A PRE-SPECTRUM STORY
BY MARION WOODS
…The Queen of Paflagonia presented his Majesty with a son and heir; …. It was thought the fairy, who was asked to be his godmother, would at least have presented him with an invisible jacket, a flying horse, … or some other valuable token of her favour; but instead, [she] went up to the cradle …, and said, “My poor child, the best thing I can send you is a little MISFORTUNE;” and this was all she would utter, to the disgust of [his] parents, who died very soon after, when [his] uncle took the throne.
The Rose and the Ring, by William Makepeace Thackeray
Callum Donaghue had been in New York for about a year before he’d raised the money to send for his family. He waited impatiently for them to clear customs at New York airport and smiled with delight, waving enthusiastically, as he saw Rosaleen emerge from the Arrivals hall with Ciara and Patrick clinging to her coat as she wheeled the luggage trolley through.
“Over here, Rosa!” he called, and hurried to the exit where he crouched to enfold his two wide-eyed children in his arms. Five year old Ciara hugged him, but Patrick clung to his mother, wide-eyed and shy. “Come here, son,” Callum encouraged and the dark-haired, bright-eyed child advanced a little closer. “I’m your Dadda, don’t you remember me?”
Patrick shook his head and Rosaleen put her hand on his thick, wavy black hair.
“Give him a while, Cal, and he’ll be okay; he’s tired and he’s only a baby.”
Callum buried his disappointment and stood to wrap his wife in his embrace. “I guess so. It’s so good to see you, Rosa!” He kissed her hungrily, believing her reluctance was merely due to being in a public place: Rosaleen’s shyness and seeming reluctance to surrender herself to him was a big part of her attraction for him. Smiling, he led them all out to the subway.
As they travelled, Rosaleen looked at the man she’d married. Callum had always been a good-looking, smart-talking man, with a confident swagger and highfaluting ambitions. As such she’d been dazzled by his attentions to her – until they were married, that was, and she’d began to realise he was far more of a braggart than the dynamic go-getter she’d expected.
Her mother had not and still did not like him, and she’d tried to talk her daughter out of going to America to rejoin him. “Yer better off without him, Rosa: you and the babies.”
The words came back to haunt her as she looked at him now. His thick, black hair was too long and unkempt, his clothes creased and none too clean. She saw him stretch out a hand to stop a case from toppling over, and noticed with distaste that his fingernails were dirty. Fastidious to a fault, that one instance condemned Callum before he had any chance to win her over.
She looked away and fingered the rosary beads in her pocket. She’d made her marriage vows willingly enough and she’d stand by them, as it was her duty to do. She’d do it – whatever it cost her personally – for the sake of her babies. She smiled at Ciara and at her darling Patrick; they were her reason for living now and she would devote herself to making their lives better than hers.
When they reached the cheap apartment building and Callum had lugged the suitcases upstairs, he looked apologetically at his wife as she surveyed the cramped rooms and dilapidated furniture.
“I didn’t want to waste money on a decent place, until we were all together. I want us to find the right place together,” he lied, hating the disillusion in Rosa’s expression.
She gave a brisk nod and replied, “It’s fine, Cal. We’re all together, that’s what matters. I can clean the place up in a trice and we’ll look for a better place in a few weeks, when we’ve settled in properly. Now, the babies are tired, where can they sleep?”
“There’s a small bedroom through here, they can share it. I bought an inflatable mattress that we can use for now, on the floor here…”
Rosaleen nodded and took off her coat. “We’ll manage.”
Callum relaxed. He should have known that Rosaleen would make the best of everything; as she’d always done, ever since he’d known her. However, he’d forgotten her air of perpetual disenchantment with him that had driven him to try his luck in the New World. But it was grand to see her again; he’d missed having a woman in his bed of a night and Rosa was still a very sexy woman.
She set about making drinks for the children and gave them a biscuit from the supply she’d brought for the journey. Then as the sun began to set between the high-rise buildings, she washed them and got them ready for bed.
“I don’t want to go to bed yet,” Ciara said, annoyed at being treated like her younger brother.
“Today you do,” Rosaleen said. “It’s much later than you think, and you’ll be having jet lag to cope with. Look, Pat’s yawning already.”
“He’s just a baby,” Ciara remarked, although she was fond of her brother and didn’t mind having to share the single bed with him.
Rosaleen dropped her voice and said to her daughter, “Keep him company then, Ciara, I don’t want him upset.”
Once she’d helped them say their prayers and tucked them both in bed, Rosaleen crooned a lullaby, smiling as Patrick’s eyes fluttered closed and Ciara snuggled into the bedclothes.
She left them and went back to her husband.
“They’re asleep, or next to it. It’s been a long day for us all.”
“We can unpack tomorrow and sort things out then,” Callum suggested. “Let’s enjoy our time together, Rosa; I have missed you…” He embraced her, kissing her as his hands fumbled with the buttons at the front of her dress.
“Cal…” she protested, struggling a little. “We have nowhere to sleep as yet.”
“Oh, sure.” He dragged the mattress out and set to with a foot pump to inflate it, while she gathered sheets, pillows and a few blankets from the cupboard.
Once their ‘bed’ was made, Rosaleen busied herself tidying things away and opened one suitcase to find her nightdress.
“You won’t be needed that, Rosa,” Cal said, with an inviting smile.
“And what if the children need me in the night?”
He started to undo the buttons once more, and buried his face against the soft skin of her bosom, while his hand lifted the hem of her skirt.
Patrick woke suddenly and whimpered in the darkness. He didn’t like this strange room and even the presence of the sleeping Ciara was not enough to make him feel comfortable. He listened for a moment and heard strange noises coming from the other room. He slipped from the bed, clutching the worn, blue blanket that was his main comforter, and padded to the door.
His mamai was lying in a bed on the floor and the strange, dark-featured man who had said he was his Dadda was on top of her. He was making deep, moaning noises and mamai’s head was turned away from him, her eyes closed. Her nightgown, with the pink roses embroidered around the neckline was lying on the arm of the chair.
“Mamai,” Patrick whimpered, and his mother’s eyes flew open as his father swore and cursed the small boy.
Rosaleen scrambled into her nightgown and led the sobbing child back to the bed, comforting him as best she could without waking her daughter. When she went back into the other room, her husband was glaring at her.
“The boy will have to learn to stay where he’s put of a night,” he stated angrily.
“He was frightened. It’s only natural. He’ll settle all right, you’ll see,” Rosaleen replied, getting back onto the mattress. But when Callum reached for her, she turned onto her side. “Goodnight, Cal; I’m awful tired…”
Cursing again, Callum Donaghue tried to get some sleep, but the sun was starting to rise before he managed to doze off properly.
Children are amazingly resilient and Ciara and Patrick settled into their new life with comparative ease; although Rosaleen found it harder. Homesick and unhappy, she increasingly turned to the church for support and solace from the hardship of their lives.
It wasn’t long before she realised that Callum wasn’t earning a decent wage, or even regular money, and that the plane tickets had been paid for by a loan at an extortionate rate of interest. She used her meagre savings to pay that off and, with what Callum thought of as an air of martyrdom, started scrimping and saving to make ends meet.
When Callum lost his labouring job not long after his family arrived, Rosaleen found herself a cleaning job at a supermarket until her advancing pregnancy forced her to quit. They left the small apartment and moved to one across the district. Rosaleen got work at home, stuffing envelopes and packing boxes for a pittance. The children helped when they could and Patrick often fell asleep at the table surrounded by envelopes and merchandise.
Just before she gave birth to her third child, Niamh, they left the new apartment late one evening and moved to a smaller one, in an even cheaper area of the district.
This was the pattern of Patrick’s early life. Callum found what work he could and in between confinements, Rosaleen worked too. By the time Patrick was 6, and ready to start elementary school, they’d moved countless times and the family had increased to four children.
“We have to settle now,” Rosaleen said, as she sat and nursed her new baby, Brendan. “It was bad enough having to move Ciara from school to school, but I don’t want that for Pat. The boy’s clever, Cal. He needs to be educated properly.”
“You know we can’t afford a decent place with good schools,” Callum responded. The years were not treating him kindly, and his handsome face was starting to coarsen with disappointment and stress.
“We can try. I want us to get a place and settle there. There must be help we can get, for the children’s sake.”
“I won’t take any charity,” Callum snapped. “Besides, we stand a risk of being sent back to Ireland if we bring ourselves to the attention of the authorities.”
Rosaleen winded Brendan and settled him to her other breast before she answered. “I won’t risk the children’s futures. I’d rather go back.”
“You’re saying I can’t look after my own?”
She shook her head, not wanting to anger him; Callum’s temper was fierce and he had trouble controlling it. There had been an occasion when he had raised his hand to her, although she had told him then, that if he ever struck her again she’d leave him and take the kids back to Ireland. He knew her well enough to know she’d meant it, but he was free with his fists with the children and Patrick was usually the one to suffer. Even in the red haze of anger, Callum hesitated to strike the girls.
“Things haven’t been easy, Cal; I know you’ve done all you can and hopefully, this new job will last and you’ll make a go of it. You deserve some luck.”
It was getting harder to find legitimate work if you didn’t have the necessary documentation and in the confusion of the exodus during the European Atomic War, Callum Donaghue had neglected to formalise his emigration and that of his family. Recently the government had been discussing an amnesty for people who qualified to live and work here officially, and Rosaleen was hopeful that they’d be able to regularise their stay soon.
Unknown to her husband, who would not have approved, she’d been talking to the priest at the local church about their problems with inadequate accommodation and her hopes for her boys. He’d listened sympathetically and had spoken of how he might be able to help them and what options they had.
She kept her voice neutral as she said, “I have heard of an apartment not that far from here, and I know where I can get a job cleaning offices downtown. That pays much better than any job I could get locally. If we’re both in work, we’d qualify for the immigration amnesty and that’d be worth applying for, wouldn’t it, Cal? There’s a school close by that apartment that has a good reputation, it gets special help from the Church. If we move soon, we could get Patrick and Ciara enrolled there for the new semester.”
“Where’d you hear all this?” he asked suspiciously. His resentment at Rosaleen’s close involvement with the church fuelled his feeling of inadequacy.
“Someone at the baby clinic mentioned it.”
Callum bit his thumb as he considered her words. He was a proud man and he didn’t want to admit he couldn’t cope alone, but he hated the feeling of helplessness their lack of money created in him. He didn’t like the idea of his wife having to work so soon after she’d had a baby either, but without money you couldn’t get anywhere in this life.
“I don’t know about the amnesty, it might be more trouble than it’s worth,” he said, although he’d no doubt he’d end up doing what Rosa wanted – as usual. He continued, “I suppose you might as well see what it’d cost.” Rosaleen beamed encouragement at him. “How much do we owe here?” he muttered.
“Just two weeks’ rent and we can pay that easy enough.”
He glanced at her, amazed she’d managed their finances so well. Rosaleen kept her expression blank and tried to forget the handout Father Dempsey had given her when she’d explained that they were probably going to be thrown out of their digs again.
“Well, no one can say we don’t pay our way,” Callum said, with a glimmer of pride. “If you want that new apartment, my love, and it isn’t too much, then we’ll take it. Be sure it isn’t going to cost too much though, I’m already doing two jobs.”
“I sure will, Cal. I know we won’t regret it; it’ll be a fresh start for us all.” Rosaleen smiled in contentment: the rent of the Church-owned apartment was subsidised and it had more rooms than this one, as well as qualifying for a place at the Church-aided school. It had to be better than this hand-to-mouth existence.
She glanced across to the table where Patrick was busy drawing and Ciara was listlessly turning the pages of an old magazine. It would be the first step on Patrick’s ladder to success – she was sure of it.
The elementary school was an old fashioned building, but even here there were metal detectors at the entrance to the building, because of the reputation of the neighbourhood. Yet inside the classrooms and walls of the long corridors were brightly painted and decorated with examples of the children’s art work and crafts.
Patrick excelled at figures and found maths no problem, although he was not a fluent reader, but the teachers encouraged and supported all the children who wanted to learn, and he was soon in the top stream and doing well. Rosaleen’s pride in his progress was all-pervading: she delighted in talking about ‘my Patrick’s intelligence’ to her neighbours and unintentionally disparaged the other children’s achievements accordingly.
While she was not as academically gifted as her brother, Ciara was a bright and clever child; but she struggled to motivate herself when she saw that whatever she did never matched Pat’s achievements in her mother’s eyes. She preferred to hang out with her friends and skipped classes when she could. When she was ready to move to Middle School, she failed to get a place at the better of the two local schools, but Patrick made the grade and moved on to a more academic school some distance from home, where he flourished. By the end of his first year, he was in the top stream and holding his own amongst the best scholars.
He was a friendly child, free from any personal pride and with a wicked sense of fun, so he had no problem keeping his friends amongst the rowdy neighbourhood boys, as well as the new ones he made at school. Then a minor brush with the law during one long summer vacation scared his mother into clamping down on his freedom to roam the streets with the local gangs. She drew Patrick and the younger children into the social life of the church, determined to protect them from the crime and ill-discipline she saw around her on the streets.
Callum, who was working every hour he could to feed his family, had more or less washed his hands of his eldest son; he felt embarrassed by his own lack of education in the face of Patrick’s knowledge and so, apart from an occasional cuff to let the boys know who was boss, he left the raising of the kids to his wife.
Rosaleen’s dark hair was liberally scattered with grey now, and she had lost the slender figure of her youth through repeated pregnancies. How she managed to keep her seven children under control was a mystery, but out of them all the only real tearaway was Ciara. Patrick was a good role model for his younger brothers, Brendan, Jack and Thomas, and was adored by his younger sisters, Niamh and baby Kayleigh.
Ciara had developed into an attractive teenager. She had the luxuriant black hair inherited from her father and, although she was not overly tall, her buxom figure was in perfect proportion and she managed to dress to emphasise her figure. She had a roving eye and saucy way with her that brought her into frequent conflict with her strait-laced mother. Patrick often acted as a buffer between them, but although Rosaleen idolised her eldest son, she would not be deterred from criticising her eldest daughter.
Ciara left school as soon as she could and got herself a job in a downtown hairdressing salon. Hopeful that her problem child was going to be settling down, Rosaleen breathed a sigh of relief, but couldn’t stop using Ciara as an example of failure to her other children.
“You need to work hard at school, Pat,” she insisted. “I don’t want you leaving before you’ve got a good education, like Ciara did.”
Pat looked up from the table, where he was doing his homework on the second-hand personal computer he’d bought with wages from his weekend job and reconditioned for himself. “I’d sure like to go to college, if I could,” he admitted. “But I know that’d be too much for you and Dad to manage. There are the others to consider.”
Rosaleen sat beside him for a moment, and thought about the problem. “You deserve the chance, Pat; I’ve yet to see the others do as well. I’ll pray over it, and ask Father Murphy if he has any ideas how to arrange it – if you do well enough,” she promised, patting his arm. “The good Lord will provide, Patrick, you’ll see.”
“It’s always seemed to me that the good Lord helps those who help themselves, but don’t let that stop your God-bothering on my behalf,” he muttered under his breath, as he watched his mother walk away to stop a squabble between Thomas and Kayleigh becoming a fight.
“You worthless trollop!” Callum raged over the figure of his weeping daughter. “Do you blame your mother and me for raising you to go and do such a thing? How could you shame us so, Ciara?”
“I didn’t mean to… it was an accident…”
“Who is this boy?” Rosaleen asked. Calmer than her husband, she was nevertheless looking shocked and there was no sympathy in her voice, even as she fingered the beads of her rosary.
