In Dublin’s Fair City
The winter sun shone down on St Stephen’s Green, as the two men sat on a bench, quietly watching the world go by as they looked at the buildings opposite. They looked like everyone else, casually dressed, the only striking thing being the disparity in height between the two of them – while one was about five foot seven, the other was at least a foot taller, noticeable even as they smiled at the people going by.
“You know,” the taller man said eventually, “there is something especially peaceful about this location.”
“I know what you mean – it’s a similar feeling to that you get when you visit Durham Cathedral, or something like that.”
“Indeed – a spirituality that comes only from a deep sense of history and pride in that history. On which note, what do you think?”
“Well,” the smaller man said as he looked across the road at the three storey house, “I suggest entry through the basement. Then make our way up and make anyone in the house comfortable before we go about our work. Given the residents, I anticipate at least a housekeeper, if not more.”
“Well, according to the social calendar, the Duke and Duchess of Landarn are due at a dinner at nine, so I think moving in at eight forty five should be sufficient.”
“I agree – so shall we find somewhere to relax and then convene at eight?”
“I think so – give me a chance to visit the Guinness building.”
“Why exactly have we been given this commission anyway?”
“Because we provide discretion and a guarantee of delivery?” The two men stood up and made their way along the path, talking quietly to each other.
“And what exactly is the charity this dinner is supporting,” Tom Gaunt, Duke of Landarn, said as he buttoned his shirt.
“The Irish Youth Foundation,” Paula said as she sat at her dressing table, adjusting her necklace as she looked in the mirror. She was wearing a black halter neck dress, which as she stood up fell so that the skirt fell to the floor, her blonde hair falling over the halter straps.
“Well, a worthy cause,” Tom said as he fastened the cufflinks into his sleeves, and picked up his black tie. “So we go in, shake some hands, have some reasonably edible food, and generally have a good time?”
“That is what I love about you, Tom me boy,” Paula laughed. “You always put an honest view on a situation.”
On the ground floor, Mrs Gray, the housekeeper was making her way along the hallway when she heard the knock on the front door. She turned and checked her reflection in the mirror, smoothing down her grey coat dress as she did so. She then walked to the door, looking through the spyhole to see the liveried driver standing outside.
Taking a moment, she unlocked and opened the door, saying “Good evening. If you would care to...”
“Shut your mouth, you fucking English lover,” the man said as he walked in, sticking the business end of a sawn off shotgun into her stomach as he was followed in by three other men, “we’re in charge. Where are they?”
“I don’t know who you...”
“The fucking Irish hating Gaunts. WHERE ARE THEY?”
Mrs Gray indicated the stairway with her head, as the driver smiled. “Get her out of the way – make sure she can’t do anything. We’re going to invite those bastards to come down for a chat.”
“May I say you look positively radiant tonight my dear,” Tom said as he leaned over and kissed Paula.
“Indeed – but then you are biased, aren’t you?”
“But of course I am my dear.
“In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eye on sweet Paula de Gaul...”
Paula smiled as Tom kept singing “and she walked down the Liffe, with a smile sweet and twinkling, singing...”
“Get on the fucking floor, hands behind you fucking heads, you Irish hating Orange bastards!”
Tom turned suddenly to see the two men, one holding a shotgun in his direction as he grinned, an evil grin.
“What the hell...”
“Did I say you could talk? Get on the fucking floor or there’s going to be a fucking hole where that well fed English stomach currently is!”
Paula stood slowly, unsure of quite what was happening as Tom glanced to the side.
“My friends downstairs just cut the phone lines, and disabled the alarm. We are calling on you to stand to account, Gaunt, for the sins of your family against the Irish people.”
“Oh for the love of...”
“Tom,” Paula said quietly, “they have guns.”
“That’s right, you protestant cow...”
Tom sprinted forward, the anger clear in his eyes, but then he fell to the ground as the second man hit him in the stomach, Paula seeing the gleam of metal on his gloved hands only a moment too late.
