Friday, February 19, 2010

1 - Ash

It started in Dublin back in 1989. I was 22 years old, three years into running cons and trying to structure a like-kind exchange. Inasmuch as cocaine and submachineguns were both illegal.
Oldrich Hajak and I were discussing opportunities in west africa. I was in the middle of a series of blatant lies about shipping containers when he interrupted me:

"Watch out for that Stocky man in the dark suit."

I scanned the room and spotted him immediately. He was standing off to the side wearing a nicer suit than the rest of us cared to for this particular meeting.

Black suit. White shirt. Green tie. Serious expression.

"That's Gabirel O'Brian. He'll be signing checks one day."

Oldrich was right, but he didn't keep his eyes on the horizon. He's rotting in some turkish prison these days.

I go in for long-cons on occasion and I can smell money when it's in large quantities. Digging out information on a man's name took more effort back then. It took me three months to cut through the crap he laid out for the tourists and then I was ready to introduce myself to Gabriel Francis Nilan. But by then I'd gotten caught up in other opportunities and he'd moved on from Dublin.

So I filed away the information for a rainy day and kept swimming like a good shark.

When it got to be 1994, I found myself in Detroit. I had a good product, jewel racket this time, and was arranging meetings between willing buyers and myself. I was enjoying an old fashioned at a table in one of the nicer restaurants when I spotted a familiar dark suit in a corner surrounded by sycophants. Figure at that point the jewel deal can wait. Gabriel still smelled like real money, even from across a crowded room.

Boldness in the face of a potential client is an asset in my line of business. At the same time, being too bold can get you shot. I took the middle road and sent a double of Kilbeggan over to him. It works with loose women, it was certain to get his attention. Surprisingly, he drank it down. In Spain that kind of trust can get you poisoned, but the pale folks from North Eurpoe grew up thinking about axes instead of cyanide.

That was when I knew he'd seen me.

Steel grey eyes locked on my brown eggs across the room. My gorge rose and I new I was going to get the treatment. I was neatly collected by four thugs in a Mercedes and taken over to a nice joint in Grand Circus Park. A decided step up from my expectations of chains in a waterfront warehouse. This was starting to look more like my time in Switzerland than my time in Libya. However, Gabriel wasn't going to make it easier for me. It took three hours of grilling before I received an audience with the presonage.

He quizzed me on how I knew him. He blustered behind the O’Brian name. I hinted at things unspoken and mentioned my cousin by the name of Nilan. He got the picture at that point and sent the kids off to their room. The zip ties on my wrists were cut with a pen knife that looked like it belonged in an antique store.

Gabriel sat himself in a high backed red executive chair behind a mahogany desk. I favoured one of the four hot seats before it. The one on stage left. I was offered a robusto and accepted. I retrieved my switchblade from the sideboard and cut the tip. We passed a box of matches back and forth and made noncommital words around the cigars as we relaxed into our discussion.

“What the hell do you want from me.”

“I’m interested in employment. Particularly any jobs of agency you have available. You and I have traded through intermediaries a number of times, but never face to face. Frankly, I make less money when I sell to you and yours, so I figure it has to go somewhere.”

“I have plenty of helping hands around the table. Why should you be one?”

“Because I can put a pin in Gabriel Francis Nilan as a former resident of Ballyvaughan.”

His left cheek twitched. He tapped ash from his cigar. His pupils dilated.


It was my turn to fidget within accepted parameters. I chose the classic tasting the palate of the smoke and checking to see that the robusto was burning evenly. I knew better than to pick at the ring in front of this guy. My pupils probably dilated too, but there were no mirrors handy.

“Saggitarius around ’55.”

His lip twitched. I got this feeling like he was laughing at me, but like it was good that he was laughing at me. I willed a little sparkle into my eyes and waited for him to lob back. I had to wait a minute. He chose that moment to break out the whiskey. The bastard served up Wild Turkey on the rocks. Sometimes I just don’t understand people.

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