“He’s a guy I met at work.”
“I thought they were all shirt-lifters at your work,” Callum retorted scathingly.
“No, he was a customer,” Ciara admitted. “He’s a rich man, he always asked for me to do his hair and he’s a good tipper…”
“He sure tipped you well,” Callum roared, as Ciara began to cry again.
“Well, we must make the best of it, I suppose. At least you say he has the money to support you. He’ll have to marry you; have you told him yet?” Rosaleen asked.
Ciara’s sobs grew louder as she hiccoughed the words: “He can’t marry me; he’s already married, Mamai!”
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,” Rosaleen moaned.
Callum’s arm swung round towards Ciara, who cowered back in expectation of the blow, but Patrick stepped between them and grabbed his father’s arm.
“Leave her be, can’t you? She knows better than you that what’s happened is wrong.”
“Keep out of this, Patrick. Your sister is nothing but a dirty, little whore and she deserves a damn good thrashing! If we’d done it before now, she’d have known better than to bring such shame on us!”
“We should be asking her what we can do to help,” Pat exclaimed angrily. “We’ve always looked out for each other; we can’t turn our backs on one of our own now!” He looked at his mother. “’Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone’: isn’t that what it says? Ciara needs our help.”
“I’m so sorry, Mamai, I’m sorry, Dad; I never meant it to happen. I was a fool and I listened to his lies. I’m so sorry – forgive me,” Ciara pleaded.
Rosaleen looked at her daughter for a long time, but Patrick couldn’t see any softening of the anger and disapproval in her face. She looked away and dropped her eyes to her beads.
“She’s not staying in my house,” Callum snapped, as if his wife had given him a signal to speak. He backed away from his son as he said so; Patrick was nearly as tall as him and although he was lanky, he was already strong – his grasp on his arm had proved that. “I’m having no bastards under my roof.”
Ciara wailed again and turned to look beseechingly at Rosaleen. “Mamai…”
“Your father has spoken,” Rosaleen said, her voice devoid of any sympathy. “I will help you pack your things and I will telephone to Father Murphy; he’ll be sure to know of some place you can go to have the… the child.”
“Mam,” Pat said, “you don’t mean that?” He knew Callum’s judgment would change if Rosaleen insisted otherwise. “Please, say that you don’t mean it! You’re talking about Ciara but you’re behaving like you don’t care about her!”
Rosaleen looked at her son. She was proud of him; proud of his healthy, good looks, proud of his mental abilities and now proud of his compassion, but he would have to learn that there were times when the offender did not deserve kindness. Ciara had been headstrong for years; wilful and disobedient, she had utterly failed to live up to her mother’s ideals. And if that were not sin enough in itself, she’d brought shame on the family by her wantonness while her mother had had to endure the attentions of a husband she no longer loved, or even respected, because it was her duty to do so.
That her daughter had chosen not follow her strict moral code was, in Rosaleen’s eyes, unforgivable. She had taught them all that loyalty to the family was essential; but they had to realise that condoning such sinful excesses was not. And Patrick needed the lesson as much as the other children. Besides, she didn’t dare take the risk of her younger daughters following in Ciara’s footsteps, and believed it imperative that her eldest child must be sacrificed for the family’s good.
She gave the merest shake of her head, indicating that she would not reconsider.
“I ‘m not going to go to some appalling home for unmarried mothers,” Ciara said, finding some strength in her brother’s support. “I admit I’ve been careless, but it’s nothing more than many women do these days. You’re living in the past, Mamai. If you throw me out, I will go back to… him. He’s said he’ll look after me, if I… if I get rid of the baby.”
Rosaleen crossed herself. “If you do that, I shall never see you again, Ciara,” she warned.
“And when will you see me if I have the baby?” Ciara asked her mother. “On your deathbed, maybe?”
“What choice are you giving her?” Patrick demanded.
“She has made her bed – in every way – now she must lie in it,” Rosaleen said.
Ciara shook her head and spread her hands in a gesture of resignation. “Then, I’ll have to do as he asks,” she said.
“May God forgive you, Ciara, for I never shall.” Rosaleen rose from her seat and walked to the bedrooms, where they heard her dragging a suitcase from under the bed and opening the wardrobe.
Pat carried the bulging suitcase down the stairs for Ciara and along the street to the entrance to the subway.
“What will you do?” he asked her, as she rifled in her bag for ticket money.
“As I said, I’ll go back and tell him I will get rid of the baby. Then I’ll start again as best I can.”
“Ciara… I wish I could help.”
“You did, Pat.” She hugged him fondly. “Don’t worry about me; you work at getting to college. You’re the best hope that family has of ever leaving this cesspit town.”
“Let me know where you go and how you are,” he pleaded, scribbling an email address on a scrap of paper from his pocket. “You can reach me here – any time. I’ll do whatever I can, if you need any help.”
“Oh, I’ll be all right. I’m no saint, Pat, and there are always opportunities for people who aren’t too choosy about where the next dollar comes from.”
She grinned. “No, I don’t mean it like that. Whatever Dad thinks, I’m not a whore and I never will be. I promise you that.”
“Look after yourself,” he said, and hugged her again.
“You too. Goodbye, Pat.”
She picked up her suitcase and went down into the station to catch the train. He watched her until he could no longer see her and the train pulled out across the tracks. Then he turned and slowly made his way back to the family apartment, as a wisp of resentment at the conspicuous lack of charity in his mother’s dogmatic attitudes settled in his heart.
Miss Anita Haymes, battle-scarred and cynical after 25 years’ service in local schools, still struggled to get some rudimentary knowledge into the kids that had no choice but to attend her classes. She was an optimist and believed that every child she encountered had the potential to be a genius, but she had finally moved to the Church school in an attempt to find the one child who exhibited those characteristics. She quickly spotted Patrick’s first-class mind and targeted him for special tuition. Finding him a willing pupil, she devoted herself to getting him properly educated.
“You see, Mrs Donaghue, I can give Patrick the extra tuition so that he can take the scholarship exams. I have spoken to Father Murphy and he will pay most of the fees, but not all of them. Even that is more than he should do, but he recognises Patrick’s abilities too.”
Rosaleen nodded slowly and pushed the plate of cookies across towards Miss Haymes, who gladly took one – Mrs Donaghue’s cookies were legendary at the school.
In the sweltering heat of the summer, the apartment was uncomfortably hot, but Rosaleen had still baked: it was Monday and that’s what she did on a Monday. The Donaghue children were all outside, or at work, and Callum was sleeping in the main bedroom as he was working the night shift. Miss Haymes’s visit was unexpected, but she noted that despite the number of people living in the apartment, it was neat and spotlessly clean.
“I am glad to hear that Patrick’s working hard, Miss Haymes,” Rosaleen said. “He’s been… less communicative recently.”
“Patrick works very hard, Mrs Donaghue,” Miss Haymes reassured her. She knew that he had been disturbed by his elder sister’s departure from the family home, although Pat had not told her the full story. “I think he’s ready to move on,” she said, recalling the vehemence with which the youngster had condemned his parents’ narrow-mindedness.
“We’d have trouble paying anything for extra tuition,” Rosaleen said, although it hurt her pride to admit it. “But if you really feel it will be of use to Patrick, we will do what we can, of course.”
“I assure you, the charges will be the very minimum possible.” Anita nibbled the cookie and then said, “I’ve been in teaching for a long time, Mrs Donaghue, I’ve seen thousands of children, some bright and some not so bright; but I tell you plainly, Patrick is probably the brightest child I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. I’d like him to apply for an Ivy League scholarship, because I feel sure he’d do well. They take more into account than just the family’s background, their economic well-being. They look at the extra-curriculum activities of the applicants.”
“How do you mean?”
“I know Patrick was closely involved with the church – until recently – and I wondered what he does instead now.”
Rosaleen drew in a sharp breath and sat upright. “He had a falling out with the priest… over a family misfortune. You know how passionate young men can get about things they don’t really understand, Miss Haymes? Patrick has a kind heart and he’s too soft on the mortal sins of others. I’m sorry to say that I can’t get him to go to church now, although I pray every day that he’ll come to his senses soon. He spends his time down at the library or working his job in the drug store. He’s also been helping at the elementary school he used to go to, teaching the youngsters about computers and such things in an after school session. He’s always had a knack with machines and such.”
Miss Haymes nodded. “That’ll go down well with the selection boards. I really think we can get him into a first rate university, Mrs Donaghue. Do I have your permission to try?”
Rosaleen nodded. “Patrick’s a good boy, Miss Haymes, and I’ve always known he’d be a clever one. I want what’s best for my son.”
“Good.” Anita Haymes stood and extended her hand. “Thank you for your time, Mrs Donaghue; I will be in touch as soon as I have any news.”
Pat worked hard to get ready
for the examinations and Miss Haymes coached him in interview techniques,
although she was wise enough not to overdo it so that the youth’s natural charm
wasn’t buried under responses learned by rote.
His mother almost burst with pride when they heard that he’d been
offered a place at
Patrick chose to travel to
He was excited, but a little nervous of what the future held. He knew he could hold his own academically, but he fretted about how he’d get on with the other students, many of them bound to be from wealthy backgrounds. It was for that reason that he didn’t want his parents to accompany him. The fact that he was ashamed of them cast a pall over his excitement.
He enrolled along with a noisy crowd and was shown to his room in the extensive quadrangle of the Old Campus. Even in the small room with its worn furniture he felt a surge of amazement and happiness: this was his room – he didn’t have to share it with anyone, there were no noisy youngsters racing about, or pestering him for help with their schoolwork. He sat on the bed and gazed out of the window at the venerable buildings and found it hard not to squeal and drum his heels on the floor with delight.
It took him a week or two to settle in and find his way about, but he set about making friends with determination, and as a good-looking, personable young man, he was of interest to the female students. His self-confidence soared once more as the lectures and tutorials started in earnest and he found himself well-able to keep up and rated amongst the top students on his course.
Delighted to realise that his views were valued by his companions, he started attending some of the political meetings on the campus, although he quickly discovered that he was too radical for most of the established parties. Outspoken and increasingly opinionated, he managed to draw attention to himself by his eloquence and found himself welcomed by the older and more politically radical students who ran an organisation known as ‘Group 22’. They took their name from a group of 22 dissidents in the right-wing military dictatorship of Bereznik who had been imprisoned for their opposition to the regime.
An idealist, for all that he
had grown up on the hard streets of
He practised his oratory at the regular meetings and was encouraged by the reactions from the others, flattered by the consequence given to his pronouncements, until he began to see himself as a popular demagogue standing up for the rights of the masses against the tyranny of big business and the oppressive bureaucracies that still existed around the world beyond the reach of the World Government. What he failed to realise was that for many of the members, radicalism was as much a fashion statement as a cause, and the number of genuine die-hard believers was small.
The decision of the American
government to invite the Bereznian Head of State to
The members of Yale’s Group 22
joined the thousands of other protestors in
The Bereznian officials made a formal protest about the approaching demonstrators, threatening to withdraw from the talks. Because the negotiations were at a delicate stage and the World Government was keen for them to be a success, the inexperienced, popularist mayor sent in the police and state troopers to disperse the marchers.
“Look at that,” one of Pat’s fellow marchers said. “The cowards have sent in the troops to prevent our legal protest! We’ve got them on the run!”
“Forward, to protect our freedoms!” someone behind them yelled and Pat yelled too, adrenalin surging through him as the mass of marchers speeded up, pushing him towards the line of police in riot gear.
Things quickly started to get out of hand and he realised he was in danger of being crushed between the surging crowd behind him and the immobile line of police in front. There was no way he could duck out and avoid the clash, so at the last moment he struck out with the banner he was carrying to try and force a gap.
Something dark whirred down towards him, a shattering pain radiated through his body and his knees gave way….
Everything went black.
Patrick came to in the back of a police van, tried to rise onto his hands and knees and was violently sick. More people were thrown in with him until a dozen of them – some nursing bloodied heads or black eyes – were driven away to state holding cells. They were documented, photographed and charged with various offences under the public order acts and civil disobedience. One by one they were called out into the interview rooms to meet their appointed attorneys.
Pat’s lawyer was a middle-aged man with thinning brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses. He glanced up as Pat came in and pointed to a chair across the plain wooden table he sat at.
“Patrick Donaghue,” he read from the documents in front of him. “You’re a student at Yale?” Pat nodded, wincing at the pain in his head. “Then you should know better. What’re you doing here?” He flicked through his paperwork and answered his own question. “Ah, you’re in Group 22?”
Pat nodded again.
“They’re well known as troublemakers; there won’t be much sympathy for you in court.”
“We were making a peaceful protest on behalf of the Bereznian dissidents,” Pat retorted.
“You were embarrassing the mayor and costing the policing budget a fortune,” the lawyer corrected. “Keep your mouth closed in court, unless you’re asked a direct question – then keep your answers short and as neutral as possible – and you may just walk away with a fine.”
“I want justice,” Pat exclaimed. “I was attacked by a state trooper.”
“Look, Patrick, this whole
affair has played badly locally and in
“I will not be silenced!”
The lawyer sighed. “Have it your own way, but I wash my hands of you the first time you step out of line. They can throw the book at you if they like, and believe me, they will.”
The courtroom was small and stuffy and Pat faced the judge with a belligerent feeling of injustice already bubbling beneath his pale face. The main witness for the prosecution was a policeman, and Pat listened as he gave a highly-charged and impossible account of the activities that had led to the arrest. Pat knew that he’d done nothing – he must’ve been just about one of the first protestors to be knocked down – and his sense of anger and injustice grew, as no one questioned the veracity of the events as the officer related them.
The judge looked at the defence attorney, who was about to concede the case when Pat sprang to his feet.
“Your honour,” he began, “I protest – the officer’s evidence was a tissue of lies! He must’ve mixed me up with someone else, because all I remember is being knocked out cold by one of the troopers as we marched. I woke up in the police van. I can’t have done the things he says I did.”
The judge banged his gavel. “Sit down,” he ordered.
Pat ignored him and the hand of his lawyer on his arm. “We were protesting peacefully – as is the right of every free-born American – against the presence in our country of the iniquitous leader of a totalitarian state…”
“Mr Acheson, control your client,” the judge demanded, banging his gavel again.
The lawyer got to his feet and tried to make Pat sit down, but the youngster was too fired up now and believing that he was not getting a fair trial, he was determined to have his say. He made, what was for him, a brief political speech, denouncing state intervention in the rights of the individual. Carried away with his own oratory, he called the hearing a political show trial and a travesty of American justice.
The judge continued to bang his gavel, demand silence and finally gave Pat 90 days for contempt of court.
“Cocky young devil,” Acheson remarked to the prosecuting attorney as the shell-shocked Pat was taken below to start his sentence.
“Agreed,” his colleague said. “But he might still have escaped so long in prison if he hadn’t impugned the chastity of the judge’s mother…”
Acheson nodded in agreement and, sighing, picked up the details of his next client.
Pat was shackled and shoved into a security van with half a dozen other men, all destined for prisons around the city. He watched the guards disembark the men at various locations until there were just the three of them left. The door slammed on them and the engine started again with a wheezing roar.
The eldest of the three of them, a solidly-built, grizzled-haired, black man, spat. Pat tried not to shrink as the phlegm landed close to his foot.
“Fuck it – you know where we’re going, doncha?” he muttered.
Pat shook his head and glanced at the third man; a skinny young man, with pale skin and lank fair hair. There was a film of sweat on his face as he too shook his head.
