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Publishers Weekly recognized ECW Press as one of the most diversified independent publishers in North America. ECW Press has published close to 1,000 books that are distributed throughout the English-speaking world and translated into dozens of languages. In the next year, we’ll release 50+ new titles and will continue to support and promote a vibrant backlist that includes poetry and fiction, pop-culture and political analysis, sports books, biography, and travel guides. Books by writers whose names you know and love — and by those who we’re very pleased to introduce for the first time.


Who are we? After three decades, we still get asked about our name, those three little letters: ECW.

At first the acronym was self-descriptive: Essays on Canadian Writing (the name of the journal of literary criticism we started in 1974). But as the company grew and changed, our name, in our minds, also changed. We’ve heard the company called Essential Canadian Writing, Excellent Contemporary Writing, or, more recently, Extreme Cutting-Edge Writing. And these names have been, and still are, appropriate. But now we realize that each of those letters represents a particular strain of ECW Press’s diverse passions — Entertainment, Culture, Writing.

No matter how our name has been interpreted, however, there has always been one constant: our pursuit of excellent writing. We recognize that it’s our authors who make us what we are, who establish our reputation. And because of this we’re committed to bringing you the best writers and the best writing we know — in every genre. In the next decade, ECW will continue to grow and change.

Today, we’re publishing a heady mix of commercial and literary works that strive for a uniform standard of excellence: the best writing; the most exciting, controversial, and insightful takes on the hottest subject matter; ground-breaking design; and high production values.
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The Ultimate Road Trip

All 89 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ultimate Leafs Fan
tagged : hockey, sports
More Info


If I needed a good omen as my first road trip began, it was printed right on my Air Canada ticket, Flight 442 to Chicago O’Hare, the same numbers of defencemen Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey.


Approaching U.S. Customs at Pearson early Sunday morning it dawned on me this wasn’t a vacation in Florida for a week I’d be declaring but rather a four-city excursion. These security folk can be ornery at the best of times and the last thing I needed was this guy to give me a hard time.


“I’m off to Chicago, but it gets tricky, because I’m also headed to Dallas, Detroit and Washington,” I began.


His look needed no explanation except to keep talking and it better be good.


“I’m actually following the Leafs for every game this year and this is the first trip.”


“You getting paid for this?,” he inquired over the nose of his glasses.


“I wish.”


He smiled, softened slightly while firing a few subtle questions trying to trip me up, eventually sending me on my way.


I arrived in the Windy City fresh off Toronto’s home split against Montreal and Ottawa, excited to find as many members of Leafs Nation as I could, in one of the greatest sports towns in America. Chicago is also close to Notre Dame, whose football team I’ve mentioned holds a very important place in my life and that of Joe Bowen, voice of the Leafs.


My first stop wasn’t the United Center, the Hancock Building or some other Chicago architectural landmark. Instead I pointed my rental car northwest out of O’Hare to Woodstock, Ill. The little town made famous by Bill Murray’s movie Groundhog Day is also the studio of Erik Blome, sculptor of Legends Row outside SBA.


Historic Woodstock is a charming place with lots of Groundhog Day landmarks, though townsfolk prefer to think there’s more to their home than the film. The beautiful old opera house was once the summer stock residence for budding stars such as Paul Newman, Robert Redford and War of the Worlds creator, Orson Welles.


Erik’s studio can be described as organized chaos, with materials, plaster busts, sketches and a molten orange kiln, all arranged strategically for him and his assistants to work.


On the upper floor overlooking the workshop are half a dozen copies of the Leafs busts along with bits and pieces of old hockey equipment from the various subjects, including Tim Horton’s gloves. Blome proudly showed me the original designs and the changes made as the monument came closer to completion.


He gave me a quick demonstration on how the mold is cast for a statue - making sure I kept well back from the 450-degree oven.


He mentioned he’s been back to Toronto a few times to repair a few of the sticks that had been vandalized. Apparently, one of Raptor ambassador Drake’s trucks backed into one of the statues, requiring a quick repair. Maybe the famous Raptors ambassador wanted to start clearing space for a basketball tribute.


