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Ken Bruen Is Dead, Alas

02.18.05 | 6 Comments

by Graham Powell

There was no one in the shabby hotel’s fourth-floor hallway when Detective Sergeant Charlie Knacker carefully opened the stairway door. He beckoned to his partner, Detective James Gallovan, and together they eased their way down the corridor.

Halfway to the end a door stood ajar. Knacker pointed at it and held up three fingers. Gallovan nodded and together they counted silently.

One.
Two.
Three!

Knacker kicked the door aside and Gallovan burst into the room, swweping the corners with his pistol. After a moment he said, “Clear!” and Knacker joined him. There was barely space enough for the two of them and the corpse.

The man was white-haired and frail, and sat on the floor, slumped against the wall. Whiskey bottles lay scattered around him. Gallovan turned one over with his foot and peered at the label.

“Jameson’s,” he said. “All empty, worse luck.”

“The poor sod,” said Knacker. “The super was right, it’s murder for sure.”

Gallovan poked through the few possessions lying on the bed. He held up a small plaque. “Look at this,” he said. “Some sort of award.”

Knacker read the inscription and smiled. “Seems they’ve spelled your name wrong, Seamus.”

Suddenly the man on the floor lifted his head, eyes rolling wildly. “He’s trying to say something!” said Gallovan, leaning close.

“What is it?” said Knacker. “Quick, what did he say?”

“Well, I can’t be quite sure, but it sounded like, ‘Bugger off, you bastards, I’m not dead.'”

“Denial. God, I hate to see a man suffer so.” Knacker cocked his pistol.

“What’re you doin’, then?” said Gallovan.

“Puttin’ him out of his misery. It’s only right.” Knacker’s eyes brimmed with sadness. “I hate to see it come to this.”

“Oh bollocks Charlie, you’ve seen off three in the last two months.”

“I was only helping them along the way they were headed. Except the one, maybe.”

“The busted nose?”

“Aye,” said Knacker. “I suppose he might have made it. But who’d want to go through life looking like that, eh?”

Gallovan sighed. “Just get it over with.”

The shot rang out, the concussion slamming over their ears like a pair of muffs. Detective Knacker glanced at his partner. “What’s that you said?”

“Right through the liver,” said Gallovan, grimacing. “Tough way to go.”

Knacker kicked aside one of the bottles. “That’s where he needed it most, I’d say.”

His cell phone played the first notes of “Danny Boy”, and he plucked it from his pocket. “Knacker here.” He listened for a moment, then gestured to Gallovan. “Inspector Dinwiddie,” he whispered. They held the phone between there ears.

“Knacker, where the bloody hell are you? The constable is waiting, says he’s got a dead body. Hotel Kelly, room 414. You haven’t stopped off for a quick one, have you?”

Gallovan and Knacker glanced up in unison. The numbers on the door read 411.

“No sir, we’re just outside now. Ah, I believe the killer may still be about, we’ve just heard a shot.”

“Well get in there and find out, damn you!”

“Aye, sir.” Knacker rang off and they stood there looking at each other.

“What do we do?” said Gallovan.

Knacker laid his arm across his partner’s shoulders. “Jimmy,” he said. “Let’s save that issue for another time. Right now, let’s take a stroll to 414.”

He pulled the door firmly shut behind them.

* * *

They returned two hours later, having disposed of the case down the hall, which turned out to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Some down-and-outer had decided to end his miserable life, and the Kelly was the only venue he could afford. Everything clear enough, except that as the gun feel from his limp fingers, it tumbled beneath the bed, and the officer on the scene had not been swift enough to see it there.

As it happened, the man was as bad at ending his life as he was at living it. He wasn’t dead, merely stunned.

Which left Gallovan and Knacker back in 411, staring down at a body that was indubitably beyond help.

“What now?” said Gallovan.

Knacker rubbed his chin. “Something’s different. Something’s changed.” Suddenly his eyes grew wide. “James, weren’t all these bottles empty?”

The fifth of whiskey clutched in the pale fingers was still one-third full.

“Bloody hell!” said Gallovan. “He wasn’t dead! And he was still thirsty!” He pressed his fingers to the prone figure’s throat. “He’s still not dead! For fuck’s sake, Charlie, what do we do?”

Charlie thought for a moment, then pulled the blanket from the bed. “First, we figure out where he got that bottle, and if there’s any more. Then we’ll dump him.”

“The river?”

“It worked for Rasputin,” said Knacker.

* * *

Later, as they walked back to their car, Knacker said, “A dirty business, but now it’s done. Care for a pint?”

“Are you joking?” said Gallovan. “I’m in for a gallon!”

They climbed in and Knacker cranked the engine. Looking out at the dark water flowing by, he said, “Poor bloke. That’s the last we’ll hear of him.”

DUBLIN, IRELAND (MBP): The Dublin Star-Telegram is reporting this morning that noted Irish crime writer Ken Bruen has died. His body was discovered bobbing in whatever river it is that flows through Dublin, where it had become entangled in the anchor chains of a garbage scow. Cause of death was listed as acute alchohol poisoning, with a a gunshot wound to the abdomen as a contributing factor.

As it has many times before, the local council extended Mr. Bruen a vote of sympathy. Inland revenue promptly inventoried his wordly effects, listed as fourteen cases of whiskey of various qualities, nine thousand copies of his own books (apparently purchased so he could claim “bestseller” status) valued at US$3.76, and two shares of stock in a distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

In a shocking development, as the undertaker was embalming the so-called “pope of Galway” using Jameson’s whiskey (as specified in his will), Mr. Bruen suddenly sat up, seized the bottle with both hands, and began drinking. After the application of three more bottles, with a Guiness chaser, Mr. Bruen proclaimed himself fit and returned to work.

The attending physician stated that Bruen’s liver had been toughened by years of abuse until it was “nearly bulletproof”, thus saving his life.

Of his ordeal, Bruen could only say that he did not know why he was in Dublin and had no idea where his pants had got to.

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