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Broken Harbour



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The fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, 2012

For Darley, magician and gentleman


Let’s get one thing straight: I was the perfect man for this case. You’d be amazed how many of the lads would have run a mile, given the choice-and I had a choice, at least at the start. A couple of them said it to my face: Sooner you than me, man. It didn’t bother me, not for a second. All I felt was sorry for them.

Some of them aren’t wild about the high-profile gigs, the high-stakes ones-too much media crap, they say, and too much fallout if you don’t get a solve. I don’t do that kind of negativity. If you put your energy into thinking about how much the fall would hurt, you’re already halfway down. I focus on the positive, and there’s plenty of positive there: you can pretend you’re above this stuff, but everyone knows the big cases are the ones that bring the big promotions. Give me the headline-grabbers and you can keep your drug-dealer stabbings. If you can’t take the heat, stay in uniform.

Some of the lads can’t handle kids, which would be fair enough except that, forgive me for asking, if you can’t cope with nasty murders then what the hell are you doing on the Murder Squad? I bet Intellectual Property Rights would love to have your sensitive arse onboard. I’ve handled babies, drownings, rape-murders and a shotgun decapitation that left lumps of brain crusted all over the walls, and I sleep just fine, as long as the job gets done. Someone has to do it. If that’s me, then at least it’s getting done right.

Because let’s get another thing clear, while we’re at it: I am bloody good at my job. I still believe that. I’ve been on the Murder Squad for ten years, and for seven of those, ever since I found my feet, I’ve had the highest solve rate in the place. This year I’m down to second, but the top guy got a run of slam dunks, domestics where the suspect practically slapped the cuffs on his own wrists and served himself up on a plate with applesauce. I pulled the tough ones, the nobody-seen-nothing junkie-on-junkie drudgery, and I still scored. If our superintendent had had one doubt, one single doubt, he could have pulled me off the case any time he wanted. He never did.

Here’s what I’m trying to tell you: this case should have gone like clockwork. It should have ended up in the textbooks as a shining example of how to get everything right. By every rule in the book, this should have been the dream case.

* * *

The second it hit the floor, I knew from the sound that it was a big one. All of us did. Your basic murder comes straight to the squad room and goes to whoever’s next in the rota, or, if he’s out, to whoever happens to be around; only the big ones, the sensitive ones that need the right pair of hands, go through the Super so he can pick his man. So when Superintendent O’Kelly stuck his head around the door of the squad room, pointed at me, snapped, “Kennedy, my office,” and vanished, we knew.

I flipped my jacket off the back of my chair and pulled it on. My heartbeat had picked up. It had been a long time, too long, since one of these had come my way. “Don’t go anywhere,” I said to Richie, my partner.

“Oooo,” Quigley called from his desk, mock horrified, shaking a pudgy hand. “Is Scorcher in the shit again? I never thought we’d see the day.”

“Feast your eyes, old son.” I made sure my tie was straight. Quigley was being a little bitch because he was next up in the rota. If he hadn’t been a waste of space, O’Kelly might have let the case go to him.

“What’ve you done?”

“Shagged your sister. I brought my own paper bags.”

The lads snickered, which made Quigley purse up his lips like an old woman. “That’s not funny.”

“Too close to the bone?”

Richie was openmouthed and practically hopping off his chair with curiosity. I flipped my comb out of my pocket and gave it a quick run through my hair. “Am I good?”

“Lick-arse,” Quigley said, through his sulk. I ignored him.

“Yeah,” Richie said. “You’re grand. What…?”

“Don’t go anywhere,” I repeated, and went after O’Kelly.

My second hint: he was up behind his desk, with his hands in his trouser pockets, rolling up and down on the balls of his feet. This case had pumped up his adrenaline enough that he wouldn’t fit in his chair. “You took your time.”

“Sorry, sir.”

He stayed where he was, sucking his teeth and rereading the call sheet on his desk. “How’s the Mullen file coming along?”

I had spent the last few weeks putting together a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions on one of those tricky drug dealer messes, making sure the little bastard didn’t have a single crack to slime through. Some detectives think their job’s done the second the charges are filed, but I take it personally when one of my catches wriggles off the hook, which they seldom do. “Good to go. Give or take.”

