Chapter One Brant was on his third whisky, knocking it back like a good un. He was feeling real bad, Ed McBain was dead, and nothing could ease the loss he felt. He muttered: 'Fuck.' The barman, highly attentive to Brant's needs, asked: 'Yes?' Brant gave him the granite eyes, said: 'I want something, you'll know.' Brant's rep was legendary. In South-East London, he was feared by cops and villains alike. Numerous attempts had been made by the brass to get rid of him, but he had survived every effort. London was in a state of high alert. Since the terrorist attacks, an air of paranoia ruled. It wasn't that the populace wondered if the bombers would strike again, but a question of where and when. The only hero Brant had ever had was McBain, and he'd collected all the novels. He had the latest one. Alas, now the final one, and he couldn't bring himself to read it. He was about to shout another drink when he heard: 'Sergeant?' He turned to see Porter Nash, the recently promoted Porter Nash, dressed in a very flash suit. Porter was the only openly gay cop on the squad and was probably their best investigator. Brant, who hated everyone, had an unlikely friendship with him. Neither of them could quite figure out why they enjoyed each other's company, but fuck, go figure, they just went with it. Brant said: 'Some suit.' Porter took the stool beside Brant, asked: 'You like it?' Brant signalled for the barman, took a long look at the suit, said: 'It helps if you're gay.' Porter laughed, most times it was the only way to go. You had dealings with Brant, you needed a great sense of humour or a sawn-off. Brant ordered two large whiskies and Porter protested: 'I wanted some vodka.' Brant blew it off, said: 'With lime, I suppose. Have a real drink for once.' The barman knew Brant, of course, everybody knew him, but the other geezer, he was new and very worrying. He had manners, said thank you when he plonked the drinks down, so he couldn't be a cop. But he had a look, despite the nancy suit, he had a way of holding himself, that was . . . not to be fucked with. The barman would keep an eye, see what he could discover. Brant clinked his glass against Porter's, said: 'I think the bar guy fancies you.' Porter took a quick glance, said: 'Not my type.' Brant knocked back a lethal gulp, Porter sipped at his then, seeing Brant's expression, took a larger sip, said: 'Could I get some water for this?' Brant was lighting a cig. He'd switched to a so-called low-tar brand, it wasn't doing it. Porter, six months without smoking, inhaled the smoke greedily, resigned himself to the neat whisky, asked: 'So what do you think of the Yank?' Brant looked at his watch and, if he'd only known, he had maybe ten minutes before he was shot. The Yank was L. M. Wallace, a terrorist expert. All the squads had been assigned one, the reasoning being that they knew when and where an attack might happen. As the Americans spoke of 9/11, the Brits, alas, now had 21/7. Brant stubbed out the cig, said: 'Haven't met him yet.' His tone suggested he could give a fuck, but he asked: 'You met him?' Porter nodded. He'd been assigned as mentor, guide, nanny, what the fuck ever, mainly to ensure the guy was made welcome. He said: 'He's big, I'll give him that.' Brant laughed, his special filthy one that had no relation to humour, and he said: 'Hung, eh?' Porter finished the drink and felt the warmth caress his stomach, the artificial ease. He'd take any relief he got, said: 'The guy is about fourteen stone and has a face that looks like someone blasted him with a blowtorch, and his credentials, impressive, I've got to admit.' Nothing, nothing in the world impressed Brant. He asked: 'Impress me.' The shooter entered the bar, the Browning Automatic in his jacket. He had racked the slide a moment before and was, so to speak, cocked. He saw the two cops at the bar. Got his stance in gear. Porter said: 'FBI Anti-Terrorist Squad, Special Ops, Homeland Security, and a whole batch of citations.' Brant digested this and was about to make a smart-ass reply. The shooter had the Browning out. He was about to squeeze the trigger when a woman pushed open the door, knocking him slightly off balance. He muttered: 'Fuck.' Tried to regain his balance, pulling on the trigger. Released a barrage of shots. Bottles exploded behind the counter, pieces of the counter flew in the air, and Porter pushed Brant to the floor, covering his body with his own. The gunman, seeing the cops down, hoped to fuck he'd hit something and legged it. People were screaming, a drunk, sozzled in the corner, came out of his stupor, asked: 'Is it Christmas?' Porter was on his radio, screaming: 'Shooting, gunman heading from the King's Arms on the Kennington Road.' He stood up, the smell of cordite, mixed with the spilled booze, was heady. He looked down. Brant wasn't moving and Porter bent, put out his arm, saw the hole in Brant's back, he screamed: 'Get a fucking ambulance.' To his radio, he shouted: 'Officer down, repeat, officer down.' The drunk began to hum 'Jingle Bells.' Ammunition. Powder, shot, shell, etc. Offensive missiles generally. --dictionary definition Copyright © 2007 by Ken Bruen. All rights reserved.
KEN BRUEN has been a finalist for the Edgar, Anthony, and Barry awards, and he has won the Shamus Award and the Macavity Award for books in the Jack Taylor series. He lives in Galway, Ireland.