Patrick shivered. The old island prison was notorious. It had recently been reopened many decades after being closed because of the dilapidated state of its buildings. Given the urgent need for more prison housing, the Governor had decided it was cheaper to reopen Blackwell than build any new wings elsewhere; but given the inadequate facilities, there were frequent riots and lock-downs, which even the state government couldn’t keep secret. It was generally thought that the prison was run by a brutal regime of prison gangs.
Beside him the fair-haired man whimpered.
“What’re you in for?” Pat asked him, feeling a need to make some sort of human contact. “I got 90 days for public order violations. I was arrested after the anti-Bereznik march.”
“Listen,” the older man advised him, “I’m givin’ you free advice. Don’t ask that, you never know what the answer’ll be and you might not like it.”
“Sorry,” Pat said.
The man gave a dismissive snort. “You still wet behind the ears, boy; if you lucky you get out in 90 days with your ass and your spirit intact; but don’t bet the farm on it.” He leered at Patrick, but then glanced across at the third man. “Now him – he don’t stand no chance.”
Horrified, Pat glanced at the man. He was already frightened and at these words he shivered and shrank back.
“What’s yer name?” the prison expert asked.
“Irish? Huh!” he spat again. “My name’s Darnell – Darnell Shaw – and just so you know, Irish, I’m a pimp. Who’re you?” he demanded of the other prisoner.
“You gonna suffer, Cody. Ain’t no two ways about it.”
“I only got busted for possession – just a reefer…”
Shaw laughed. “Makes no odds. They’ll be after you, lady-boy.”
The young man’s face crumpled and he began to cry and Pat swallowed his fear as best he could. Shaw shrugged and turned to Pat.
“What you do at the march to get yerself arrested?”
“They say I hit a cop with a banner…” Pat began to explain, but Shaw burst out laughing.
“Yes-sah, that’d make ‘em send you to a tough hole like Blackwell’s, sure enough; they don’ like cop-beaters. Still, you should come out safe, Irish. Keep your head down and you’ll do okay – if your luck holds. I’ll let ‘em know what you in for.”
Pat smiled gratefully, even though the idea of being beholden to this man was not something he looked forward to.
The police wagon stopped and then juddered forward to stop again. The door was opened and the three men ushered across a gloomy quadrangle into a tall, brick building. There were three guards waiting for them and they signed the receipt for their charges and the ‘delivery men’ left.
The older of the guards looked the prisoners up and down and read out their names. They mumbled acknowledgements and he gabbled through a list of instructions.
To his consternation Patrick was forced to strip and shower in a grubby communal shower. The soap was hard, green carbolic and the small towel threadbare and none too clean. As he finished drying himself he was handed the ubiquitous orange boiler-suit of the prison uniform. Then he was given a list of his belongings which he had to sign over to the prison guards before receiving the few small luxuries he was allowed to keep, along with some thin bed linen.
“You’ll spend tonight in the holding cells and move to your main cells tomorrow,” the guard snapped. “Move!”
They were taken to a bleak corridor of cells and ushered into one each. Patrick surveyed his temporary quarters with dismay: it contained a narrow, solid metal bed, bolted to the floor, a metal toilet against a wall and a small metal sink. Thrown on the bed were a thin, stained mattress and two threadbare blankets.
He was ordered to make his bed, and stay in the cell until further orders. He did what he could to make the bed look remotely inviting, and sat on the edge of it just to confirm that it was as uncomfortable as it looked. Despite his determination to take his punishment ‘like a man’, he couldn’t stop the lump rising in his throat and the burning sensation in his eyes, that watered as he blinked.
The memory of his comfortable room at Yale, and even the utilitarian comfort of home made this place seem even worse. He shivered and had difficulty stopping his lip from trembling. In the distance he could hear the clanking of doors and the shouts of men. He recognised the smell of boiled cabbage and assumed it must be meal time. He hadn’t given it a thought and on reflection decided he wasn’t really hungry.
A bell jangled loudly, making him jump. The guard shouted his name and he wandered to the door to see what was required.
“Come on – to the canteen – now!”
Cody and Darnell came out and lined up with him, then they shuffled forward through a metal grill and along a corridor to a garishly bright hall. At one end were serving hatches, and long trestle tables ran along the length of the room. The place was heaving with men, waiting in line for their food, or already seated. Pat was given a pre-formed plastic tray and as he was hustled along the line by the men behind him, various scoops of largely unidentifiable food was thrown onto the tray.
The noise was deafening as all around him the prisoners queued for their food and bickered and fought. The newcomers sat at a special table together, and he although he tried to eat the bland, soggy food, he had no appetite and the food was not tempting enough to make him hungry. He felt hot tears prick his eyes as he recalled the wholesome food his mother had always tried to give them, and his own lack of appreciation for her efforts.
Darnell nudged him in the ribs. “If you ain’t gonna eat that, Irish, send it over here. We don’t get nuthin’ else till morning.”
Pat took another mouthful almost retching as he tried to swallow, and then pushed his tray across. Darnell pushed his empty tray away and started on Pat’s food.
Cody was having similar trouble, although he was making better inroads into his food than Pat had been able to. When a shrill bell jangled, all the men stood and moved with their trays to the counter hatch, before marching out into the ‘leisure hall’ for their ‘free association’ time.
Darnell disappeared into the crowd, eager, no doubt, to establish himself with the leaders of the prison factions, so Pat drifted into a grubby lounge, where an old television, its sound ruined by blaring out full blast everyday, was showing sit-com reruns. Cody followed him, looking more and more nervous as they walked past the other prisoners. Pat quickly became aware that the other men around him were showing more interest in him and Cody than the maniacal antics of the rubber-faced comedian on TV. It was most unnerving and when he got the courage to move from his seat, he wandered over to look for something to read from a shelf of dilapidated books by the small, barred window.
Trying to appear unconcerned, he began to look at the books: heart-broken to see the limited variety and poor quality of the selection, he took what looked to be the best of the bunch and went back to his seat. Most of the men were watching TV now, and it kept their interest allowing him – and Cody – to sit in silent fear.
The night bell jarred at and the men prepared to troop off to the cells. They formed a line between the chairs and the door, and waited for the young men to walk down a line of men to get to their cells.
As they reached the door one voice called out:
Tomorrow you’re mine, sonny boy.
Pat walked into the bleak cell and was still facing the wall as the door slammed behind him. He started, spinning round to see the metal door blocking the exit to the cell. He stood there listening with mounting terror to the rasp of metal bolts sliding home. No sound he’d ever heard was like this: nothing in the world had ever been so frightening, so final and so depressing as the clang of that prison cell door as it was shut.
He was numb with terror; unable to even construct a meaningful thought in his head, and aware only of the thumping of his heartbeat and the burning in his throat and eyes.
When he regained control of his limbs, he went and sat on the hard bed and muttered to himself:
“It’s only for 90 days, and I am a political prisoner, they won’t put me with the hard cases… they can’t… I haven’t done anything. But then – why am I here in a top security prison? Oh, mamai… oh, Holy Mary, please don’t let anything happen to me…”
He bit his bottom lip but the tears came and he smothered his sobs in the rough blanket until he had regained his calm. Then he washed his face in the cold water from the one tap and dried it on a threadbare towel.
He put the few private possessions he had been allowed to keep onto the one metal shelf and settled down as best he could to read the book he’d chosen from the ‘library’ in the TV room.
He stared at the page for long minutes before he realised he had the book upside down.
“Get a grip, Donaghue,” he chided himself, and gradually found himself able to blot out his surroundings and lose himself in the story. He turned to the next chapter just as the lights went out.
“What?” He glanced at the luminous hands on the dial of his small clock: . Sighing he closed the book and dropped it to the floor. Without changing, he slipped under the blankets and lay staring up at the blank ceiling, praying for sleep to come. He could hear the clanging of doors in the distance, the coughs and moans of the incarcerated men and then he became aware of the sound of crying coming from the next cell, where Cody was, and he squeezed his eyes tightly shut to try and block out the noise…
It was the longest night he’d ever experienced.
The harsh jangle of the morning bell jerked Pat from his troubled doze and he stretched, stiff and drowsy and dragged himself out of bed. After relieving his bladder and having a wash that his mother would have called ‘no more than a lick and a promise’, he tidied his hair by running his fingers through it and waited by the door to be let out for breakfast. His stomach was rumbling from hunger and he felt sure there’d be something he could eat this time – after all what could anyone do to ruin breakfast?
He discovered that breakfast consisted of porridge and plain wholemeal bread. The porridge had the consistency of lumpy wallpaper paste and tasted like it as well, but he wolfed it down and chewed on the heavy bread after wiping it around the bowl – as everyone else was doing.
He noticed that Cody had not eaten much before a burly man sitting across the trestle from him reached out and took the bowl from him. Pat glanced around waiting for someone to remonstrate, but the guards, who must have seen it, said nothing and Cody merely looked down. He nibbled at his bread, until that was taken from him by another man.
Pat wondered why he hadn’t had his food taken too, but he was grateful enough to have been allowed to eat his in peace.
After breakfast the men dispersed to their allotted workplaces and Darnell, Cody and Pat were marched to the office of the Assistant Governor to be assigned tasks.
Henry Lancer looked at the three men lined up before him and gave a shrug.
“You back again, Shaw? I thought you were going to go straight this time?” he said. There was an overtone of disappointment in his voice and a complete lack of surprise on his face.
“I tried, sah, but I gotta eat and there’s no work,” Darnell said.
Lancer shook his head. “I’ve heard it before, Shaw. You can go and work in the prison allotment – for now. There’s digging to be done.”
“Yes, sah,” Darnell gave a grin. He’d be outside for the day, which was always a plus.
Lancer looked at Cody. “What’re you good at, Brown?”
“I don’t know, sir. I’m studying art.”
“We don’t have any decorating going on at the moment. You’d better report to the kitchen and see if you can peel potatoes.”
Patrick met Lancer’s eyes with a confidence he really didn’t feel. Lancer glanced at the documents in front of him.
“Ninety days for shooting your mouth off about the government, Donaghue? You must’ve said some terrible things.” Lancer raised an eyebrow. Pat gave a slight shrug. “Says here you’re studying at Yale…”
“You a communist?”
“Good. What’re you studying?”
“Physics, electrical engineering and technology, sir.”
There was a knock on the door and frowning Lancer called: “Come in.”
A matronly black woman, dressed in a plain bottle-green dress and comfortable shoes, poked her head around the door.
“Sorry, Mr Lancer, but the computer’s gone haywire again and that urgent report you wanted isn’t going to get done, so I thought I’d better let you know as soon as possible.”
“What? Tarnation – that has to go out today, Mrs Moore!”
She came in a bit further and shrugged. “I called the engineers and they say it’ll be this afternoon – or probably tomorrow – before they can come. Our maintenance policy doesn’t give us priority repair status,” she reminded him with an ‘I-told-you-so’ expression on her face.
Patrick glanced at her and she gave him a distracted, but friendly enough smile.
“Have you tried running an anti-virus and a diagnostic checkdisk, before rebooting and running a restore disk program?” he suggested helpfully, without thinking.
“How would I do that?”
“Do you know what you’re talking about, Donaghue?” Lancer asked, frowning intently at the young man.
“Yes, sir; I’ve rebuilt and upgraded my own computer dozens of times. I even taught IT skills at the local elementary school before I went to college.”
Lancer glanced at his secretary who gave a supportive shrug. Pat looked from him to Mrs Moore with a rueful expression. “I was only trying to help, sir,” he said.
“Go fix it, and – if you do, Donaghue, you can work here in admin… we could do with someone who understands the technology – the damned stuff is always going wrong.”
“That’s because it all came out
Mr Lancer blushed slightly. “Well, get on with it, Donaghue!” he growled.
Mrs Moore was a friendly soul, and she sat and watched with interest as Patrick tapped away at the keyboards and the computer lurched into reluctant, but submissive compliance with his instructions.
As the screen flickered and the monitor scrollbar worked through the disk’s programming she made coffee and shared her choc-chip cookies with Pat.
“What did you do to end up here?” she asked him.
“I went on a protest march which got a bit out of hand.”
“What were you protesting about?”
“The repression in Bereznik and the government’s refusal to help the political dissidents,” he explained.
“I read about that.” She dropped her voice slightly. “The Governor got a bit heavy-handed, it seemed to me. But we don’t mention that here, Patrick.”
“No, Mrs Moore, I guess not.”
He concentrated on the computer, and eventually he managed to solve the problem and then he stood and, smiling, presented the completed job to his new friend.
“It should work now, Mrs Moore.”
She took her seat and opened the document files. The machine pulled up an emergency saved version and she opened it with a sigh of relief.
“I haven’t lost much work. You’re a genius, Pat.”
“Hardly,” he said modestly. “But I do know my way round a computer.”
She went and reported to Mr Lancer and when she came back she smiled at him. “He says you can work here with me. You can start with some filing, in fact, you can start with those.”
“Sure…” He picked up the bundle of court documents and began to sort them into alphabetical order.
It kept him occupied until the lunch bell sounded.
By the end of the day, Mrs Moore had secured him access to the second computer in the office and let him check and enter invoice records onto the prison database.
When the bell went, he was collected by a guard who led him to a different corridor and a new cell in a corridor where the trustees stayed – those prisoners allowed greater privileges and wider access around the facility. The conditions were not much better, but the bed was softer than the one in the holding cell, and Pat wondered if it were the same everywhere or if he had a superior mattress on his moulded-metal framed bed.
Exhausted by his poor night’s sleep and with a feeling of relief, he slept well.
The next morning he breakfasted and went back to Mrs Moore, where he spent the day data-entering and filing. Mr Lancer nodded acknowledgment of his presence as he came and went and Mrs Moore, kindness itself, had brought him some candy from outside and shared her cookies with him again. There was some urgent work to do, so he stayed over his lunchtime, and while Mr Lancer was away and Mrs Moore was out of the office, he went online and surfed the net, checking his emails and the forums he used to frequent.
It was the end of the week before he saw Cody again, and then he didn’t recognise him at first. He was delivering some files to the hospital when he noticed the figure in a bed, hooked to a drip, black and blue with bruises and with a crust of dried blood around his mouth.
“What happened?” he asked the orderly in horror.
“He’s a pretty boy – or he was,” the man said, with a shrug. “And some men here ain’t seen a woman in a mighty long time.” He looked him up and down and gave him a friendly wink. “Count yourself lucky the Assistant Governor decided to keep you out of the main cell blocks.”
Pat stared at Cody and realised what must have happened to the young man and what could have happened to him. He felt himself start to shake with a terror that almost paralysed him. As the acrid taste of bile rose into his throat, he sprinted from the ward to the nearest latrine and vomited his terror into the bowl.
He rested his face against the cool partition wall of the stall and tried to control his fear. He’d not given much thought to the brutal realities of prison life, preferring to turn a blind eye to the instances of bullying and the abuse he’d witnessed, so this was a rude awakening. He realised he owed his continued safety to Mrs Moore’s patronage and determined to do everything he could to make himself indispensable to her.
Sunday was visiting day. Patrick hoped his parents might come, but as the afternoon wore on, he concluded that they weren’t going to make it. Disappointed, he had already sat down to write them a letter, when his name was called.
“Donaghue, you got a visitor. Cubicle 28.”
He hurried to the visiting room and found the small booth that gave some illusion of privacy. He opened the door and went inside. To his surprise he saw Miss Haymes sitting across the table.
She picked up the phone as he sat down and he picked the receiver at his side of the Perspex partition.
“Miss Haymes; how nice to see you,” he began with genuine pleasure.
