Popular television and popular film would lead you to believe that one hit and the guy was unconscious and he just passes out. In fairness one good hit can put someone down, but it’s more likely that the one hit is just as likely to kill them than knock them out. In truth, a hit to the side of the head with a baseball bat is more likely to just make some throw up. Thing is, while they’re disorientated after puking you can hit them again to knock them out. Or hit them several times, and kick them as well. Maybe stamp on their nuts all while they’re unconscious, It’s all good.
Jeff proved a true neighbour and he jumped over the fence and helped me with the guy. I finally managed to find the right key and I headed in to get the spare cuffs in the kitchen and some tape. As we tied up the guy Jeff got a sudden thought, “Isn’t this illegal?”
“Would I involve you in anything illegal?”
“Good to see you have complete faith in me. Jeff the guy’s waited outside my house for the last four hours. When that failed he vaulted over several fences to come and meet me in my garden. Does that sound like the actions of a man who himself lives by our legal system.”
“No, but whatever happens, keep me out of it right?”
“I can’t, your prints are on the bat, I’ll have to involve you.”
“Joke, Jeff. Joke. Help me in the house with him and then you can go, and your involvement will never be mentioned.”
Car guy is in my kitchen, where else was I to put him seeing as he was covered in puke? It was more effort to lift the big bastard than me and Jeff would admit to each other. Again from what we’d have seen on the screen an unconscious person may be out for a significant amount of time, but more often than not the person is only out just long enough for you to leg it, or to get cuffs on. So he’s been awake in my kitchen while I went up and showered and changed my clothes.
Time to face car guy. I take the tape off his mouth.
“I have to tell you,” I say taking out my Garda ID and showing him, “that you’ve just trespassed on the grounds of a member of An Garda Síochána. That you trespassed with obvious menace and it was my personal interpretation of the events that my life and or safety were in danger so I had to use immediate reasonable force to control the situation. Is that clear?”
“And if you don’t satisfy me with your answers to my questions I will call this in. I will be completely in the clear and you will get even more shit kicked out of you by most of the members of Dublin’s force. Is that clear?”
“Now what was so important that you had to wait outside my house and then had to come running over the back to get me?”
“I was told that I wasn’t to leave until I’d spoken to you.”
Just because he was from the North, it didn’t mean I should be jumping to any conclusions.
Admittedly in my time as a guard, more so my time at the NBCI, we’ve had cause to bust up a few gang operations throughout the State that were clearly linked to Paramilitary Operations. But we only ever got to prosecute the local cell, we never got anyone higher up, so it was unlikely that Detective Jim Byrne threatened them enough to send someone down to sort him out. Still being half English half Irish, you’re still a bit twitchy when faced with a Northern accent as you’re not sure whether you’ll be screwed no matter which allegiances you state you have.
“Who told you?”
“If you come with me you’ll see.”
“Sure, I’m that stupid, give me a minute while I get my coat will you.”
Instead with him prostrate on the ground I go through his pockets and get out his mobile phone. It’s one of those oyster shell picture phones with over complicated menus, so it takes a while to find the call register. In it the last dialled and last received numbers are the same at regular half hour intervals from two onwards, “Ray.” Ray? Nah, it can’t be, “Don’t tell me you work for bleeding Ray Cunningham?”
“I’m not saying anything.”
“You don’t have to, he’ll say it himself.”
With some contorting and posing I manage to take a picture of me sat on top of the car guy. Possibly with more effort I find a way to text it to the mobile number of “Ray”. Now we just wait.
It’s what: one minute, two tops before the car guy’s phone starts to light up and some tinny version of “love is all around” starts to play. “Would you look at the big tough guy eh?” I say as the car guy cringes at the tune. Lit up on the screen are the words “Ray calling” so I answer.
“Byrne?” says “Ray”.
“Well, well. Now what would Thomas Dent’s main competitor be wanting with me?”
“Just a chat.”
“Then lets have one.”
“Not here and not on the phone.”
“No, it’ll be here and it’ll be on the phone as you’ve two chances of getting me to meet up with you. Slim and fat.”
“I don’t do phones. We can do somewhere neutral and somewhere open if you want.”
“Why so paranoid Ray? You barely even register on our wanted list, we’ve kids stealing their mum’s fags who are more of a priority than you.”
“Times have changed Byrne. That’s why I need a word.”
“And you couldn’t pop around yourself? You thought a northie goon would be enough to scare me into coming along to you.”
“Maybe I underestimated you. I heard you’d gone soft since Dent died.”
“You heard wrong, and you’ve a picture to prove it.”
“So we can talk.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Let me know when you’re ready.”
“Oh and Byrne, let the big guy go, there’s a good chap.”
Once I’m back on my own, it’s easier to put things into perspective. Ray Cunningham may have been the closest Thomas Dent had to a rival, but believe me there was a huge drop off between the two. Ray Cunningham was pure small time, but it does appear he could be what the Northern Gangs were waiting for. Now with a puppet in place they can come in and fully control the vast majority of organised crime in Dublin.
Thomas may well have been the one guy I was always desperate to bring down, but he kept the crime local and within the city. Ray though. Well Ray could never match Thomas for muscle or organisation. Instead he was stuck with some drug dealing, probably with help from the North, and some car crime. Though the cars were only whatever he could get off the scangers who nicked them, we are talking more along the lines of selling nicked Micras and 1990 Almeras to non-nationals rather than shipping brand new Land Cruisers off to Nigeria.
It’s likely that the Northern Gangs were just waiting for Thomas to drop dead, and they already had Ray lined up to give their backing to. Not that they were always that patient, over the years there had been numerous, almost annual, attempts on Thomas’ life, so much so that he more or less became a recluse in his heavily fortified Malahide Mansion. About two years ago it got out he was suffering with cancer and there were no more assassination attempts.
And now Ray wanted a word with me. Could be interesting. Why me though?