As she came forward and knelt beside him, the armed man said “Now, do what we fucking tell you to do, understand...”
“Do you know, it seems somewhat strange not to have the van with us?”
The taller of the two men nodded as they walked down Kildare Street, their hands thrust deep into the pockets of their black leather jackets. Both men were also wearing black leather jackets, and trainers, while the smaller of the two carried a satchel over his shoulder.
“While I agree,” he said, “I think for once blending in with the people passing is a good idea. Talking of which...”
They stopped outside the house, noticing the limousine parked outside, and then went down a stairway to the basement door. Hidden from sight by the high wall, they removed their gloved hands from their jackets, and pulled black balaclavas down over their heads, pausing to tuck them into the collars of the jackets before the smaller of the two produced a set of lock picks.
“How long, Mister Small?”
“Allow me a few minutes, Mister Tall, and we will be able to – ah, there we are.”
As he stood up, Mister Tall took hold of the door handle and twisted it, smiling as he did so.
“Exemplary work as always, Mister...”
He stopped as he looked at his partner.
“I’m not sure,” Mister Small said as she felt along a wire with his gloved hand that ran down the side of the door, and then stopped.
“Somebody cut this wire,” he said quietly, “let’s go in, close the door, and then I want to look at the alarm system.”
Mister Tall nodded as he walked in, closing the door behind him.
Paula grimaced as the man pulled the rough rope tightly round her body, forcing her arms into her side as it did so. She looked up from where she was kneeling in the front room at Tom, who was sat in a high back chair, another of the men tying his legs to the front legs of the chair. His upper body was already tightly lashed to the chair back, while his arms were wrapped round, his wrists bound together and secured to the chair back.
“Well, it’s just a taste you fucking Gaunts have visited on our country over the centuries,” the man in the chauffer suit said. He was obviously their leader, smiling as the rope was wrapped round Paula’s body above and below her chest, and then taken over her left shoulder, pulled through the band of rope below her chest and making her gasp as it was pulled up and back over her other shoulder.
“Leave my wife alone,” Tom snarled, “whatever your beef is, it is with me, not her.”
“Wrong, English fucker,” the man said, “she’s your wife, so she’s as guilty as you are.”
He watched as the other man lashed Paula’s ankles together, seeing the tears on her cheeks as he then pulled her back, and tied her wrists to her ankles.
“Now then,” the leader said, “you two go and find what you can. We’re going to make clear to these two English...”
“We’re Irish,” Tom said, only to hear Paula gasp as he was hit over the eye.
“You two English bastards,” he said again, “of the crimes you are going to be punished for.”
“Which faction are you with? Continuity? Real?”
“Guess,” the leader said with the evil grin, before he hit Tom again.
Tom watched as a rag was stuffed into Paula’s mouth, and then black veterinary bandage wrapped tightly round her head.
“Okay,” Mister Small said quietly, “there is something very wrong here. The alarm system is dead.”
“Wouldn’t the housekeeper be here anyway?”
“No, I mean it is dead – someone’s disabled it.”
Mister Tall looked at the panel, and then drew his knife from his pocket. “We’re not the only ones in the house, are we?”
“No,” Mister Small said as he drew his gun from his jacket pocket. “Let’s tread carefully.”
He opened a door that led into the kitchen, the two masked men walking quietly in. There was no sign of anyone.
“Okay – that door leads to the hallway,” Mister Small said, “you go first.”
Mister Tall nodded as they walked up the staircase, stopping at the top of the stairs as he slowly opened the door. They could both hear the sound of the discussion in the front room, as they both slipped out and walked over.
“For the love of all that is holy, those are the crimes of my ancestor, and they have been atoned for...”
“Like fuck they have, bastard – the curse of Gaunt still hangs over our land, and won’t be relieved until you’re all fucking wiped out.”
They both looked in, to see a tall, well dressed blonde kneeling on the floor, a black bandage wrapped round her head and covering her mouth, while a man in a dress shirt and trousers was lashed to a chair, two very well armed men taking turns to insult him.
