Connor liked being out in the city and he liked to walk. All the best thoughts come to those who walk. It was the best aspect of his job that it actually required him to walk around the city a lot of the time.
Today he got into the station about 8.30 am and went to the small office he shared with a large, brutal-looking Kerryman called Maurice Fitzgerald. He shared his name with one of the most prominent Kerry footballers of his generation and he and Connor had discovered an instant sympathy based on the difficulties they had endured because of their unfortunate names. Maurice was, in fact, a gentle man; married since the age of nineteen and father to four for the bounciest children on record. Since they painted the station in the colours of the Dublin football kit coming to work had gotten very trying for Maurice.
“They want you down on the quays, down by the bridge at Heusten”, said Maurice by way of greeting. “Home ground for you.”
Connor nodded and smiled.
When Connor got to the incident this is what he found-
On the Parkland Street side of the bridge at the rail station there was the body of a very old man. He was in a half-seated/ half lying position on his right side. Lying under him were several bags filled with notebooks.
There was a small group of people looking on and a smaller group in uniform waiting to move the body.
The closer Connor got to the body the older he looked- my God, could anybody be that old. His clothes too seemed ancient but in reasonably good shape. He sported a huge grey beard that would have made Marx proud. Heck, he could have been in the Dubliners.
As he got closer Connor noticed a movement under the body. A blackbird. It left off its hopping to look up at Connor and caught his eye.
Why do we fall into silence and rapt attention when a common bird like a blackbird happens to approach us closer than it usually would? That little connection to nature. Sometimes we share that moment with others around us. Share a smile with stranger at a bus stop (the one you wanted to punch a moment ago as he lit his third cigarette and continued blowing smoke at you) as both of you watch a sparrow hopping closer and closer to your feet.
Connor looked from the bird to the dead man.
Sharing this experience with a dead body was quite strange, not pleasant. Connor shook his head a little and got to work.
Chapter three- “Circumstances alter cases; broken noses alter faces.” *
“Step forward: we hear
That you are a good man.
You cannot be bought, but the lightning
Which strikes the house, also
Cannot be bought.”- Berholt Brecht “Verhoer des Guten” (The interrogation of the Good)
Mostly when we think of violence we think of crime and injustice- we think of muggings and of state repression. We think these things and we feel fear but nothing is so simple and violence, like any other idea that is capable of stirring the endocrine juices, has its positive aspects.
Connor would sometimes joke that his whole family had been in the business of organised state repression. It was an uncomfortable joke and he would employ it in situations where he felt he needed to ‘get his retaliation in first’. He employed it more often than he would have liked. Perhaps this might have something to do with insecurity on Connor’s part but it was also clear that people often had a very conflicted attitude towards the police. In some sense they liked the idea of the protection of the police but they also feared and resented the power they held over them, power which in the end is based firmly in the fact that the police have a legal right to use violence against other citizens; which made for some awkward conversations in pubs.
He had once been introduced to some friends of a girlfriend, now ex, who had used the term ‘Pigs’ so often in the course of the evening that Connor, who admittedly had drunk a little too much, began to make oink noises until someone asked him why. The evening had not ended well. As a person who tended towards the left in his politics Connor found he had a lot in common with a lot of people who sincerely disliked his profession.
He understood the difficulty though and didn’t even resent it that much anymore. What better definition could there be of the state than ‘that which holds the monopoly of legitimised violence’? Why shouldn’t people resent that?
We tend, as I have said, to use the word ‘violent’ in everyday life as a by-word for the negative; however, the definitions of ‘violence’ and ‘violent’ include along with the obviously negative such things as ‘intensity of’ and ‘involving great physical force’. Surely there is nothing wrong with intensity or physical effort. There are many circumstances in which those are desirable things. We need not even always be talking about the realm of the physical. Can’t you make a violent effort of the mind.
Violence itself is basically neutral; it’s all in how it’s applied and our own opinions of those applications. ‘Subjective Violence” and ‘Objective Violence’ even have a life as philosophical terms.
In his professional life Connor dealt with violence in a conflict resolution sort of way, talking people down; in his personal life he had seen it from both sides.
They tell you to let go of your ego and avoid the parts of town where trouble will find you but when home is one of those parts of town you cannot avoid trouble. As a child and teenager Connor had been on the wrong end of beatings and he had learned that, as no one can fix the damage and the pain afterwards, it was better to sink your feet into the ground and fight back. In his experience you never got a worse beating by fighting back.
