If you’ve spotted Brian McGilloway’s novel on social media and are wondering what it’s all about, I have the next best thing (aside from reading it of course) for my stop on the tour today! Here is an extract of ‘The Last Crossing’ – thank you to Emily for asking me to be on the tour. Enjoy!
‘I was younger than you the first time your uncle sent me out to do a job. He was one of ours who joined the cops. Your uncle wanted me to pop him. That’s how he put it, like it was nothing. Not shoot, not kill – pop, like a balloon at a party.’
‘Did you?’ Karen asked.
Duggan nodded. ‘He was coming out of the Rialto with his girl. We’d got word he was there, at The Shootist of all things. Him and her comes out, with the rest of the crowd and starts walking down the Strand towards their car. I was hiding up on the walls opposite the picture house. When he started walking, I comes out and across the street, behind him. I’d a parka on, the hood zipped up around my face so I couldn’t see properly, and my own breathing loud as anything inside the hood. I’d my piece in my coat pocket and a pair of gloves on. Just as I went to pull it out, he turned and looked at me. And he knew. I could see his eyes, he knew what was coming, as if he’d been waiting for it all along. He wasn’t surprised or hurt. It was like he was disappointed, like he’d thought maybe he’d have been given a pass on it.’
He paused, as if he was back there, in that moment, facing the man once more. When he spoke again, his voice was wet and timbrous.
‘He turned and shoved his girlfriend to the ground. I remember that; other fuckers have pulled people in front of them, used them like shields, but not him. He pushed her to the ground just as I shot. The gun bucked a bit when I fired, so the first shot caught him in the stomach and the second on the neck.’
The silence hung in the car. Tony glanced at Karen whose eyes were bright with tears and he suspected that she was spooling the shooting of her father inside her head. He reached across and took her hand in his, clasping it. He felt her open her fingers a little and splaying them, interconnect them with his.
‘He was my first. Cooney, his name was. I always thought the fucker was noble, throwing the girl to the ground. He drowned in his own blood by the time the ambulance arrived.’
He turned and looked over at Barr. ‘That’s the work your uncle sent me out to do for him while he sat in the bar, holding court. I was sixteen at the time.’
‘Do you regret it?’ Karen asked.
‘What? What I did?’
‘Never. Except with Martin,’ he said. ‘But we’ll take care of that today. Isn’t that right, Richard?’
‘Any sign of a shop?’ Tony asked, keen to change the subject.
‘Did you ever see it?’ Duggan asked, as if Tony had not even spoken.
Barr, to whom the question had been addressed, glanced quizzically at him. ‘See it?’
‘The Shootist? It’s a cracker of a film. John Wayne’s the gunslinger or something, aw, what’s this his name is? Not Cogburn, that was the other one. That’ll annoy me all day now, his name. Anyway, he’s got cancer and is dying and does one last job. It was Wayne’s last film. He died of cancer himself a few years later. I was sorry to hear that; his films were always good. “Truly this was the son of God”,’ he drawled.
Karen looked at Tony in disbelief either at the mental gymnastics that Duggan had just performed in the conversation, or the fact that the only sympathy which he’d expressed had been for an actor he’d not known rather than a man he’d gunned down himself in front of his girlfriend.
‘Do you mind that one? Him a Roman centurion talking with a Texas drawl. Like Connery commanding a Russian submarine with a Scottish accent. Those guys weren’t actors; they were stars. Didn’t matter they were always playing themselves.’
‘What happened to Cooney’s girlfriend?’ Karen asked, leaning forward and, in doing so, releasing Tony’s hand. He felt a pang of regret, could still feel the pressure of her skin on his. He’d not held Ann’s hand in such a manner for years before her death and felt a strange disloyalty and simultaneous thrill at having done so now with Karen.
‘Fuck knows,’ Duggan said. ‘The last I saw of her, she was lying on the pavement outside the Rialto.’
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