“I wish I could say the same, Patrick. I never thought I’d see you in here – a good many of my pupils do end up in prison, but I hoped for better from you.”
“I was a fool, Miss Haymes. I’ve learnt my lesson.”
“So I should hope. However, I’m not here for recriminations. I’ve spoken to the authorities at Yale and obtained their agreement for you to continue your studies while you’re… away from the college. I’ve brought you some of the necessary books and the next series of assignments you have to work on. The college has spoken to the Governor here and he’s agreed to let you have them and continue your studies, providing you remain a good prisoner. I had to hand everything over to the wardens, but you should get it all once they’ve checked them. I suppose they have to make sure I haven’t hidden a file in them, so you could make a break for it.”
Patrick was speechless. Then as she waited he stammered, “Miss Haymes, I… I don’t know how to thank you-”
“By getting the very best degree you can, Patrick,” she replied briskly. “I was so angry that you’d been assigned to this prison, just for being a rude and foolish hothead, but they justified it by saying you were a subversive. I told them they were being almost as foolish as you’d been, but they were unforgiving. Once I realised you were stuck in here, I determined to get you the chance to continue your education. Don’t disappoint me, Patrick.”
“No, ma’am; I won’t,” he promised fervently.
She relented enough to give him a dry smile. “It won’t be for long, Pat; and I hope you will have learned your lesson.”
He nodded. “Miss Haymes… have you… have you seen my parents, by any chance?”
She shook her head. “I did see Thomas the other day. He said your mother was… saddened by what had happened and your father… well, he was angry. I expect they’ll come round, Pat. Don’t worry.”
Patrick nodded. “Yeah, sure they will. I know I’ve let everyone down, Miss Haymes.”
“You were silly, but you were doing what you thought was right and it was in a good cause, Pat, even if you chose the wrong way to support it.”
The bell for the end of the visit shrilled.
“I’ll come again in a week or so, if you’d like?” Miss Haymes asked. Not trusting his voice, Pat nodded. “Good; just let me know if you need more paper or any more books…”
“Thank you, Miss Haymes – I… I… thank you.”
“Take care, Pat,” she said gently, and left him.
The Governor was as good as his word. Patrick found that he was allowed a bedside light to work in the evening when locked in his cell, and permitted to submit his college work to his tutors, after careful checking by the Assistant Governor.
He tried to spend every minute of his free time buried in his books. When he was forced to associate with the other prisoners he found them contemptuous of him, but although they bullied and mocked him ceaselessly, he was not assaulted or victimised in the way many of the younger men were. He grew to welcome the soulless clang of locking up time, as a respite from the stresses of the day.
Word had got round amongst the prisoners that Patrick Donaghue was a computer buff, and one evening as he was queuing for his meal, a hulking man, his face scarred and his brawny arms plastered with tattoos, came to stand beside him and ‘invited’ him to meet ‘The Boss’. Pat knew enough by now to realise that such an invitation was in effect a command; the man in question was part of a wide-ranging and powerful crime syndicate and effectively, he ran the prison. Rumour had it that the man was so powerful he’d done a deal with the District Attorney’s office to spend a couple of years in jail on a minor charge, for tax purposes.
Pat thought that was going a little too far; there were easier ways to avoid paying tax – if you knew how to work the system – and he had made a thorough study of the subject.
When the bell rang for the end of the mealtime, instead of returning to his cell or the library, Pat followed the man through the crowded hallway to ‘The Boss’s’ cell. It was far more comfortable than any of the others, and had a view over the walls to the distant skyline of the city across the river. Men hung around the door and landing, waiting to do whatever they were ordered, and they stared at him with antagonism as he was ushered through their ranks to the head of the queue.
Dante Gubitosi was in his forties; a fairly non-descript man, not overly tall or broad, dark-haired and swarthy-skinned, with small, black eyes, beneath strong, straight brows and a thin-lipped, wide mouth that seemed to be set in a permanent frown of annoyance.
“Donaghue,” he said in a friendly-enough manner, as Pat stopped across the carpet from his desk and chair. “I want you to do me a little favour.”
“Me?” Pat asked. “Why me?”
“Because a little bird tells me you’re something of an adept with computers and – even more useful – you have access to an internet link. Is this so?”
Pat nodded. “I work in the Assistant Governor’s office and I have permission to use the Net for my university work.”
“And you can use it for more than that?”
“But for a friend you would do this? And am I not your friend, Donaghue?”
“I… I hope so, Mr Gubitosi.”
“I am, Patrick – may I call you, Patrick? No one has made your life difficult or interfered with you, have they?” Pat shook his head. “And why do you suppose that is? I shall tell you, Patrick. Because I told them not to. Leave the kid alone, I told them, and they listen to me, because I am a good-hearted man and they all like me.”
“Sure, Mr Gubitosi – and thank you,” Pat remembered to add.
“My pleasure, Patrick. Now, you will do just a little thing for me in return, won’t you?”
Pat nodded; he remembered Cody in the hospital and asked himself what choice he had.
“You’re a wise man, Patrick. Now, what I want you to do is bring me the results of certain sporting events, before the news of these results becomes common knowledge. You understand me?”
“It is nothing you need to worry about, Patrick, just the issue of some small wagers I might have with my friends. Nothing more. Now, one of my associates will deliver you a list of the sporting events I am most interested about and you will then report back – before free association time. Sometimes, I might ask for the results to be delivered as soon as they are known… can you do this, Patrick?”
“I can get them online for you, certainly; but I don’t know how easy it would be for me to deliver the details. If I keep leaving the office, Mrs Moore might get suspicious.”
“You will not need to leave the office; I don’t want you to leave the office. I will send someone to you and he will give you a slip of paper authorising you to give him the results.”
“Sure, Mr. Gubitosi.”
“Good, then we have a contract, Patrick. You supply me with what I want, and I extend my patronage over you and you can sit out your remaining days in safety.”
Pat nodded and was ushered from the cell by one of the lackeys. As he was left at the foot of the staircase, the man handed him a copy of the Prison Newsletter inside of which was a list of the information he was required to provide.
The next morning he was busy entering data when Mrs Moore went into speak to Mr Lancer. It was well within his capabilities to make a few little programming changes to the – supposedly access-controlled – computer and he was able to circumvent the prison firewall and log onto the gaming website specified by Mr. Gubitosi. He copied down the details of the races and games results as requested and when the trustee who acted as the prison post messenger came round with a pile of files for Mrs Moore, he handed Patrick a slip of paper in exchange for the list.
Thereafter he spent a nervous afternoon waiting to be denounced and sent back to the main prison cells, but nothing happened. At that evening in the refectory, one of ‘The Boss’s’ known henchmen came over to where he sat, picking at his plate of stew, and handed him a small bar of chocolate candy.
“The Boss is pleased with what you did,” he said, looking the youngster up and down. “Inside the wrapper is a list for tomorrow. Keep doing it.”
Patrick exhaled as the man walked away, feeling as if he’d been holding his breath all day.
That was the pattern of the days and weeks that followed: he copied the results for whatever he found written on the inside of candy wrappers and handed them over in the pages of papers or magazines he was given to distribute and later he’d get another candy bar with new questions. Apart from that, Patrick tried to keep himself to himself, and worked hard on the college work Miss Haymes delivered for him.
Pat was slowly filing a large pile of police reports about new inmates one afternoon, while Mrs Moore chatted on about the forthcoming wedding of her son to the daughter of one of the guards here, when he heard the sirens begin to wail.
Mr Lancer came out of his office looking flushed and angry. He caught sight of Pat and snapped, “Get back to your cell, Donaghue. This will be a lock down.”
“What’s going on?” Mrs Moore asked before the Assistant Governor could leave.
“Open warfare’s broken out between Gubitosi and Stockman. It seems Gubitosi has been running a sting on Stockman for some weeks. Now Stockman wants his revenge.”
“You stay here with me, Patrick, I don’t want to be here alone if there’s a fight going on out there,” Mrs Moore ordered as Pat made to leave. “Don’t worry about Mr Lancer; I’ll deal with him if he makes any fuss about it.”
“What does he mean: a sting?” Pat asked, sitting back down.
Mrs Moore poured them both a coffee and settled back to chat. “Well, from what I can work out, Stockman is the prison bookie – oh, I know they’re not supposed to gamble, but they do and the wardens know about it, but reckon it doesn’t do too much harm. They probably take a cut of the proceeds, if they think no one’ll notice.” She rolled her eyes and shrugged. “They do say corruption breeds corruption and this is no place for decent folks to work,” she said, apparently oblivious to the irony of her situation.
She sipped her coffee and continued, “Well, it is common knowledge amongst the guards that over the last few weeks Stockman’s been losing heavily on bets made by members of Gubitosi’s gang. Maybe they were just on a lucky streak, but you can’t trust these cons. Anyway, now it seems as if the Stockman gang is out for blood.”
Pat choked on his coffee.
“Don’t you worry, Pat; they won’t get this far. Mr Lancer will lock down the wing before there’s any trouble.”
“I sure hope so.”
good behaviour Patrick was released on
Instead, Miss Haymes was there to meet him, and had brought his sister Niamh with her, which was a pleasant surprise.
Niamh hugged him and clung to his arm as they walked back to Miss Haymes’s car.
“Mamai and Dad send their love,” she lied glibly. “They’re sorry they couldn’t come and meet you. They’re both at work.”
“Sure, it’s no problem,” he said, accepting the statement at face value as he was unwilling to make Niamh suffer for his disappointment.
“You’ll be going straight back to Yale, won’t you?” his sister asked.
Patrick looked at her and felt his heart sink. He had hoped to at least be received back home for a bit of cosseting from his mother, but he saw the anxiety in Niamh’s eyes and realised that, just as she had done with her eldest daughter, Rosaleen had disowned her favourite son.
He nodded. “I have a lot to do there to catch up. I worked while I was inside, but there’ll be other stuff…”
“You can come with us, if you like? I’m going to drive Patrick back,” Miss Haymes offered, but Niamh shook her head.
“Better not,” she replied. “I didn’t want Pat to come out of prison without someone from the family to meet him – and give him a big hug-” She suited her actions to her words. “But I’m expected home after school and I cut lessons to come here. I can easily get back to school before I get into trouble; if you’ll drop me at the subway?”
Miss Haymes nodded and opened the doors to her battered car. She drove to a convenient subway station and let Niamh out.
“Take care, Pat. See you soon, I hope,” Niamh called, as she got out and shut the door.
Miss Haymes pulled out into the traffic and Pat watched his sister waving goodbye on the sidewalk until they turned the corner and she vanished from his sight.
was a very quiet ride back to
For the remainder of his time at Yale, Patrick worked hard. He avoided the company of his former friends in Group 22, and kept his opinions to himself. He wrote to his parents to say he was back at college and received nothing more than a polite acknowledgement in return. Thereafter, he distanced himself from his family as well; angry at their refusal to forgive him for what had been rash, but youthful, folly.
following year he became romantically involved with a young woman who came from
“Hey, Pat, we can all make mistakes. No one with any true understanding can approve of a totalitarian state that persecutes its own people. My parents won’t care about that – and I don’t care either. I think you’re sweet to worry about it.” She leaned over and kissed him.
Pat was delighted; he had come to care for Lauren and thought her the most attractive girl he’d met. Their affair was conducted with some secrecy to begin with, but gradually they relaxed and took no pains to hide their involvement.
he had nowhere to go out of term time, in the summer of 2054 he was invited for
a holiday with the family in
On Independence Day, they were guests of the fabulously wealthy Svenson family at a swanky barbecue held at their impressive family home. He quickly discovered that even money did not prevent family feuds; he heard the whispered asides that ‘we all know why Adam isn’t here, don’t we?’ and learned that the eldest son and his father were at loggerheads. When he was introduced to the formidable John Svenson and his vivacious wife, Pat vowed to himself that one day, God willing, he’d have luxury like this at his command.
end, he devoted himself to working hard at getting good degrees, and was
rewarded with excellent results in physics, electrical engineering
and technology when he graduated in 2055.
relationship with Lauren ended amicably at the same time, as she prepared to
now had to support himself and with Miss Haymes’ help, and a character
reference from Mr Hasket, he secured himself a position as a programmer in a
large insurance company based in
Miss Haymes was his rock through these months, and she encouraged him to consider a reunion with his family.
“I know you’re mad at them, Pat,” she said, as he ate the Sunday lunch she’d prepared for them both. “But, see it from their point of view: they felt they had to keep the family out of something so political. Your father came to this country without all the proper paperwork and they worried what happened to you might’ve jeopardised their position. I know,” she interjected as he began to protest. “I explained it doesn’t work like that, but… well, I don’t think they believed me. Now you’ve graduated so well and have a good job and a place of your own, I’m sure they’d like to see you. I know your brothers and sisters would.”
“Miss Haymes, have you heard anything about Ciara?” he asked suddenly.
Her eyebrows rose in surprise. “No, dear, I haven’t. She doesn’t seem to have been in touch with any of the family.”
“I’ve been thinking about her a lot recently and I want to find her,” Patrick said. “At the very least, the black sheep of the Donaghues should stick together.”
“She may not want to be found, Pat.”
“She’ll want me to find her.”
“Good luck with it then,” Miss Haymes said softly, adding, “Only, please, Patrick, don’t be disappointed if she’s not on the pedestal you’ve built for her.”
He grinned suddenly, vividly reminding her of the boy he had been.
“Hey, Miss H, you’re talking to a jail bird here. Whatever Ciara’s done, can’t be worse than that.”
Privately, Miss Haymes hoped he was right.
Patrick found life numbingly mundane over the next few months: he dedicated himself to the reputable – if boring – downtown company. The pattern of his life appeared to be cast in stone and to stretch into a grey future; although part of his rebellious nature still wondered if there wasn’t something better than this.
was strange to be back on the familiar streets of
Then, in the fall of 2058, Miss Haymes got sick and was admitted to hospital. She asked if she could put him down as her nearest contact number.
“My sister lives so far away, it isn’t possible for her to come visiting or dealing with my affairs. I shall need someone to keep an eye on my house and bring me my mail,” she explained anxiously.
“Hey, anything you need, you only have to ask,” he told her. “You’ve done so much for me over the years, this is peanuts for payback.”
He smiled to see the concern evaporate from her expression.
“Good, it means I will still get to see you.”
“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away.”
He visited her regularly, alarmed to see how frail she was growing. Sometimes she was too tired to talk, or was sleeping, and he would sit beside her bed until the bell went to leave and go without her knowing he’d been there. The nurses always assured him that they’d tell her he had come by when she woke, and he would thank them and leave the small gifts he’d brought for her with them.
One Wednesday afternoon, he made his way back to the hospital. It was December and the streets and shops were bright with decorations. On an impulse he paused to buy some expensive, long-stemmed, red rosebuds at a florist shop: they were her favourite flowers and he thought it might cheer her up. Outside the hospital there was a Christmas tree, with a Santa collecting for hospital funds. He dropped his remaining change into the bucket and hurried into the warmth of the building, and along to the wing where Miss Haymes was.
As he walked down the corridor towards her small room, one of the nurses approached him.
“Oh, Mr Donaghue, thank goodness you’ve come,” she began. “We’ve been trying to get hold of you.”
“I had the afternoon off to do some Christmas shopping,” he explained. “Didn’t you ring my cell phone?”
“It’s unobtainable,” she replied.
He drew it out of his pocket to see the battery was flat, even though he had charged it overnight.