There were many people who liked to think they were fighters but who really only liked to beat people up. If you made it a fight they faded and went to look for easier fun. There were also, however, others who really did like to fight and when you met them you were likely to end up with blood pooled in your shoes. In fact many of the serious concerns with assault Connor might have at his stage involved the possibility of blood born infections.
Now in his mid thirties he enjoyed a much more comfortable relationship with violence. Most of what he dealt with in the course of his job was much easier than the things he had dealt with growing up and he had also found a way to develop a positive interaction with violence.
These days he went to the FTM Gym (or the Fair to Middlin’ Gym) several times a week. It was a Mixed Martial Arts gym that sat on the first floor above a Chinese restaurant in George’s Street. It was run by John Murphy and there were classes in Boxing, Kickboxing, Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling singly as well as the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Like a lot of MMA gyms it was a very cosmopolitan place. The teachers of the various arts were from all over the world and the students reflected the great variety of world citizens now calling Dublin home.
It was a happy place. No one had an inflated ego as everyone was tested and keep humble on a regular basis. To do well required hard work, co-ordination, balance, an understanding of the best ways to absorb pressure, issue force or relax under pressure.
The name reflected Murphy’s sense of humour as well as his interest in the work of Samuel Beckett. Many MMA gyms give themselves exciting and exaggerated names that involve lots of adjectives like EXTREME and INTENSE and Murphy, a huge, clam middle aged man with the particular slightly concave shape of an aging grappler that results from the great development of the pulling muscles of the back was the sort of understated person who preferred to ‘let his actions do the talking’ and enjoyed a small joke in naming his gym.
Connor found a place there in which he could concentrate on skill and physical development in an atmosphere that was the closest to a team that he had ever experienced even while they sincerely tried to choke each other unconscious.
Of course I could be guilty of over-thinking all of the above. Perhaps Connor just wanted to convince himself, over and over, that no one could hurt him.
After the gym Connor would usually go straight home. There is a feeling of peace that comes after training that he liked to enjoy in private. This night, however, he dropped into the station on the way home. He wanted to read something of the notebooks found on the dead man earlier in the day. There were maybe twenty notebooks, large and small on the desk in his office. Different colours; different brands. He packed a few of the notebooks into his gym bag and headed for home.
In his apartment he took his used gym clothes and put then in the washing machine. He got a beer from the kitchen and his smallest glass, the glass that made you feel you were drinking more than you really were. He went to the living room and turned on one lamp and sat at his table. He poured out his first little glass of beer and took up one of the notebooks at random. He flicked through the pages. There seemed to be sections written in at least three different languages, mostly but not exclusively in black pen, two of which were definitely English and German.
Stopping more or less randomly at one of the sections in English he read-
“Always cold in Berlin and the cheap brandy from the kiosks helps for only a little while and then makes everything worse. It may be that I will have to move again as the junkies, the term that American author uses for opiate addicts, seem to be increasing in number and they are making my little bolt hole here almost impossible to defend. Strange how they remind me so much of the monsters from that American horror film I saw directed by someone with an Italian name. “Zombies” he called them, borrowing from the Haitian legends of corpses brought back to life by the use of magic. A clever film, these junkies only represent the natural progression of things here in the west- consumption made absolute. Even the graffiti (a wonderful Italian word so well employed against another Italian coinage ‘totalitarismo’) excites me less these days. Years ago they used just one letter, the letter F simply to mean Freiheit^, now they use more words.. and they mean less. Still there is wit and colour. There would be more warmth in Italy though I think.
Why have I such a tendency to live in these strange, readymade places, these false homes. Could it me my history and the way it meets the history of Europe before- but especially after- 1945, all that movement in those times, finding a safe cubby hole to shelter in. Half of Europe on the move and living in hiding places and refuge; families rotting on the platforms of Polish railway stations.
No, that is too grand. Being honest it was in me since childhood. I was always the rodent, I was always the burrower, I was always the one to be found in unlikely places building a home. My childish gaze was always on the alert of some silly place that I could turn into a home in my imagination. I always wanted to live in a place of my own creation.”