They looked at each other, and then walked slowly to the other side of the hallway.
“What have we walked into?”
“How au fait are you with Irish History, Mister Tall?”
“Well, I know of the Easter uprising, and Eurovision, but beyond that...”
“The Duke and Duchess of Landarn are Gaunts – and in Irish history, the name Gaunt lies right up there at a level with the Duke of Cumberland in Scottish history.”
“Ah,” Mister Tall said quietly, “so what we have here is someone who cannot let go of historical wrongs?”
“Bit more than that,” Mister Small said, “try something almost at a genetic level. Anyway, my fear is our planned visit to obtain one item may have become somewhat more serious.”
“You are guilty, Tom of Gaunt, and you will pay the price...”
“Yeah,” Mister Tall said, “plan?”
“You go upstairs, see if you can find anyone else and make sure they stay there,” Mister Small said. “I want to check one thing first.”
“And that is?”
“Where is the housekeeper?”
Mister Tall nodded as he walked up the stairs, Mister Small looking round before he headed to a side door.
“Look at this,” one of the two men said as he tipped another tray of jewellery onto the bed, “they’re loaded, absolutely loaded!”
“Yeah – all the more for us to deal with.”
As Mister Tall looked round the corner, he saw the two men dressed in black, as they stuffed Paula’s jewellery into a black bag.
“They really are buying the bosses line?”
“Oh that’s real – he really hates the name Gaunt. But they don’t know we’re not Provos or any of those groups.”
“You finish off in here – I’m going to check the next room.”
Mister Tall stood to one side, waiting as the man walked past before he followed him, and grabbed him from behind, one arm round his throat as the other gloved hand covered his nose and mouth. It was a trick he had picked up in his days in Italy, but since teaming up with his partner it had been one he had not needed to use for a long time.
The man struggled under his grip, but inevitably he went limp, as Mister Tall lowered him gently to the floor and then walked to the master bedroom. The second man was standing looking in the wardrobe, his back to him as he looked to the wall, and removed an item from a plaque there.
“Hey – find anything?”
“Yeah – me.”
He didn’t have time to turn round before Mister Tall brought the shillelagh down on the back of his neck, knocking him for six as he dropped to the floor. Stooping to check his pulse, he took from his pocket a roll of black electrical tape, and crossed his wrists behind his back, shaking his head as he started to tape him...
Mrs Gray looked at the door as it was opened, and saw the small man dressed in black standing there, the balaclava allowing only his eyes and mouth to be seen, through the mirror to the side of the room.
Mister Small also noticed her glance, and held up one finger of his gloved hand. She nodded very slightly, and again as he pointed to the door.
He nodded again, and then with a sudden and unexpected force threw the door back, hearing the gasp and thud as he did so. Jumping into the room, he pulled the door away and hit the man standing there twice with his fists in the kidneys, and then gave a very respectable upper cut, sending him sprawling to the floor.
“Thank you, dear lady,” he said quietly to Mrs Gray, “if I may ask you to wait for a few moments?”
She nodded, unable to talk through the band of silver tape that was wrapped tightly round her head, and held a thick cloth in her mouth. She was tied spread-eagled to the bed, only able to watch as Mister Small took some lengths of cord from his satchel, and set about securing the unconscious intruder.
Once her had him hogtied, and had pressed several lengths of tape over his mouth, he stood up and looked at the housekeeper. “With deep regret,” he said quietly, “I need to ask you to remain as you are, while we deal with the immediate threat to your employer. You understand?”
Mrs Gray slowly nodded as she saw him smile. “Good – as soon as it is possible to do so, someone will come and free you, but until then, endure, and we will do all we can.”
“Not important,” he said with a smile as he headed for the door again.
“Mister Small – what did you find?”
“The housekeeper – she was under guard, but is safe now. I explained why she had to stay where she was. You?”
“Two of them upstairs – I dealt with them.”