Sighing, he asked, “What’s wrong? If there’s something she needs I can go and fetch it now, there’s still time-”
The nurse shook her head. “She’s taken a turn for the worse, Mr Donaghue.” She laid a hand on the sleeve of his coat. “I’m afraid the doctors don’t hold out much hope.”
He stood stock still as the image of the young woman’s kindly and earnest face, the smell of the disinfectant and the glare of the over-bright fluorescent lights imprinted themselves on his memory.
“You mean she’s dying?”
She nodded. “It won’t be long now.”
She accompanied him to the room and followed him in.
Miss Haymes was wired up to monitors and drips and lay on a bank of pillows, her eyes were closed and the skin of her face so shrunken it already looked like a death mask.
Pat laid the flowers on the bedside cabinet and drew up a chair. The nurse took them and came back with them in a plain ceramic vase, placing them where Miss Haymes would be able to see them.
He’d been sitting there for an hour or more before she opened her eyes and saw him.
“Patrick,” she whispered, pleasure at seeing him drawing her lips into a faint smile.
“Hello, Miss Haymes,” he said.
She saw the roses and her dull eyes brightened momentarily. “Did you buy them for me?” He nodded, too emotional to speak. “Oh, they’re beautiful, Patrick. Thank you.”
“I’m glad you like them,” he muttered. “I…I… Oh, hell!” He wiped a tear away brusquely with the back of his hand.
“Never fret, Patrick. We all have to go in God’s good time.” He shook his head. “You’re a good man, Patrick Donaghue; I count myself lucky to have known you.”
“No, I’m lucky to have known you,” he said earnestly, and took her frail hand in his. “I wouldn’t’ve amounted to a hill of beans without you, Miss Haymes.”
Her smile widened slightly. “I think the time has come for you to call me Anita, don’t you, Pat?”
“I’d be honoured to,” he said.
She closed her eyes again and he had to lean forward to hear her whispered response. “Will you stay with me until the end, Pat?”
“Yes, Anita. I’ll be here.”
The funeral was held on the Friday before Christmas. Pat took the day off work and went along. He was surprised to see how many people were there: kids he’d known at school and their parents, teachers and standing by the Priest, an elderly woman who looked like Miss Haymes and she was introduced to him as Miss Cynthia Haymes.
He saw his parents and brothers and sisters come in, and he knew they saw him where he was sitting towards the front of the church as one of the main mourners. At the graveside he supported Cynthia Haymes and then led her back to the car.
There was a polite wake at Miss Haymes’ house, but he made no attempt to speak to his parents, although his brothers and sisters came to speak to him. When everyone had gone the lawyer read out the will. Anita Haymes had divided her property equally between her one remaining relative, her sister, Cynthia, and her ‘best pupil and dear young friend’, Patrick Donaghue.
Miss Haymes’s money gave Patrick a feeling of independence. He resisted the temptation to spend it all and invested part of it in shares, playing the stock market with some success. He moved to a better apartment, bought himself a few luxuries and was able to affect a kind of reconciliation with his parents, who seemed to be appeased by the notion that he was a man of means now. However, he felt like an outsider in a way that he’d not expected and he rarely made the trip home unless there was a good reason to.
There wasn’t enough money to allow him to quit his job though and he persevered at the insurance company, growing increasingly disillusioned with a future that stretched ahead of him in a grey miasma of mediocrity, but he dedicated himself to the job nevertheless, determined to be above reproach and worthy of his old teacher’s generosity.
He was spending some of his hard-earned salary one Saturday night, having ditched his friends earlier and gone on the prowl for a willing girl, when he literally bumped into his past.
“Oof! Sorry, mister.”
He apologised before he realised who he’d bumped into: Dante Gubitosi. The head of one of the biggest New York Syndicates – and the man he’d run the numbers for in prison
“Little Pat Donaghue,” drawled the well-known and justifiably feared voice. “How’re you doing, Pat? Working hard? We don’t see you around the place and I think that’s a shame. There’s a brotherhood amongst the souls who have suffered incarceration, you know? And it means that it isn’t nice to lose track of your friends.”
Patrick gave a shaky smile, unsure of how to take the comments. “Good to see you too, Mr Gubitosi,” he stammered, unnerved by the coterie of big, bulky bodyguards glaring at him for his effrontery in impeding their boss’s progress.
In contrast Gubitosi seemed unconcerned and almost friendly. He turned to address the others.
“Listen to the man, you bums; Mr Gubitosi – he’s a well-brought-up guy. You could learn from him – if you was even capable of learning anything!” He threw an arm around Pat’s shoulder and continued in a confidential bellow that was meant to be heard, “You would not believe how much money these dumb asses have cost me today, Pat. Oh, I can hire all the brawn I want, but what I need is brains. Now, you could be just the kind of guy I’m looking for – a clever man – and one I know I can trust. What are you doing now, Pat? Because, I can better whatever you’re getting.”
“I’m a computer programmer for a downtown insurance company.”
“S’that so? You intrigue me, I’d have thought a man with your talents would have started your own company and been riding high in the community by now. Come along wi’ me, Patrick; I’m going for a little bite of supper and I think I could put some business your way that might get you out of that rut, and into the way of making yourself some serious cash. There’s a little job I think you could do for me – it’d be right up your street. What do you say? Come along and talk with me, Pat.”
Patrick drew a deep breath and looked at the people surrounding Gubitosi. Amongst the bodyguards was a girl: the prettiest he’d seen in a long time. His eyes widened as she gave him a shy smile. Gubitosi noticed where his interest lay.
“Hey, Irene, be nice to the man, ask him to come along.”
She didn’t speak, but turned her large, baby-blue eyes on him and smiled. His libido took over and he found himself saying ‘sure, why not?’
Over a first-class meal and excellent wine, Gubitosi made small talk, while Irene flirted and teased Patrick into submission. As the waiter brought them coffee, the Boss waved his guards away and told Irene to ‘go powder her nose’.
Then he turned to Patrick.
“Will you work with me, Patrick?”
He hesitated and then confessed, “I’ve sworn that I’m never going back to prison, Mr Gubitosi; and I don’t want to take any risks…”
“I don’t think there’s much risk of that, Pat. But I need a man I can trust, a clever man with a working knowledge of computers to work with me on this. Now, it won’t surprise you to know that there are times when I have to work with some men who are definitely not legit. And, because of that, some of my business is – shall we say – borderline with regard to the legal niceties. This causes me much heartache. I also prefer to keep out of prison myself. So I can do without the cops nosing about. You’ll be working directly with me, and together we’d make sure we keep close to the right side of those legal niceties, Patrick.”
Patrick sucked on his lower lip thoughtfully.
“What do you say, Pat? You wanna stay with the insurance company, you can go now, and this meeting never happened. Next time we meet; don’t expect no favours, though.”
“I’m flattered by the invitation, Mr Gubitosi; and tempted.”
Gubitosi made no reply, but sank back against the leather chair he was in and waited. He was fairly sure of his companion.
Patrick never discovered if it had been a genuine coincidence that he’d met Gubitosi that evening, or if ‘The Boss’ had been watching him for a while, but before the night was over, he’d agreed to do the ‘little job’ Gubitosi had in mind, and taken the step from the right side of the law, to the wrong one.
But, as he later congratulated himself, Irene was worth it.
Gubitosi provided Patrick with a small downtown office, equipped with all the technological machinery he needed. Pat would do a day’s work and then go into the other office and spend another two to four hours working there. At the weekend he’d spend the best part of Saturday there as well, setting up programs to monitor the accounts Gubitosi was interested in and cream off funds from them without it being too obvious. He was able to salve his conscience by reminding himself that the money was from the accounts of other Syndicate bosses, and had probably been acquired by them through equally illegal means.
In a matter of months his conscience had adjusted so perfectly to his new lifestyle, that it accepted the expansion of his commission into siphoning money from legitimate businesses with barely a qualm.
The reputation of the New York Syndicate 5 continued to rise amongst the criminal community and Gubitosi was more than satisfied with Pat’s work. In fact, the young man found his advice being sought more frequently and he enjoyed the influence he had with The Boss.
Behind his legitimate business of clubs, bistros and restaurants, Gubitosi’s illegal network of gambling dens and bordellos prospered. When the national IRS and the World Government’s International Tax Office ran audits on the books, Pat took particular pride in the fact that they not only didn’t find any irregularities, but did find that the business was entitled to a substantial refund. For a business that only paid tax on a small part of its turnover, this was quite a coup.
When Gubitosi made Pat
responsible for a largely autonomous operation based in
It also left Pat with time to branch out on his own. To cover his new found affluence, he started a small firm offering improved protection against corporate hackers. When his product was accepted by any company, Pat personally went in and boosted their cyber-defences, incidentally including an undetectable sub-routine that allowed him to divert money into dummy accounts and off-shore banks that then invested the money in legitimate ventures and loans.
Some companies were better targets than others; he would go in and hit the bigger firms with one substantial money grab, the sub-routine was self-deleting in these cases and whoever went in to investigate would never find anything wrong with Pat’s firewall. Smaller firms were bled for less over a longer period, never enough to ruin them, and so he escaped largely unnoticed there as well.
Pleased with his protégé,
Gubitosi assigned him three minders from his own bodyguard, and Patrick grew
used to being driven in a bullet-proof limo through the streets of
As he rose through the Syndicate, Patrick quickly learned what to do to get ahead, and how to handle the dangerous and disreputable individuals he encountered. The established members of Gubitosi’s Syndicate, as well as the bosses of the other New York gangs, soon discovered that the genial Irishman was not the kind of man you double-crossed; he knew ways of siphoning off money and re-routing goods that made their old ways look amateurish, and anyone who crossed him or his boss found themselves considerably worse off in no time.
Gubitosi agreed to ‘lend’ Pat to other Syndicates across the country. He knew that there would be a time when such favours might need to be called in and that influence was a valuable commodity. Under one such arrangement, Pat moved to the West Coast for the best part of a year, and then to Las Vegas, where he assisted in an inter-gang quarrel and – while he was at it – feathered his own and Gubitosi’s nests substantially.
When he moved back to
Gubitosi was an efficient boss of his organisation, but he was notoriously insular and disliked the risks of ‘foreign entanglements’. Yet Pat knew that the risks were no greater than those in America – especially given the shaky position of the Chicagoan Syndicate – and, if you took the right precautions, there was an entire new world just waiting to be exploited. For the first time, Pat felt ready to take a major step on his own and he accepted a partnership, with the job of recruiting American interest in the scheme.
As Christmas approached, Pat began to look forward to his most extravagant season yet. He had plenty of spending money and decided to buy presents for all of his siblings, even if his parents didn’t want to see him. He bought gifts for ‘his’ team and lavished presents on the young woman who had replaced Irene in his affections. He sent an anonymous donation to the Church school and another to a city charity for disadvantaged kids, but there remained something missing in his life and he was unseasonably morose.
Gubitosi called him in for a meeting one late December afternoon, and they went over the latest figures and the projected cash flow from their various scams. Then the older man leant back in his leather chair and said:
“You don’t look too happy, Patrick, and this worries me. You’ve done a great job, so far. But since you got back from Vegas, you’ve been less… forthcoming.”
Pat gave a shrug and brushed that insight away with some contempt.
Gubitosi wasn’t fooled. He continued, “I don’t want you should think of moving on, or quitting my syndicate, Patrick. We’re in this together, remember?”
“I’m not thinking along those lines, Mr Gubitosi. It’s just that I’ve been thinking about my family lately. They – well, my parents – they didn’t want to see me after I got out of jail and I don’t think they’d be too pleased to know what I’m doing for a living now. I don’t know if my brothers and sisters feel the same, but I’d hope not. My mam’s a seriously devout woman, with a strict moral code, and if you transgress, you’re never forgiven, but I hope the others are more pragmatic.”
Gubitosi nodded. “Sure, don’t I know it? Some mommas are like that, Pat, but a man’s gotta do what’s best for him and think of himself before he worries about what his mama thinks.”
“I know.” Patrick sipped the fine bourbon and gave a rueful smile. “Besides, I’m a hedonist: I like my comforts too much to back out now.”
“You’re a good man, Patrick Donaghue; a man I can trust.” Gubitosi paused thoughtfully. “I think the time has come. I have someone I’d like you to meet.”
They travelled in Gubitosi’s
limousine to the private club he ran in the entertainment district. This was the flagship of his empire, and
accounted for most of his income; at least, the part he paid taxes on, although
Patrick knew that was the tip of the iceberg.
It was a cabaret club with dancing and entertainment open to the general
public as well as members, but for those discerning customers who became
Down a plush corridor was a second club, more intimate that the public one, where the entertainment was more risqué, the ‘girls’ friendlier and willing to provide such ‘personal services’ as any of their clientele might require, and there were enough roulette wheels, blackjack and craps tables to amuse even the most determined of gamblers.
Patrick had never been to the place, although he knew about it; Irene had always shown a marked reluctance to dine there, which he’d put down to her having worked there at some point in the past. The club was managed by a woman called Maxine Portinari, a close associate of Gubitosi’s and a shrewd businesswoman from the reports Patrick had seen. He wondered if it was ‘Miss Maxie’ they were going to meet.
Gubitosi walked through the club and along to the private rooms, where the small stage was occupied by several athletic pole dancers. Pat slowed to watch their performance, stuffing a handful of bills into their skimpy costumes before strolling after his boss, who was waiting by the open door to an office.
Smiling apologetically, Pat followed him into the room and closed the door.
He turned towards the desk and stared in surprised disbelief. The woman at the desk rose to her feet and smiled at him. She was average height, shapely and with large, dark-brown eyes that suggested her blonde hair was not entirely natural. She was oddly familiar.
“Hello, Patrick,” she said.
She came round the desk towards him, ignoring Gubitosi, who stood aside, like a magician watching his trick play out.
“Hello, Pat,” she said, and held out her hands to him.
“It is you,” Pat gasped. “After all these years…”
Suddenly he hugged her, smiling fit to burst. Gubitosi broke up their reunion with flutes of champagne.
“A toast, to family!” he exclaimed.
“Family,” they both chorused.
Ciara settled on a couch and patted the space beside her for Pat to sit too.
“It’s good to see you again,” she said, studying her brother’s face intently.
“I searched for you,” he replied, “when I’d finished at Yale.”
“I didn’t want to be found, then.”
“No, I can see that now. You changed your name and got a job here?” He looked across at his boss, who was now sitting at the desk, refilling his champagne glass.
She glanced at Gubitosi and explained:
“After I had the baby, I needed a job. Mr Gubitosi offered me work here and – to be honest – I found my vocation.”
“You kept the baby?” Pat asked.
Ciara glanced away. “He was adopted by one of his father’s family.”
“Do you see him? What’s his name?”
She shook her head. “I don’t see him often and he doesn’t know who I am – we all agreed it was better for him that way. But, I know he’s healthy and happy and has everything a child could wish for. He will do well.”
“Does Mamai know? That you kept the baby, I mean.”
“No. I haven’t seen her, or any of the family, since that day. And I don’t want to. I did hear about you; the march and your spell in prison. I worried about you but then I heard how well you did at Yale. But when Mr Gubitosi told me you were working for him, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see you; I have left that part of my life behind, Pat. You understand, don’t you?”
Pat looked at Gubitosi. “Sure I do; we all have to move on, Ciara. But what’s changed, why am I here now?” He knew better than to ascribe Gubitosi’s motives to sentiment.
He was right. Gubitosi’s genial expression faded and he was instantly the hard man of business. “There is a job coming up – a big one – and I want you two to work together on it. You’re the best I have at what you do.”