On it went. Connor took small sips on his beer until it was gone and kept reading. He tried to piece together an image of the man writing. This section of the notebook appeared to concern the late sixties or early seventies in Berlin. The man seemed to be basically homeless but not really to consider himself so. There were quite a few references to rats and other rodents but no real clue as to the origins of them man, family connections etc. It did not seem like he was German by birth. One of the other languages appeared to be Russian but he couldn’t be sure of that. He trained with a couple of Russians at the gym, perhaps he could ask one of them.
By now the adrenaline from training was beginning to drain and fatigue was setting in. Connor closed the diary and did a few stretching exercises before he settled into bed.
*A favourite phrase of Connor’s grandmother
^ Freedom- as represented in graffiti by the single letter “F” during the early period of Soviet control in East Germany.
Chapter four- labyrinths*
“WHAT SCARED YOU ALL INTO TIME? WHAT SCARED YOU ALL INTO YOUR BODIES? INTO SHIT FOREVER?”- The Yage Letters- William S. Burroughs (for Hassan Sabbah) and Allen Ginsberg
If we have been scared into our bodies from some other state of existence then perhaps we remain connected to that other place and return to it when we sleep. Perhaps dreams are what frighten us back into our wakefulness and our bodies each day. Perhaps dreams are our enemies, keeping us tapped forever in our bodies.
What we know is that we need sleep. Without it we cannot develop, we cannot learn and we cannot live. Most of us will spend thirty-two years asleep if we are lucky. There have been those who have fought the battle against sleep. They have used drugs to push the boundaries of their wakefulness as far as possible… as far as maybe three of four whole days. In the end that may simply be an attempt to merge the worlds of sleep and waking together, to bring the dreams into our waking lives.
To stay awake beyond a couple of days requires the use of drugs and the state induced by lack of sleep is somewhat similar to that induced by ingesting certain natural or synthetic chemicals, the one cascading into the other and leaving us just as confused.
That night Connor dreamt the dream that he had been dreaming for years, the dream that he had never been consciously aware of, that he could never have recounted, the tiny parasite in the pea pod at the centre of his being that had been running things for years…
He was a young Garda again, not long qualified, and he was doing a night shift walking the beat in the city centre. He was a little nervous and very sincere, his uniform very well ironed.
Off O’Connell Street he heard an alarm, this was when people still paid attention to alarms, and he went to investigate.
He found a man attempting to break into a small shop.
Maybe he approached a bit too aggressively, he was inexperienced then and a bit scared.
The man ran.
So they were running and it was exciting. They ran through the smaller streets, he caught a glimpse of a sign advertising a sale in Arnott’s Department Store. When they reached the quays the man turned left heading towards O’Connell Bridge. The man was tiring. Connor could sense it. He was catching up to him. It wouldn’t be long.
There was scaffolding covering the front of the Ormond Hotel and Connor was surprised to see the man he was chasing stop and begin to climb it. He wasn’t crazy about heights but he started after the man who reached the top first and disappeared over the top and out of sight onto the roof. Connor was pleased to think he could tackle the man on the roof rather than on the scaffolding.
As Connor’s head reached the top the first blow fell. It hit him on his left shoulder just missing his head. Through misty vision he saw the blank of wood in the man’s hand. The need to hold onto the scaffolding, to get to the roof, filled his mind. He clawed and crawled his way onto the roof as the blows continued to fall on his back and shoulders.
Connor got to his feet and found his baton in his hand. He felt very little pain but he was sick and dizzy. His vision was blurred and his throat was so dry. He swung the baton hard and felt the vibration through his whole arm, an electric shock in his shoulder. The baton fell from his hand. He had made contact though and as the other man fell back he swung low and landed a crashing blow to Connor’s hip sweeping him off his feet.
Connor reached for his baton and stood. He was up just before the man and he swung the baton in a big overhand arc. This time it caught the man behind the ear and he held onto it. As the man folded he hit him again.
He could never honestly remember how many more times he hit the man before he stopped and sat down exhausted on the roof. There was so much blood- his and the other man’s. Much of the surface of his baton, which was formally black, was chipped to a dull white.
He felt exhausted, deep down. He didn’t think much for a few minutes but he did think about what an ineffective weapon his old style mahogany truncheon was, force travelled right through it and into your arm making it nearly impossible to keep a hold of.
Then he had to find his way down off the roof with his suspect.
He had dreamed about that night every night since, it had warped his jaw with tension and further twisted and tightened his hip little by little, and though he had never once been consciously aware of the dream this was the last night he would ever have it.
Something new was about to take root in him.
*with thanks to J L Borges