3: The Plain Tale Of A Plain Man Is No Plain Sailing

Here then stands the Slug in the Castle’s estimation. A detective who knows as much as is good for him about what is allowed to concern him; not the least of it his place. High praise from the Villain’s bigger arseholes, the administrators of Dublin Castle, its departments and sections and secret instruments of state.

So now then, we’ll let this hare sit. And view a scene of secrecy in crisis. Nothing extraordinary there. The world of secret intelligence is always in crisis, for the networks which make up that world feed on each other, or, failing that, on themselves. The reams, now gigabytes, of data they generate or steal, observe or imagine, discover or invent, raise questions and create scenarios that require more investigation, further inquiries, myriad manhours gathering facts, more facts, hard facts with no capacity in all the overlapping lines and looping curves of the secret structure to absorb and reflect upon, let alone understand, that small part of it all that might bear a resemblance to some aspect of the real world. Complete chaos reduced to almost manageable crisis proportions by the soothing balm of native ignorance.

On this occasion the upper caste of Castle administrators were busy trying to sort, classify, index and file the latest intelligence from the throbbing streets of Dublin city. This was routine work and, usually, of no more account than totting up numbers of paper clips for an inventory of Castle office supplies. Usually.

This time, however, the paper clips just didn’t add up; files in disarray told of loose ends, of case-papers in free fall, of a profound disturbance in The Force.

Senior Intelligence Officer (First Class) Tagdh Culloty saw nothing for it but to call on his Brother-in-Christ, Senior Intelligence Officer (Second Class) Michael O’Rawe. Culloty and O’Rawe had detested one another down many years of hectic competition. Left to his own devices Culloty would gladly have left O’Rawe to his. But, really, there was nothing else for it.

“Michael,” he said, seating himself comfortably in an inexpensive, withal expansive, naughahyde chair, “there’s mischief afoot. Bates and three other ne’er do wells were reported leaving the Peacock scuttered three days ago. So, nothing pass remarkable there sez you. But, sez I, and here’s the rub, not hide nor hair of them has been reported since. Not speck or spit, track or trail, print or photofit of the same roaring rascals is recorded anywhere in our simulacrum of their criminal world. These roister doisters have gone to ground and, frankly, Michael, I’m at a loss.”

“Well if you’re at a loss Monseignor, I’m doubly so,” O’Rawe replied. “And I dread to think what depredations those ruffians will be about while they are, so to speak, beyond our ken.”

“Beyond the Pale, perhaps,” Culloty quipped, his customary sneer momentarily transforming into some hitherto unremarked species of a leer. Or perhaps it was just a wicked exacerbation of his gout. “No matter,” he went on. “The point is what you’re going to do to cover our arses on this one? Eh Michael.”

O’Rawe thought quickly, but deeply and to the point.

“I’ll put the Slug on it,” he said, “Festy Spratt knows Bates and the rest of them, Casey, Redican and that eejit O’Donnell, and he knows his way around their haunts, the sewers of that Sodom and Begorragh that surrounds us. Let Spratt lead us to Bates and the others. He’ll find them. We’ll fix them, fit them up and file them. How’s that sound to your excellency?”

“It sounds fine, Michael. Just be sure that none of this reaches the ears of the Cardinal, or I swear I’ll have your balls for cowbells!”

“No worries on that score Sir,” his monkey told the organ grinder. “Chief McMahon won’t be disturbed by a word of this. That fucker Phil will be as much in the dark about this as he is about where he left his arse last night.”

“And the Holy Father?” Culloty continued.

“Minister Lenihan,” O’Rawe laughed, “Sure oul’ Brian Boru minds collecting his tributes. He neither knows nor cares about anything else.”

“That’s the spirit, Michael,” Culloty condescended as he took his leave. Closing the office door he ascended the stairs to Dublin daylight, the sun of it not shining at all out of a dull grey gun metal sky. Quitting the Castle then, he drove off at speed to the Shelbourne, for lunch with his Dark Rosaleen (a round-heeled Leitrim lass, the current pick of the typing pool).

As he ate his way through a succulent Lobster Risotto, Castle wires were humming the words of his official desire. Somewhere between the Sticky Toffee Pudding and his third Merlot, his wishes were conveyed to Spratt.