“Could someone else finish it up?”

“Not a problem.”

He nodded and kept reading. O’Kelly likes you to ask-it shows you know who’s boss-and since he is in fact my boss, I have no problem rolling over like a good little doggie when it makes things run more smoothly. “Did something come in, sir?”

“Do you know Brianstown?”

“Haven’t heard of it.”

“Neither had I. It’s one of those new places; up the coast, past Balbriggan. Used to be called Broken Bay, something.”

“Broken Harbor,” I said. “Yeah. I know Broken Harbor.”

“It’s Brianstown now. And by tonight the whole country’ll have heard of it.”

I said, “This is a bad one.”

O’Kelly laid one heavy palm on the call sheet, like he was holding it down. He said, “Husband, wife and two kids, stabbed in their own home. The wife’s headed for hospital; it’s touch and go. The rest are dead.”

We left that for a moment, listening to the small tremors it sent through the air. I said, “How did it come in?”

“The wife’s sister. They talk every morning, but today she couldn’t get through. That got her het up enough that she got in her car and headed out to Brianstown. Car’s in the driveway, lights are on in broad daylight, no one’s answering the door, she rings the uniforms. They break the door down and surprise, surprise.”

“Who’s on scene?”

“Just the uniforms. They took one look and figured they were out of their depth, called it straight in.”

“Beautiful,” I said. There are plenty of morons out there who would have spent hours playing detective and churning the whole case to shit, before they admitted defeat and called in the real thing. It looked like we had lucked into a pair with functioning brains.

“I want you on this. Can you take it?”

“I’d be honored.”

“If you can’t drop everything else, tell me now and I’ll put Flaherty on this one. This takes priority.”

Flaherty is the guy with the slam dunks and the top solve rate. I said, “That won’t be necessary, sir. I can take it.”

“Good,” O’Kelly said, but he didn’t hand over the call sheet. He tilted it to the light, inspecting it and rubbing a thumb along his jawline. “Curran,” he said. “Is he able for this?”

Young Richie had been on the squad all of two weeks. A lot of the lads don’t like training in the new boys, so I do it. If you know your job, you have a responsibility to pass the knowledge on. “He will be,” I said.

“I can stick him somewhere else for a while, give you someone who knows what he’s at.”

“If Curran can’t take the heat, we might as well find out now.” I didn’t want someone who knew what he was at. The bonus of newbie wrangling is that it saves you a load of hassle: all of us who’ve been around a while have our own ways of doing things, and too many cooks etcetera. A rookie, if you know how to handle him, slows you down a lot less than another old hand. I couldn’t afford to waste time playing after-you-no-after-you, not on this one.

“You’d be the lead man, either way.”

“Trust me, sir. Curran can handle it.”

“It’s a risk.”

Rookies spend their first year or so on probation. It’s not official, but that doesn’t make it any less serious. If Richie made a mistake straight out of the gate, in a spotlight this bright, he might as well start clearing out his desk. I said, “He’ll do fine. I’ll make sure he does.”

O’Kelly said, “Not just for Curran. How long since you had a big one?”

His eyes were on me, small and sharp. My last high-profile one went wrong. Not my fault-I got played by someone I thought was a friend, dropped in the shit and left there-but still, people remember. I said, “Almost two years.”

“That’s right. Clear this one, and you’re back on track.”

He left the other half unspoken, something dense and heavy on the desk between us. I said, “I’ll clear it.”

O’Kelly nodded. “That’s what I thought. Keep me posted.” He leaned forward, across the desk, and passed me the call sheet.

“Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down.”

“Cooper and the Tech Bureau are on their way.” Cooper is the pathologist. “You’ll need manpower; I’ll have the General Unit send you out a bunch of floaters. Six do you, for now?”

“Six sounds good. If I need more, I’ll call in.”

O’Kelly added, as I was leaving, “And for Jesus’ sake do something about Curran’s gear.”

“I had a word last week.”

“Have another. Was that a bloody hoodie he had on him yesterday?”


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