The two men were talking quietly at the base of the stairs, trying not to listen to the foul language and abuse that was been hurled at Tom and Paula. It was when they heard her muffled scream that Mister Small said “I think we need to intervene.”
They walked slowly over to the door, and looked in. Paula was lying on her side, looking up with eyes full of fear as the leader pointed the sawn-off shotgun at her.
Tom Gaunt was trying to get out of the chair, as the second man stood behind him.
“Oh you really do love her,” the leader said quietly, “perhaps I should let you watch me show her what a real Irishman could do before we kill you...”
The two masked men looked at each other, as Mister Tall took a five Euro coin from his pocket and held it up. Mister Small nodded as they both stood to the side of the door, and then Mister Tall tossed the coin across the marble floor of the hallway.
“Hey – who’s out there? That you Tommy?”
Paula and Tom looked to the door as their two captors waited for the reply, before the leader said “get out there and see what’s going on.”
The second man nodded, Tom breathing heavily through his nose as he watched the man walk over to the door, and look out, before he turned to the left.
All three of them heard the muffled gasp, and then the thud.
The leader looked at both of them, and then said “don’t move a fucking inch.”
“Fnnneee,” Tom said in defiance through the rag and bandage as the leader walked slowly across the room, and then out of the door. He watched as the armed man turned to the side, and then let the shotgun down in his hand as he heard him say “what the fuck?”
There was then a crackling sound in the air as she watched him suddenly convulse, and then drop to the ground, the shotgun falling from his hand as he jerked and twitched.
“I did not know you had a tazer in your repertoire, Mister Small?”
“You know my motto, Mister Tall – always be prepared.”
Tom looked at Paula and shook his head before they both opened their eyes in surprise at the two men who walked in. They were dressed in black, including the balaclava masks and the gloves, but the height disparity was all Paula could think of.
“My apologies, Your Grace,” the taller of the two said, “it would appear our arrival was rather timely. Apart from the obvious, are either of you hurt?”
Tom shook his head as the taller of the two produced a knife, and carefully cut the bandage away from Paula’s head before he removed the cloth from her mouth.
“Your housekeeper? She is currently secured in her room, but the man with her and the others have all been subdued – on which note...”
The taller of the two men nodded as he took the roll of black tape from his pocket and walked outside.
The smaller and walked over and removed the gag from Tom, before he said “if I release you from the chair, will you take care of your wife, and we will alert the authorities?”
“Who... Who are you,” he said as the ropes holding him to the chair were removed.
“Unimportant,” the masked man said as Tom rubbed his wrists, “are they secured?”
The taller man came back in and nodded as Tom stood up.
“We will alert the authorities – Sir, Your Grace,” the smaller man said as he bowed to both of them, and then the two men left.
“Tom... Oh God Tom, I thought they were going to...”
“I know,” he said as he knelt and held Paula, “I know...”
In the hotel bar, the two men watched the breaking news on RTE of the attack at the Dublin home of the Duke and Duchess of Landarn, and that five men had been detained on the premises.
“We want to thank the authorities for their prompt response to the call,” Tom Gaunt said as they watched, “and we are grateful for the fact that we did not suffer more than we did.”
“I think we did a good thing tonight Mister Small,” Mister Tall whispered as he sipped his beer.
“Indeed – a commission lost, but under the circumstances...”
“Well, some you win, some you lose,” Mister Tall said as he sipped his Guinness, “and some you adapt to.”
“Well said,” Mister Small said as he stood up, “well said. Another pint?”
“Well, we have no idea who they were, Sir,” the Garda inspector said as Tom and Paula sat in their front room, “but they deserve a medal in my book.”
“Even if you did know,” Tom said as he nursed a glass of Bushmill in his hand, “would you tell me?”
The inspector shook his head as he stood up, shaking his hand. “Well, I am sure we will be in touch soon,” he said as the telephone rang.
Mrs Gray came in and said “Eve Stone on the telephone for you Sir.”
“And so it begins,” Tom said with a sigh. “Tell her I will be with her in a moment, Mrs Gray. Inspector?”