“What job?” Pat asked, helping himself to some more champagne, although his glass wasn’t empty and he didn’t drink any of it.
Pat waited a moment and then replied, “City by a lake: cold, wet and windy.”
“You’re a funny man, Patrick,
I’ve always said so. Listen: the
“When that happens there is usually a way to remove the cop,” Pat pointed out. “What’s different with this one?”
Gubitosi’s self-satisfied smirk broadened to his usual wolfish smile. “This time the cop’s gonna crack the syndicate wide open. There’s gonna be a great deal of regret and disquiet amongst the other members of the Syndicate Council, and while they’re battening down the storm cellars and hiding from Detective Fraser, we are gonna be moving in, friendly-like, offering shelter and gainful employment to the unfortunate Chicagoans who are not incarcerated but have no means of making their living.”
“No, I don’t want
“I don’t think we can stop it
now,” Gubitosi continued. “Fraser is
good and too smart for those dumb-ass
“So it does,” Pat agreed. “I suppose you’re planning to move in and take over.”
“I figure the boys in
“I thought I’d send you – you and Miss Maxie – to open a new club there, just to test the water. You can put out feelers, do all those little courtesies that make you so popular, Patrick. Prepare the way, so to speak.”
Patrick took a sip of his
champagne and cocked his head a little, as if in doubt. “
Gubitosi looked angry, but he managed to keep a civil tone as he asked with false jocularity, “You scared this Fraser might outsmart you, Patrick?”
Pat smirked. “Hell, no.”
“Then we have a deal,” Gubitosi concluded.
“What?” The older man’s brows knit together in a ferocious frown.
Sitting next to Patrick, Ciara laid a warning hand on his arm.
“You heard: I said maybe. It may be that what needs to be done can be done from here. Maybe I just don’t want to go, and – certainly – you’re no longer in a position to make me.”
“Donaghue, don’t cross me,” Gubitosi growled.
“We’ll think about it, shall we? I’ll look into the situation, as you suggest, and let you have my decision.”
Slowly, Gubitosi got to his feet. He stared at the younger couple on the couch, seeing anxiety in Ciara’s eyes, and indifference in Patrick’s. Anger flared in his mind, but he was experienced enough to know that his current position with the Syndicate Council wasn’t secure enough for him to ‘remove’ Patrick at that time. The young man had made himself useful to the other bosses – and he was undoubtedly good at what he did – so, he’d have to wait to move against him. He managed a dry smile.
“You think about it, Pat,” he
growled, “and then you come and tell me when you’ll be ready to move to
“Maybe,” Pat replied calmly.
“You know me, Donaghue: I don’t allow no one to disobey me. That’s why I am the top man here. And why the Council listens to what I have to say. You will do as I tell you.”
Pat gave a thoughtful shrug. “And I say that maybe I will, but I’m not going to agree to something as important as this without due consideration. You wouldn’t really expect me to, Mr Gubitosi, because you know me as well as I know you. I wonder if you’ve given this enough thought yourself?”
“You questioning me?” Gubitosi’s eyes flashed with anger. “I don’t take kindly to it, Pat – even from you.”
Despite his reservations about Gubitosi’s business sense, Pat did feel some loyalty to the man who had started him off in the business and he made one last attempt to influence Gubitosi.
“I’ve worked with several
Council members recently – you sent me to them. I don’t think they’re going to share your pleasure at the thought
“Tcha!” Gubitosi spat the word out with an ugly frown on his
face. “Those bums in
“And the Canadians?”
“Don’t make me laugh. They’re small fry.”
Pat said nothing; he had first
hand knowledge of the ambitions of the French-Canadians and the quietly
efficient way their Anglophone companions had developed a formidable criminal
infrastructure. He doubted that the
He sniffed. “Maybe,” he said again.
Gubitosi snorted, and as he left, he said, “Remember, Patrick, I am the man you work for and I give the orders.”
As the door closed behind him, Ciara let out a deep sigh, as if she’d been holding her breath.
“You’re a fool to antagonise him,” she said. Her brother poured himself another drink and without asking, the same for her. She took it from him and drank it down. “Be careful,” she advised him. “Dante Gubitosi is a dangerous man.”
Pat sat back beside her and sipped his drink. When he spoke his voice was gentle, without any hint of recrimination. “Was he the man? The father?”
Ciara looked up at him,
half-shocked, half-amused. “No. Dante had a brother. Cesare was a charmer but, alas, also a much-married man. His wife was the daughter of a
Pat said nothing but his dark eyebrows rose at this; all too many of the people who opposed the syndicate’s rules died due to faulty brakes in their cars.
Ciara continued, “After the funeral, his wife went back to Daddy, with her kids and when my baby arrived, Dante and his wife adopted him. They had no kids of their own, and Dante said that his brother’s kid was half Gubitosi and that was better than no Gubitosi blood at all. It was his way of being revenged on his sister-in-law and her family, I think, but he’s been a good father, nevertheless. He’s taken care of me too, in a sort of way. Gave me this job and taught me how to manage a club. I owe him, Pat.”
“So do I,” Pat admitted. “He made my spell in jail as tolerable as it was ever going to be, I guess. But,” he continued, “I hate to say it, Ciara, he’s losing the plot, if he hasn’t already lost it altogether.”
“He’ll crush you.”
He leant back on the couch and gave a self-confident smile. “No, he won’t. He can’t – or he’d have done it this evening. I made sure I was safe, before I refused to obey him.”
“How?” Ciara asked, just a little too quickly.
“That, my dear sister, is my
secret. But you can tell Gubitosi that
unless he wants his syndicate to fall even before Fraser cracks
“Pat, you don’t think that I would-”
“Ciara, I’m not stupid. Why else would Gubitosi bring me here, today?” he patted her arm. “But it’s okay, sis. One thing I’ve learned – the hard way – is never trust anyone: family, first and foremost.”
For whatever reason, Gubitosi
backed down within a few days, probably because the much-anticipated crash of
Sensing that Gubitosi no longer trusted him as implicitly as he had done, Pat began to make arrangements for his own security, while remaining on decidedly strained terms of cordial politeness with his boss.
The money he had sequestered for his own use now amounted to a small fortune and, through careful legitimate short-term investments and astute overnight loans, Pat doubled it within a matter of weeks. The longer term loans made on his own behalf were primarily to other syndicates across the country and once, through the auspices of Jean Lebrun, his French-Canadian connection, to a well-known and respected – at least by his Canadian business friends – Frenchman, Pierre Capet.
It was at the grateful
invitation of Capet that Pat travelled to
The European business looked so
promising that Pat felt it was well worth his while to attend meetings with the
French bosses. He made a few
suggestions to improve the security aspects of the business and the Frenchmen
were grateful enough to offer him a personal slice of the profits, if he wanted
it. Pat declined, feeling that it was not the safest time to be diverging
from the mainstream American syndicates.
The collapse of
On his return to
Gubitosi greeted him with a veneer of bonhomie, but Pat recognised the hostility in the older man’s dark eyes and wasn’t fooled. He nodded acknowledgment to the two bodyguards that stood by the small window of the office, noting that these two were amongst the elite squad who were always armed and extremely dangerous. He also noted that they were not asked to leave before the meeting began.
“You have a good holiday, Pat?” Gubitosi asked, pouring them both drinks.
“I did, thank you.” He spent some time extolling the delights of Paris, before adding, “It wasn’t all pleasure though; I have identified several business opportunities that might interest you – if you’re thinking of going global, that is.”
“You know I don’t rate
Pat gave no sign of alarm; he’d
suspected his summons was linked to Gubitosi having heard about his private
business dealings in
“I’m not so sure,” he replied evenly. “A small businessman might find opportunities to get in on the ground floor of what should become pretty substantial operations.”
“And did you?” Gubitosi growled. “I don’t like it, Pat, when my friends try to double-cross me. Nor do I like it when they try to bail out.”
Pat put his glass down with exaggerated care. “Listen, Dante,” he said, using the man’s Christian name for the first time in a conversation, “I think it is time we were honest with each other, don’t you?”
“I thought you were honest with me,” Gubitosi snapped. “I have always trusted you.”
“And I have repaid that trust many times over,” Pat declared. “Now I want to move on. I’m ambitious, you know that, and I take my chances. This is one of them, Dante. You’ve had a good run for your money – and mine – so, I think you’d better look forward to a long and peaceful retirement.”
“Retirement? Who the hell d’you think you are?” Gubitosi’s face suffused with anger. “I don’t take no orders from nobody – especially not the likes of you – a two-bit Irish hoodlum whose ass I saved from getting buggered in the slammer!”
Pat merely contemplated the whisky in his glass, swirled it around and drained it in a gulp. His heart was pounding with nerves, although no one would ever have guessed from looking at his calm exterior.
“You have two choices,” he
explained carefully. “Go now, go
peacefully, and you will enjoy a happy retirement-”
“Or?” roared Gubitosi. His explosive temper was justifiably
well-feared amongst his operatives and although Pat had witnessed it many times
he had never been on the receiving end before.
He swallowed and continued as if nothing had interrupted him, “Or I will make you go.”
“You? Hell, Pat, you can’t make me do anything. You’d need the combined weight of the Council behind you and I don’t think you’ve got it. I got friends on the Council, I know the way the wind’s blowing.”
“You’re out of date, Gubitosi. I can make you go and I will.”
“Don’t try to bluff me, Donaghue. I’ve destroyed better man than you without breaking into a sweat. I ain’t ready to retire. You’ve played a losing hand, Pat. You won’t be welcome anywhere in the Syndicate once I’ve told them about your treachery.” He turned to the henchmen, now standing menacingly by his desk. “Throw him out, fellas!” He turned back to Pat with an air of smugness. “One day I might accept your apology, Donaghue, and find you a job somewhere in the organisation, but your ‘good run’s’ at an end, as of now! You ain’t welcome here!”
Gubitosi gestured towards his bodyguards. “I’ve done with him – throw him out!” The men remained motionless and Gubitosi growled, “D’you hear me, you dumb-asses? Throw him out!”
The men glanced at Patrick, obviously seeking orders from him. Gubitosi drew a deep breath, staring at Pat’s face, where an apologetic smirk spoke volumes. The truth of his situation became blindingly obvious and he was momentarily bewildered.
“You dirty whore’s son,” he growled. “You won’t get away with this.”
“I’m afraid you’re wrong there, Dante; I have already ‘got away’ with it. The Syndicate Council has appointed me as the new boss of New York Syndicate Five, with immediate effect. If you don’t believe me you can call any – or all – of them. Now, I suggest you go quietly and that way you should enjoy a long retirement.”
“To hell with you! You’re a dead man, Donaghue!”
Pat got to his feet and faced his old mentor across the room. When he spoke his voice was less conciliatory. He knew he had to exert his authority in the face of Gubitosi’s explosive anger. “I have the backing of the majority of the Council. They support my leadership of the NYS5. It’s a done deal, Gubitosi; you’ve been ‘retired’, whether you like it or not.”
“You’re a fucking slime ball – a traitor!”
“No – I’m doing you a
favour! You go now, and I take over,
and you get to live and enjoy the rest of your life. You wait, or you fight me
for the syndicate, and you’re the dead man, Dante. Believe me, you’ve been on borrowed time for
a while now; since before
“I don’t believe you.”
“Listen – and listen good –
some of the Council members got the notion that you’d been casting eyes on
Gubitosi spluttered in anger and more than a little anxiety.
Pat continued, “Oh, I don’t say it was down to you, but the Council – well, they’re not the most imaginative of men. Follow me? They see a syndicate busted apart, so they look for insiders.”
“You set me up – you son of a two-bit whore!”
Pat assumed an expression of startled innocence. “Me? No, if I heard talk when I was working with other syndicates, I always said you were a sound man. Always.”
“You expect me to believe that? You wormed your way in-”
“Working with maggots there’s little choice!”
“I’m gonna kill ya and throw your corpse at the Council’s feet. No one betrays Dante Gubitosi and walks free.”
Gubitosi had moved to his desk and from the top drawer he drew a gun. The two henchmen, who until this time had made no move at all, both drew their weapons, but Pat sensed they were both unsure as to which side they were on.
“I’m unarmed,” he stated,
ignoring the presence of his own weapon in his shoulder holster. He knew he wasn’t fast enough to draw it and
defend himself and the slightest suggestion that he intended to try would undoubtedly
prove fatal anyway. Gubitosi wouldn’t
give him a chance. “I came here in
good faith to deliver the Council’s decision, Gubitosi. They’ve made you a fair offer – if you
refuse it you’re putting your life at risk!
Killing me won’t save you – it will only bring the wrath of the Council
down on NYS5 and everyone in it.
They’ll take it as proof that you sold
“Says you – you always were such a plausible liar, Patrick!” Gubitosi crowed. He glanced at the armed men between him and his quarry. One of the men, a youngster with a deserved reputation as a sadist, cocked his gun and waved it between Gubitosi and Pat, while the elder of the two waited without expression to see what would happen next.
“What’s wrong with you guys?” Gubitosi growled. “Can’t you spot a loser when you see one?”
As Gubitosi aimed his gun at him, Patrick was careful to show no anxiety or fear, even though he could feel his innards turning cartwheels with dread. He heard Gubitosi cock his pistol and there was a deafening sound of gunshots as bullets ricocheted around the room. The air reeked of sulphur.
Pat stared into the smoke. Gubitosi’s face was frozen in an expression of surprise. His pistol slipped from his grasp as blood seeped through his white shirt and spread across his chest. A thin trickle of red ran down his chin. Suddenly his cheeks bulged and he vomited a shower of blood across the room. His mouth remained open, his teeth stained red as, in slow motion, he sagged at the knees and sank to the floor. One hand stretched out towards Pat and scrabbled at the carpet for a moment before his body convulsed, breath rattling in his throat just before he collapsed completely and lay still.
It was over.
After the initial shock dissipated, Pat had been careful to show no emotion. In the split seconds after the first shots, he had realised he was unhurt and stood rigid and silent as the scene played out before him and his henchmen. He was sickened by the sight of the bleeding corpse of the man he admitted he owed so much, but weakness now could still be fatal. He turned away with a carefully assumed air of dispassionate authority.
“Get rid of it. You’d better tell his wife where you’ve taken the body, but no cops.”
“Yes, Mr Donaghue.”
He walked towards the door adding, “Then get this room gutted, cleaned and refurbished by next weekend.”
“Yes, Mr Donaghue.”
Pausing with his hand on the handle, he continued, “There will be changes around here; things will be done my way. Anyone who doesn’t like the idea has a chance to leave now with no recriminations. After that, I expect you to ensure I receive the unquestioning obedience I demand. If you can’t guarantee me that, I will find you alternative work.”
“Whatever you say, Mr Donaghue, is fine by us.”
“Good. Get on with it.”
There was already a small crowd of interested people gathering in the casino beyond the office when Pat stepped out, closing the door behind him.
He saw Ciara by the bar, already in an evening dress and make-up in readiness for the evening’s trade. Even so, her face was unnaturally pale in the blue-haze of the lights.
Without hesitating, he moved forward displaying total confidence. He saw several of the club’s bouncers amongst the bystanders and hoped he wouldn’t have to use his gun – he had no doubt every one of them was armed.
“Where’s Bersani?” he demanded of no one in particular.
The crowd looked around and parted to allow the largest of Gubitosi’s bodyguards to face Patrick.
“Tony and Frank will be clearing up in there for some time; there has been… an unfortunate accident. See that they’re not disturbed and give them all the help they ask for; the punters can’t be allowed to see anything. It might be best to post guards front and back as well… can’t be too sure that some well meaning public-spirited citizen hasn’t reported the… disturbance.”
