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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Reading at the Dora Keogh



On the night of August 10, 1977, Daniel Bartholomew Boyle made the biggest mistake of his young life, one that was to have far-reaching consequences for him and those around him. He might have argued that the course of his life had already been determined by happenings that occurred before he was born, but, poor Catholic that he was, riddled with guilt and shame, he believed that he, and he alone, was responsible. He had been dodging the inevitable since Scully got lifted but he knew it was only a matter of time before it caught up with him. Perhaps that was why he paused in front of the old cinema in Terenure after weeks of skulking in the shadows. Perhaps that was why he waited in the drizzle as the passing car turned back and pulled up beside him.

“Get in the car, Boyle.”

Danny wanted to make an excuse—to say that he was waiting for someone—but he knew better. It wouldn’t do to keep them waiting. They weren’t the patient sort, twitchy and nervous, and single-minded without a shred of compassion. He looked around but the streets were empty. There was no one to help him now, standing like a target in front of the art deco facade of the Classic.

The cinema had been closed for over a year, its lights and projectors darkened, and now lingered in hope of new purpose. He had spent hours in there with Deirdre, exploring each other in the dark while watching the midnight film, stoned out of their minds, back when they first started doing the stuff. He used to do a lot of his dealing there, too, around the back where no one ever looked.

“Come on, Boyle. We haven’t got all feckin’ night.”

Danny’s bowels fluttered as he stooped to look inside the wet black car. Anthony Flanagan was sitting in the passenger’s seat, alongside a driver Danny had seen around. He was called “the Driller” and they said he was from Derry and was lying low in Dublin. They said he was an expert at kneecapping and had learned his trade from the best. Danny had no choice; things would only get worse if he didn’t go along with them.

“How are ya?” He tested the mood as he settled into the back seat beside a cowering and battered Scully. He had known Scully since he used to hang around the Dandelion Market. He was still at school then and spent his Saturday afternoons there, down the narrow covered lane that ran from Stephen’s Green into the Wonderland where the hip of Dublin could come together to imitate what was going on in the rest of the world—but in a particularly Dublin way.

Dave, the busker, always took the time to nod to him as he passed. Dave was black and played Dylan in a Hendrix way. He always wore an afghan coat and his guitar was covered with peace symbols. Danny would drop a few coins as he passed and moved on between the stalls as Dylan gave way to Horslips, Rory Gallagher, and Thin Lizzy.

The stalls were stacked with albums and tapes, josh sticks and tie-dyed t-shirts with messages like “Peace” and “Love,” pictures of green plants and yellow happy faces along with posters of Che, whose father’s people had come from Galway.

The stalls were run by Hippies from such far-out places as Blackrock and Sandyford, students from Belfield and Trinity, and a select few from Churchtown. They were all so aloof as they tried to mask their involvement in commercialism under a veneer of cool. Danny knew most of them by sight, and some by name. On occasion he’d watch over their stalls when they had to get lunch or relieve themselves. He was becoming a part of the scene.

As they drove off, Scully didn’t answer and just looked down at his hands. His fingers were bloody and distorted like they had been torn away from whatever he had been clinging onto.

Anto turned around and smiled as the street lights caught in the diamond beads on the windshield behind him. “We’re just feckin’ fine, Boyle. We’re taking Scully out for a little spin in the mountains.”

His cigarette dangled from his thin lips and the smoke wisped away ambiguously. He reached back and grabbed a handful of Scully’s hair, lifting his bruised and bloodied face. “Scully hasn’t been feeling too good lately and we thought that a bit of fresh air might sort him out, ya know?”

“Cool,” Danny agreed, trying to stay calm, trying not to let his fear show —Anto fed off it. He briefly considered asking them to drop him off when they got to Rathfarnham but there was no point. He knew what was about to go down. Scully had been busted a few weeks before, and, after a few days in custody, had been released.

It was how the cops set them up. They lifted them and held them until they broke and spilled all that they knew. Then they let them back out while they waited for their court date. If they survived until then —well and good. And if they didn’t, it saved everybody a lot of time and bother.

Danny sat back and watched Rathfarnham Road glide by in the night. They crossed the Dodder and headed up the hill towards the quiet, tree-lined streets that he had grown up in. As they passed near his house he thought about it: if the car slowed enough he could risk it —just like they did in the pictures. He could jump out and roll away. He could be up and running before they got the car turned around and by then he would be cutting through the back gardens and could easily lose them.

“You live around here, don’t ya, Boyle?” Anto spoke to the windshield but Danny got the message. “And your girlfriend —she lives down that way?”

Danny thought about correcting him. He hadn’t seen Deirdre since the incident in the church but there was no point. They’d use anybody and anything to get to him. He was better off just going along with them for now.
He briefly thought about asking God to save him but there was no point in that, either. They had given up on each other a long time ago. He turned his head away as they approached the church where he had been confirmed into the Faith, so long ago and far away now.