Jack Dunphy is in the building game. To hear some of them tell it, he is the game. Leastways he used to be, all over south-east London. What’s known as a ‘plastic paddy’. Third or fourth generation down the pike and as English as toast. But could shovel the brogue as the occasion demanded. A flash git too. Liked to show he’d the dosh. Word was, he’d married a game-show hostess and hit the top of some minor B list. A name among the ‘could-‘ave-beens’.
Hard bastard. Odd stories surfaced of punters getting done with baseball bats and the blow-torch. Anyway, not a fella to fuck with. I knew him for years on a vague basis. The, ‘How you doing?’ dance. Bags of brief enthusiasm and no follow-up. If you never met again, how much would you be hurting? Like that. So, I was a little surprised when he offered to buy me a drink. The local bookie got married and there was a knees-up in the backroom of the Greyhound. My sometimes pub next to the Oval tube station. I was standing at the bar while a karaoke merchant mutilated ‘That Loving Feeling’.
‘Paul, whatcha drinking?’
Yeah, he gave it the best south-east London twist. To put me at ease?
‘I’m all right.’
‘Go on then, ‘ave somefin’. Yo’ barkeep, couple of double scotches before Tuesday.’
I gave him the full look. He was the spit of Henry Cooper, but Our Henry with a bad drop. Dressed in a good suit, hand-made shoes, and washed to a sheen. No electric razors or Bic disposables for this guy. It was the barber’s chair and an open razor job, then the face hand-massaged to a rosy hue. He’d tip good too, ask about yer missus and frame yer balls if you crossed him. A villain with communication skills.
The drinks came and he nodded, picked one up, indicated I should do likewise. I did but put it down, untasted, and he said:
‘Cheers Paul. Best of British, eh?’
‘It’s not Paul.’
‘My name – it’s not Paul.’
That threw him. He was a man who prided himself on information. But he rallied.
‘Shit I’m sorry, could have sworn…’
I had some scotch, it tasted okay, like hope.
He put out his hand.
‘Let’s start over, I’m Jack Dunphy.’
The thought flashed, Who gives a flying fuck? but I let it slide. I was taking my pills. I was mellow and I shook his hand. The grip was solid, let you know he was a man of integrity. You get one of those ‘tight with sincerity’ shakes, watch your wallet. I didn’t have any more of the scotch.
‘It’s Tony… but most people call me Brady.’
He reached for the lighter touch:
‘But what do your friends call you… eh..? Call you Tone?’
A silence for a bit, not a problem for me, then:
‘Look Tony, I’ll be upfront here…’
Watch that wallet.
‘I’ve been told you’re dependable and… that you could help me.’
I reached for the lighter touch too, said:
Took a moment, then he laughed… badly. A laugh a long way from his eyes.
‘Oh I get it, yes – very droll. The thing is Tone… Tony, I need to find a woman.’
I ran the gamut of replies:
(1) What, you think I’m a pimp?
(2) The game-show run out of juice? or,
(3) Join a lonely hearts club.
Wittily enough, I opted for, ‘What?’
‘My daughter, she’s gone missing.’
‘Did you contact the Old Bill?’
He gave me a look reeking in ‘Do us a bloody favour’, and said, ‘It’s not a police thing. Those fucks couldn’t find peace.’
I wasn’t sure what to think, said, ‘I’m not sure what to think.’
‘She’s twenty, she’s my only child. I think she’s in Brixton. She was up at Cambridge reading English and just dropped out. I need someone discreet to find her. Rosie, the missus, is going frantic.’
‘I’ll need a photo, some personal details.’
He took a large manila envelope from his jacket, laid it on the bar, said:
‘It’s there… and cash… you need more, you call me… anytime.’
The package looked thick, fat with readies, I guessed. No cheques with this outfit.
Click to visit ‘The Hackman Blues’ page
Also by Ken Bruen:
A White Arrest
Taming The Alien