There was a shuffle of unease amongst the crowd as Bersani said nothing but looked towards the office door. The smell of the gunfire had permeated into the casino and no one had any doubt what must’ve happened. The older man looked Patrick over without speaking.
Pat waited a moment and then said briskly, “I want my car here in five minutes. I have a meeting downtown with Mr Francisco to report to the Syndicate Council. When I get back I want this place open and earning as usual.”
Tension increased until – after what had seemed like an age, but was mere seconds – Bersani said, “Yes, Mr Donaghue.” He waved a hand at one of the waiters who slipped out to order the car.
Pat continued, “There will be changes; but no one need worry. Mr Gubitosi’s unfortunate accident won’t affect the club or its employees.”
Bersani nodded and addressed the lingering witnesses. “Get on with your work, will ya!”
As the crowd dispersed, Ciara walked over to her brother and asked, with a quiet irony, “Accidental death?”
Pat met her gaze with composure. “Yes, he accidentally failed to take the opportunity the Council offered him to retire. He drew his gun and took his own life.”
“In a hail of bullets?”
He looked at her with astonishment. “Yes; drawing a weapon against the head of the New York Syndicate Five in the presence of two armed bodyguards is – in my opinion – committing suicide. Wouldn’t you agree, Miss Maxie?”
Ciara swallowed and drew a deep breath. “I guess it is at that.”
He stepped towards the door and she followed him, adding, “What about me, Pat?”
“That’s your choice, Ciara. You have the same rights as anyone to leave, if you want. You probably felt you owed Gubitosi something-”
“No, I don’t. I never wanted to get involved in this racket, but once I was I was trapped. Now, I don’t think I could handle any other sort of life.”
“Fine; I’m more than pleased for you to stay, Ciara. But, remember, if you stay, you’re with me. I will not tolerate any divided loyalties – even if you are my sister.”
He studied her face for a moment, nodded and walked out of the club with his head held high. She watched him go, marvelling that her little brother – the open and cheerful child she’d known – had grown into such a ruthless man.
The car was a black limousine with smoked-glass windows. Bersani opened the door for him and Pat stepped into the back, giving the driver his destination.
“You want me to come with you, Mr Donaghue?” Bersani asked, before he closed the door.
“No; I want you to do what you do best – run that club.”
As he drove away, Pat closed the communication window to the front and let out a deep sigh of relief as he sank back into the plush leather.
He knew just how lucky he was
to still be alive. From now on he’d
have to watch every ambitious youngster out to make a name for himself, every
employee who felt he had some right to feel slighted, and each and every
Syndicate Boss with a mind to expand his empire into
It’s going to be quite a challenge, he thought. Bring it on!
The change of command at the top of the NYS5 caused barely a ripple on the Syndicate Council proving, to anyone who had doubted it, that Donaghue was their preferred man. Although an effective manager of an existing organisation, Gubitosi had lacked imagination and vision which, given the recent failure of a major syndicate, meant that they feared the operation was in danger of atrophy. The loss of the Chicagoan revenues meant the American Council members were anxious to find new revenue sources and Pat’s approach offered an inexhaustible stream of new capital through white-collar ‘cyber’ crime. His convoluted scams and impenetrable audit trails made detection unlikely and everyone was keen to benefit from the change.
Although he was the new boy on the ruling council, Patrick Donaghue was quickly accepted and, in less than no time, widely respected by his peers. Gubitosi’s deputy, a man with less pride and more imagination than his erstwhile boss, apparently accepted the new situation without any rancour, for few months at least. Then he asked for a meeting and made it clear that he wanted out. Pat was more than willing to pension him off; try as he might he could not warm to the man who had seen his friend murdered and watched a younger man take his place – even if that younger man was himself – without considering extracting retribution. If he had learned nothing else from what had happened to Gubitosi, Pat had learned that a successful leader needed men around him who were committed to protecting him from the predators that circled a Syndicate boss; men who owed their own prosperity and security to him and were ready to defend it – and him – to the death.
Therefore, he was liberal with his rewards, punctilious in paying his dues to the other Council members, and ruthless in exacting the dues owed to him. Slowly he weeded out the old guard and placed his own men in key positions. Only then did he start to relax enough to sleep the night through.
The only member of the old regime who survived this civilised cull was Miss Maxie. Ciara Donaghue watched her brother’s back for him and he accepted her allegiance without hesitation. It was a load off his mind to know that she was running the bread-and-butter operations: the casinos, numbers rackets and hookers who kept the cash flow healthy, while he was occupied organising – generally hostile – ‘take overs’ of the smaller businesses that Gubitosi had been unable to prevent from springing up while he’d been in charge.
Within a twelvemonth of
Gubitosi’s death it was being said in the
Pat remained careful not to flaunt his ever-increasing wealth. He had opened a legitimate investment consultancy, which he called ‘Pat-broke’, and devoted enough of his time to making a success of that in order to provide cover for his executive lifestyle. He was scrupulously honest and paid all his taxes on that income. The rest he salted away in overseas and off-shore accounts, invested in other syndicate projects or laundered through the legitimate banks and brokerage houses of Wall Street. When he found himself wined and dined by the ‘Fat Cats’ of Wall Street, anxious to accommodate his investment needs, he found it hard not to smirk as they diligently laundered his illicit profits through their strait-laced establishments.
He’d felt a slight twinge of guilt, recalling the lavish hospitality of that long-ago Independence Day party. The young man who had stood open-mouthed at the luxury of a lifestyle he could only dream about seemed like a different person from the sophisticated Patrick Donaghue of the New York Syndicate. In his naivety at the time he’d vowed that one day he would share that lifestyle, but never in his wildest imaginings had he truly believed it was possible.
With his reputation secured by his success, Pat had felt able to turn his attention to other matters. He began to advise other Syndicates on maximising their profits and streamlining their ‘business systems’ and sided with the ultimately victorious underdog in an internecine war that broke out in LA over control of the drugs racket. He established effective ‘business’ links with the Canadians and their French associates, and dabbled on the London Stock Exchange in order to exploit weaknesses in the World Government bond market.
He was careful not to repeat his major successes too often and while the amounts he filched from SvenCorp and the other big finance houses became more modest, they also grew more frequent. He changed his approach every time, keeping one step ahead of the companies’ cyber patrols, pilfering and fraud detection systems. When SvenCorp grew suspicious, he moved on to other firms and their subsidiaries where the scrutiny was less assured. It became a thrilling game of living off his wits, with him and his syndicate opposing the over-mighty and often cumbersome titans of Wall Street.
It was an exhilarating existence. He bought a large apartment in a desirable location, a sports car for himself and a limo for the ‘business’, a wardrobe of clothes from the best design houses, and part shares in a promising racehorse. He was seen on the arms of starlets and models at fashionable clubs and venues, dined at the best restaurants, drank the best wines.
After Irene there had been a succession of blonde, shapely and biddable young women in his bed. Although he had a dream of finding the perfect woman, he couldn’t get emotionally involved with any of them and each successive relationship left him feeling more disconcerted and longing to meet a woman who was his equal.
For intellectual companionship he increasingly turned to Ciara. With her he felt there was no need for him to maintain his façade of cool detachment and the pair of them grew as close as they had ever been as children. Neither of them made any attempt to contact their family; although they both kept an eye on what was going on through mutual friends and contacts, they both admitted that they’d considered themselves as orphans for years. When his younger brother Jack lost his job, Patrick found him legitimate work out of the state and he gave Niamh the money to buy a decent apartment when she married her childhood sweetheart.
One Sunday afternoon Pat turned up at Ciara’s apartment at a loose end. He was rather surprised to see Bersani sitting in front of the TV screen watching a major league game, but after raising an eyebrow at his sister he merely acknowledged the man and took his glass of wine out onto the balcony, where Ciara followed him.
He turned and smiled at her. “How are things?”
“Fine,” she replied. “I sent you my weekly returns as usual.”
“Yes, I saw them this morning,” he replied, omitting that it was at about . “What I meant was: how’re things with you?”
“Danny and I… are friends. You wanna make something of it?”
“No, but he’s a vicious killer, Ciara.”
“And you’re not?”
“I’ve never killed anybody.”
“Pat, the man who orders the killers is just as culpable as the men with the guns.”
“If there is an alternative solution, I find it,” he retorted sharply.
Ciara laid a hand on his arm. “Hey, I’m sorry, Pat; forgive me? I know you do your damnedest to avoid killing.”
“You should get out of this business,” he said to her seriously. “This isn’t the life for a decent woman like you.”
“This is my life and I’m resigned to it. Danny may not be a knight in shining armour, but I’m not sure I’d know what to do with one of those even if I found one. Besides, he knows me for what I am and he... he cares for me in a way that I know doesn’t rely only on my being the boss’s sister. I need to have a man I can trust to act as my bodyguard.”
“What makes you say that? There’s nobody going to take NYS5 from me, I have made damn sure of that, and while I’m around you’re perfectly safe.”
“Oh sure, no one can take it from you, but that doesn’t mean you won’t give it away, one day.”
Pat shook his head, snorting with quiet laughter. “If you think you’re in too deep, what makes you think I’m not? I know more about the rest of the Syndicates and their bosses than you can imagine. It gives me some protection, true, but it also makes me a dangerous man to anyone with a guilty secret or lofty ambitions.”
“Sure; but this isn’t the life you want, Pat, is it? You’re restless. I don’t pretend to understand why, or what it is you think the world beyond the Syndicates has to offer you, but I recognise the signs.”
“I like a challenge, Ciara.” He turned and rested his elbows on the balcony rail, looking across the park opposite and added thoughtfully, “I don’t know what there might be out there, either. But there has to be something more than this.”
“You’ve made this the most successful and important syndicate in the state – maybe the country – isn’t that enough?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
“You are worried, Pat, aren’t you? Is it the police campaign? Is Fraser after you?”
He laughed. “Bring him on! I’m not scared of some Chicagoan tough.”
“Pat,” she exclaimed with concern at this statement of bravado, “you better watch it! You might overreach yourself – even you can’t take on the World Police Corps.”
“No; and I don’t intend
to. Besides, however good he may be,
Fraser’ll go for the obvious; he’ll be after the LA syndicates or
“Slowly. Listen, Ciara, I’ve been setting up companies, hiving off assets – paying for them, of course, so as not to attract attention. In a few more months I’ll be ready for the next ‘out-sourcing’ operation, and for that I’ll need your help. The clubs, the legitimate ones, will be transferred to a holding company, which will pay a fee to the Syndicate to manage them.”
“How’s that going to work? Won’t the takings be less?”
He shook his head. “The profits will be split between the holding company and the Syndicate, but as far as the Council knows, both of those belong to me.”
“And do they?”
“At the moment, yes. But that’s where you come in. I want you to take over the holding company, you and Bersani, if you want it that way. You’ll no longer be a part of the Syndicate, but a legitimate businesswoman. It will still be the murky world of nightclubs and gambling, sis, but it will be the legal one.”
“They’d come after us if we left the Syndicate.”
Pat shook his head briskly. “I have a deal coming to fruition – a real estate scam. Part of it involves transferring the clubs’ assets to the independent holding company in exchange for more profitable sites – office buildings, retail stores, warehouses – you know the type. It’ll make millions for them, so they won’t take too much notice of what happens to the clubs. And you and Bersani will be out of the game; I doubt they’ll come after you for what they’ll see as old fashioned revenue earners.”
“And what about you?”
“I have my own resources and the day they offer me ‘early retirement’ I will be ready and willing to go. I know I can make my way in the world without them far more successfully than they can make theirs without me, but by then, it’ll be too late for them to retrace their steps. Patrick Donaghue will be whiter than white and no one – not even Fraser – will have anything they can pin on me.”
His sister looked at him thoughtfully and sipped her drink to gain some time. Then with a nervous glance inside at Bersani, she said, “I started working in this world when I was barely more than a kid, and I ‘m not sure I could live any other way now; I’m in so deep. But you’ve never really been happy living this way, have you?”
Pat drew a deep breath and went back to staring out into the street below. Ciara moved to stand beside him, her arm resting against his in wordless empathy.
“It isn’t what I wanted, or expected,” Pat admitted speaking quietly and slowly as if he was trying to formulate the right words in his mind. “I hated the mundane world of a 9-5 job,” he admitted, “but I hoped the excitement would come in some… legal way. If I could have got into investment banking or finance – that sort of thing – but one look at my resume and I was out without a hearing.”
“It wasn’t fair…” she murmured in agreement, “you didn’t really commit a crime…”
“I had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and to be too naïve to realise. I was – and always will be – grateful to Gubitosi for saving my ass in jail – literally, in some ways – and I have to admit there used to be a frisson of excitement whenever I pulled off a big sting against those ‘oh-so-self-righteous’ bankers. But, now even that’s becoming commonplace. I need a challenge, Ciara, a new challenge, to prevent myself becoming a stale, old hoodlum who thinks every problem can be solved with a gun.”
“They won’t let you go, Pat. They wouldn’t have let Gubitosi either; for all that you meant the offer of retirement. The Syndicates have long memories and nothing is ever forgotten or forgiven.”
“That’s true – but they’ve never come up against Patrick Donaghue before.” He grinned. “I’ll outwit them, never fear.”
Ciara grinned at him: it had been some time since she’d seen the spark of enthusiasm in his dark eyes. She hugged his arm.
“I’m sure you will, Pat.”
“Now, do you want to run the clubs after they’re hived off?” he asked, getting back to important matters.
“Sure. I may not know much, but I can do that, and do it well. I promise you, whatever happens I’ll be there for you, Pat.”
Ciara glanced back at her lover. “Not yet. Maybe, in time; but only when I’m good and ready.”
“Good girl,” he said approvingly. “Donaghues don’t need no one to lean on.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Ciara said.
Reaching for the wine bottle she filled their glasses and they pledged allegiance to each other with a chink of crystal against crystal.
One morning, in the spring of 2066, Patrick Donaghue woke earlier than usual and glanced across at his companion. He’d met her last night at a cocktail party and knew her to be an aspiring young actress. She’d been honest enough to explain that she was looking for a wealthy backer and as much publicity as she could get.
Her face – even in sleep – had the unexceptional beauty of her ilk, although the arched eyebrows gave her a look of perpetual astonishment and her plump lips were just a little too wide for her face. Her cheekbones were high and her chin narrow, while her nose was pinched, as if the skin was stretched too tight. In a few decades she might well look gaunt and much older than she was. Her complexion was fashionably pale and her golden hair was long and tousled.
“It’s a good job,” he thought, “I believed she was a real blonde until we got down to that lacy underwear… I just wish I could remember her name.”
The encounter had been one of mutual satisfaction – or she was a better actress than he gave her credit for. He slipped from the bed, leaving her sleeping, and went to the kitchen, via the bathroom.
The kitchen was probably his favourite room in the apartment, especially in the morning when the sun shone through the glass walls and gilded everything with its brightness. The coffee machine was humming quietly and the freshly-squeezed orange juice inside the fridge door proved that Mrs Gomez had already started work.
He chose coffee and took his cup to the breakfast bar where the newspapers lay neatly arranged for his perusal.
Mrs Gomez, his housekeeper, knew his habits and was paid enough to keep her opinions about his choice of lifestyle to herself. She would be out shopping, or collecting his laundry, or any one of the hundred tasks she did that made his life flow smoothly. He knew he could rely on her to ‘clear up’ after him.
The Daily USA’s banner headline screamed: WORLD GOVERNMENT DECLARES WAR ON TERRORISM!
“What? Again?” he muttered, as he picked it up and read with cynicism how the World Government in Futura was about to launch a new campaign against the forces opposed to their enlightened rule.
He flicked to the financial pages and checked a few stock and shares, using his personal notepad-sized PC to make a few calculations and email some instructions to his brokers. He glanced at the 62 emails waiting to be read and replied to a few. The rest could wait.
Then he read the sports pages. Grimacing at the results, he threw the paper down and finished his toast and coffee.
By the time he had showered and shaved, the woman was awake.
“Hi, honey,” she purred, as he emerged from the bathroom to dress.
“Hi there; do you want coffee or juice?”
She pouted and patted the bed beside her. “Come here, honey.”
“I don’t have time,” he replied, trying to look suitably regretful. “I have an early meeting downtown.”
She sat up, pulling the sheet modestly over her breasts. “That’s a shame.” She watched him dress.
“Please help yourself to breakfast,” he continued. “Mrs Gomez will be back soon; she’ll lend you a hand if you need anything.” He walked across and bent to kiss her, slipping a wad of notes into her hand. “Take a cab home and buy yourself a pretty new dress.”
“When will I see you again?” she asked anxiously. He gave her credit for not immediately counting the notes.
“I’ll call you,” Pat promised, adding to himself, ‘when I can remember your name.’
“I’ll leave my number,” she assured him.
Pat heard the front door opening and thanked God for his deliverance. “Mrs Gomez,” he called, “send for my car, please.”
He kissed the young woman again and put on his jacket, strapping a gold watch to his wrist as he made for the door.
“Bye, honey,” he said.
“Bye, Patrick,” she answered mournfully.
Mrs Gomez opened the front door, handing him his briefcase and the newspaper as he approached.
“I’ll be home for dinner tonight,” he told her, “alone.”
She nodded and closed the door after him before taking off her coat and moving towards the bedroom to deal with the ‘debris’ of yesterday’s evening out.
At the offices of ‘Pat Broke’, he occupied the morning doing deals and dispensing advice. The brokerage had a small staff, all legitimate, and because he paid well, they worked hard and ignored the rumours that their boss was involved in the seamier side of the business. He usually devoted his evenings to the Syndicate’s business preferring to keep his two lives distinct.
At about , his PA, a smart young woman with a degree in financial management, brought him his lunch: a sandwich, an apple, a bottle of mineral water and a coffee. He finished what he was doing and stopped to eat.
The Syndicates had a fall-back method of contacting each other, should the need arise, and Pat made a point of checking every day to make sure there was nothing going on that he needed to be aware of amongst the other branches of the organisation. The messages were inserted into a personal small ad section of the World Government’s newspaper, ‘The Daily USA’, because it was one of the few papers that covered the entire country.
He turned to the relevant page and started to read down the list.
One ad caught his eye.
Donaghue, Patrick, son of Callum and Rosaleen, last known of in New York. Will Patrick Donaghue please contact Mr Snow at the Dewar Elf building in New York, where he will learn something to his advantage.
There followed a telephone number and a date.
Pat was intrigued. This wasn’t the usual format of the Syndicate’s messages and Dewar Elf was not one of their fronts. The company was a reputable law firm, which had branched out into other work for the World Government, and they were squeaky clean. It was rumoured that they did nothing but work for the WG, especially when the authorities didn’t want their name directly associated with whatever scheme it was.
Pat chewed his sandwich and pondered on the likelihood that this was some sort of trap. It was not inconceivable that someone in the Syndicate was trying to set him up as a traitor by making it appear he’d sold out to the authorities, although at the moment everything was remarkably amicable amongst all of the bosses.
He felt the familiar surge of excitement at the unknown provenance of the message. Even if this was a ploy by an ambitious rival, or even the World Police Corps, he knew he’d have to investigate it to satisfy his own curiosity.
On an impulse he threw the sandwich down on the plate and slurped a mouthful of coffee before reaching for his jacket. He wrote the phone number on his wrist, where it was covered by his cuffs, and closed the newspaper, leaving it on his desk, just as he always did: nothing must indicate that he’d acted in any way out of the ordinary because of the ad.
“I’m going out,” he told Miss Maloney, as he walked past her desk. “It’s too nice a day to spend it all cooped up in here. I may take the afternoon off, or I may be back later. Not sure, as yet.” He smiled at her and she smiled back.
“Okay, Mr Donaghue. I’ll take any messages and email anything important to you, as usual, shall I?”
“Yeah, if anyone phones, I’ll get back to them.”
She watched him leave and noted the time in her desk diary, before carrying on writing the latest report on investment opportunities in the retail sector.
Pat took the subway and doubled back around the city watching to see that he wasn’t being followed. He wandered into a gadget retailer’s premises and browsed the shelves before taking his selected purchases up to the till. He paid cash.
It was a pleasant afternoon, so it was no hardship to stroll into the park and buy a coffee from a vendor’s stall, before finding an isolated bench that offered a good view in all directions of the approaches.
There’s no point in taking chances, he reminded himself, as he opened his carrier bag and drew out the reconditioned pay-as-you-go cell phone he’d bought.
He dialled the number he’d written on his wrist and listened to the slow ‘brrrurp’ of the call tone. He smiled when his heart skipped a beat as he heard the call being accepted.
“Snow speaking. How may I help?”
“That’s for you to tell me, Mr Snow,” Pat replied. “Something to my advantage, that’s what you said.”
“Thank you for calling. In the mail tomorrow you will receive a small, padded envelope. It will contain a key to a left luggage locker at Grand Central Station. Inside the locker will be a small briefcase containing details of the offer I have been instructed to make to you.”
“Who instructed you?”
“Should you wish to accept the offer, you will find instructions of where to go and when.”
“Who’re you working for?”
“I am aware of the nature of your business ventures and of the need for caution and trust between potential associates. My security is as important as yours, so I am not going to discuss this over a phone. If, when you’ve read the documents, you have no further interest in doing business, you will not hear from me again. Nor will you be able to trace me, so don’t waste your time trying.”
“Why should I trust you if I don’t know who you are?”
“Why should I trust you when I am perfectly well aware of who you are? The choice is yours, Mr Donaghue. Thank you for expressing an interest; I hope we can do business. Goodbye.”
Pat glared at the cell phone as the connection was closed. “Damn-and-blast!”
He drew the sim card out and tossed the handset into a trash can as he walked out of the park. He continued walking until he found a coffee shop and slipped inside for a drink and a slice of cake.
‘Snow’ was obviously an alias for someone acting on behalf of someone, or something, else. The only clue he had was that the advert had mentioned ‘Dewar Elf’, but he was sure that even if he hacked into their personnel files, he wouldn’t find the name there.
There was nothing for it but to wait for the mail delivery tomorrow and fetch the documents from the rail terminus.
For the first time in months, he felt he was alive – and kicking.
Ciara Donaghue was busy in the office of the headquarters of her small, but profitable, chain of nightclubs and casinos. She was checking over the accounts and doing a stock inventory before re-ordering essentials, but her mind was only half on her task.
There was a knock on the door and Danny Bersani walked in.
“Any news?” she asked him.
He shook his head. “No one’s seen him for the best part of six days, Maxie.”
“I’m worried. It isn’t like Pat to disappear without warning. Have you contacted the other Syndicates?”
“Yeah; they ain’t seen him and there’s no Council meeting scheduled. His phone’s on voicemail, his e-mail’s got an ‘out of office’ and his bed’s not been slept in – not even by a whore.”
Ciara frowned. “What’s going on, Danny?”
“I dunno; but you shouldn’t
worry. The other bosses, they need Pat
right now. They’re edgy about the World
Police – rumour has it that something’s going down… maybe in
“Sure, but if he disappears, they’ll mark him as an absconder and there’ll be a price on his head,” Ciara said fearfully. “I wish he’d call me.”
“He’ll be okay, I’m thinking. There’s no flies on Pat Donaghue. Look, maybe he’s working a scam? He’s done that before now.”
“Not without backup.”
Bersani shrugged. “Don’t worry. He has enough on every boss to bring them down.”
“That’s exactly what does worry me,” she said sharply.
The evening was at its busiest when Ciara was called to the phone. She went to her office, and removed one of her trademark diamond earrings to put the receiver to her ear.
“This is Miss Maxie,” she said. “What can I do for you?”
“Ciara, it’s me – Pat.”
“Patrick! Where the hell are you?”
“What? What the hell are you doing in
“Ah, you wouldn’t be believing me if I were telling you.”
Ciara relaxed slightly, Pat only talked ‘Oirish’ when he was in a good mood.
He continued, “Listen, I have some things I need you to do.”
“I can hardly hear you,” she confessed, with a slight emphasis on the pronoun to remind him that the phone might well be bugged.
“I’ll email. Follow the instructions to the letter. Understand?”
“Sure, Pat. I always do.”
“I know, but these instructions might seem weird; however, my life depends on this, Ciara. Don’t let me down.”
She reassured him and asked, “When’re you coming back?”
“My flight’s tomorrow.”
“Safe journey, Patrick.”
The line went dead and she went back out into the club to alert the security men to the fact that she would be off the floor for a while. Then she went back to the office and fired up her personal PC.
Patrick had given her this one, loaded with security routines and firewalls of his own devising, for private emails between them. She went through the layers of security with the complex passwords and opened the email account. True to his word, Pat had sent instructions.
She read them through, concern furrowing her brow and making her bite her bottom lip.
There were instructions to sell shares, money to be moved to off-shore accounts and loans to be called in. Even to her it smacked of liquidating his assets, and that spelt trouble. Nevertheless, she did as he asked.
By the time Pat arrived back in
He went straight to the club.
“What’s going on?” Ciara demanded, as soon as he’d closed the office door behind him.
“I may have to cut and run –
and quickly,” he explained. “I heard
“Where will you go?”
“I can’t tell you; the less you know the better, but eventually I’ll be in Porto Guava.”
“So it is, but a ‘mosquito-ridden backwater’ without an extradition treaty with the World Government.”
“I see. This is serious then? Are you going to warn the Council?”
“If I do that the police will be here quicker than a twister. I wanted to make sure you’re okay. That’s the main reason why I came back. I’ve transferred the sole rights to the clubs to you, from tonight. I had the lawyers draw up the paperwork some time ago and I’ll sign it before I go. If anyone asks, you pay protection money like all the other clubs do, but you’re no longer associated with the Syndicates. The cops’ll need to look long and hard to find any evidence that you were ever involved in anything more damaging than an unpaid parking ticket, so you’ll be safe…”
Ciara put her head in her hands.
Anxious to say everything he felt he needed to, Pat continued, “Keep running them, Ciara, whatever the police or the Council says. They’ll install a new Syndicate boss in time, but you have the law on your side, so don’t take any crap from him.”
“Who will it be?” she asked, looking up at him.
He shrugged. “My guess is Frank Falconi; he’s capable but not exciting. You’ll be okay with Frank – he owes me plenty and he won’t rock the boat.”
She looked so worried, he hugged her.
“Listen to me: we may never see each other again, but I will be in touch and you will always be able to reach me. I promise.”
She hugged him tightly. “I believe you. It seems like I’ve always underestimated you, Patrick.”
He smiled. “Everyone does, that’s my good fortune. Lull people into a false sense of security and you’ll always have the advantage, that’s my motto, Sis.” She gave a weak smile and he added, reassuringly, “I’m gonna be okay.”
She looked at him through eyes that were suspiciously moist. “But I’ll never see you again,” she whispered.
Patrick’s face grew sombre; having lost meaningful contact with the rest of their family, they only had each other and they’d grown close. Accepting the sacrifice of losing Ciara from his life was a price he was prepared to pay in order to move on, but he felt guilty that he hadn’t considered it as a price she’d have to pay as well.
He found it impossible, in the face of her misery, to be totally honest with her. “Not for a while, at least – but I… I mean, I won’t to lose touch. Not ever. And it is quite possible that I’ll be back… around… sometime. You mustn’t worry… whatever you hear about me. Promise? I’ll be okay, and I’ll be doing what I want, and making a difference – at last!”
She looked confused and he realised that there was no way he could explain to her what he was about to do. He accepted that to do so would be to put her in jeopardy and he would never do that. He hugged her once more.
“Now… let’s get this show on the road - for the last time.”
Two days later Bersani was watching the TV news when he called Ciara across.
The broadcaster said:
Sources close to the World Police say that raids in
Ciara turned it off. She looked at Bersani and put her arm through his.
“They’ll never catch him. Pat’s too clever for them.” Despite the underlying sadness and concern on her face, there was an unmistakable pride in her voice.
He nodded. “I’m gonna miss him, you know. He was a good boss, played fair and did right by his people. We’ll be lucky if the next one is as good.”
“Yeah, but Pat thought about that too and we’re out of the loop now, Danny. We have a chance to go straight. Whoever would’ve thought it?”
Bersani shifted slightly. He had more to worry about than Ciara – his past was full of ghosts. “Yeah; we’ll make it.”
She smiled at him and he saw a ruthless gleam in her eye. For the first time he was conscious of the similarity between her and her brother and a shadow of doubt fell across his mind, shaking his confidence.
“You and me, together, eh, Babe?” he said with false confidence.
Ciara’s smile broadened to a grin.
Bersani’s confidence took another plummet as he recognised a previously unsuspected iron fist in the elegant velvet glove of her personality.
“It’ll be okay,” she murmured, “I’ve learned from the best.” Take care, little brother…
Three days later, Assistant
Police Commissioner Richard Fraser was assassinated in
The council of the American Syndicates breathed a sigh of relief and thanked Pat Donaghue for his foresight and timely warning. There was no proof that Donaghue was behind the assassination - he was too smart for that - but they all knew that they hadn’t done it, so who was left? It was a shame he wouldn’t be here to enjoy the freedom a weakened Police Corps would afford.
They agreed to reply to the email from Donavan Plunkett, saying that they appreciated his offer of handling their offshore financial transactions, and agreed to his terms.
On the airborne headquarters
of Spectrum, the World Government’s latest anti-terrorism force, hovering
40,000 feet above the
This story started as part of a series of vignettes set around significant birthdays in the lives of the Spectrum Captains. It sort of grew into a back-story for Captain Magenta over time, and I was very conscious that I was following in the footsteps of the marvellous stories by Sue Stanhope, which chronicled the life of Patrick Donaghue in such exciting detail.
My story eschews such excitement and concentrates on the essentially nice chap who becomes Captain Magenta. I have to admit, I never liked the character much, but on reading the biographies about him, I have to say that I grew more and more certain he couldn’t be the accident-prone, over-enthusiastic clown he seems on the show. I hope this story goes some way to redress the balance.
My thanks are due to my magnificent beta-reader, Hazel Köhler. She is ever-tolerant of my eccentric spelling and wayward punctuation. It goes without saying really, that any mistakes still in the text are mine and mine alone.
My thanks also go to Chris Bishop, for the continuing delight of her website and its associated forum.
Patrick Donaghue, Captain Magenta of Spectrum, is one of the main characters in the TV show, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™, which is owned by Carlton International and possibly other people too numerous to mention. I know for certain that the show was the brainchild of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, one in the line of fantastic shows they produced in the 1960s. I have taken great delight in the show and the characters ever since and I thank them for that tremendous gift.
It isn’t as easy for me to write now as it used to be, due to changes in my personal circumstances, and I was beginning to think I might never finish another story! Therefore, I hope you enjoyed reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Any comments? Send an to the site