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Mission Road

Mission Road

A Frank Yakabuski Mystery
More Info


Frank Yakabuski looked at the man sitting the other side of the kitchen table and couldn’t decide what to think of him. Calvin Jayne. Forty-eight years old. Drove cab for Shamrock Taxi, a mill-hand before that. Lived in a one-bedroom walk-up on Derry Street. No signs of a wife or children. Cases of Old Milwaukee – cheapest beer at most dépanneurs – stacked by the back door.  


Jayne wore grey sweat-pants and a rib-tee-shirt that didn’t cover his stomach, short enough to show three rolls of pale, mid-winter skin and tufts of sweaty, black hair. It was too hot in the apartment. He was overcompensating, although the cabbie wasn’t the only one doing that. Although winter had been late arriving on the Northern Divide, when it came it was bitter cold. The salt trucks couldn’t run most days because of the cold and there was black ice everywhere. Highway fatalities were common. So were animals you’d see in the morning, standing in some distant field with fog swirling around them, scrawny black bear, teetering moose, beasts awoken from their hibernation and not sure what to do next.


It was a winter for ill-fated wonders. The first fortune hunter arrived the second week of February. His name was Jason McAllister and he was a post-graduate mathematics student from Syracuse University who checked into the Grainger Hotel after arriving on a direct flight from Toronto. Because he showed no sign of needing to be in Springfield — he didn’t check in with the gear of a hydro worker or a tree-marker; didn’t seem to be looking for work at the saw mills or the truck yards – he was noticed.


During the next two days McAllister was seen shopping at Murphy’s Sporting Goods, where he purchased packets of dehydrated food and some propane tanks. And the Stedman’s department store, where he purchased wool socks, long underwear and several toques. He used the business suite on the second floor of the Grainger several times, where there was free wi-fi. Many of the staff in the hotel recall him working on a laptop.


On his third day in Springfield he checked out of the hotel and took a cab to the parking lot of the Mission Road trailhead. His mother reported him missing two days later.


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Music Lessons


Little girl asked if I could show her Mary Had a Little Lamb.


No problem.




Really, select a note any note.


She pressed F. We started ma/ry/had (F, D# C#), she worked it a few times.


She said I like to make things up.


That’s a sign of a composer. Let’s make something up.






We played a little improvisation then changed her mind returned to Mary Had a Little Lamb. Kept attacking the notes vertically with her fingers and wrist in the same line like a knife stabbing. Asked her to try balancing a miniature plate on her hand which made her hands horizontal with the keys more pianistic but this was also a little exhausting. Took a break and made small talk, she has a lot to say. Wishes she could speak French but her school won’t allow it until she’s in grade 6. She said her parents both speak other languages and when she was younger in daycare she could count to 30 in Chinese.


Could I hear you count in Chinese?


I don’t remember anymore. You know what else? My parents were going to take me to China one time but they changed their mind at the airport so we didn’t go.






Did you know the black notes on the piano are a scale that is used in a lot of Chinese music?




Really. Let’s make something up on the black notes, play anything just black notes and I’ll back you up.






Proceeded to make something slow, melodic and pentatonic. Her mother noticed from the kitchen and walked into the room listening and beaming that her daughter was doing this.


I said to the mother I heard you guys almost went to China. She looked at her daughter and then me,


We’ve never been to China. I don’t know why she makes things up like that.


Should I or shouldn’t I tell her? Kid’s a composer just practising making it up.


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Running from the Dead


“I’m looking for a girl. She’d be under twenty, around five-feet tall, and wearing a lot of make-up.”


Diane flashed a look over Jones’ shoulder; probably at Sheena who was still out of earshot. She turned up the volume. “You’re looking for a girl?”


Jones held up his hands. “I’m not looking for a girl, Diane. I think this girl might be in trouble.”


Diane looked Jones over. “You a cop or something?”


“I’m a something.”


From her tone, Jones could tell that the possibility of a yes had excited her; his answer left her feeling confused. “What does that mean?”


“I’m a private investigator.”


Diane laughed. “Shut up. That’s not a real thing.”


“It is,” Jones said. “So tell me, Diane, do you remember a girl under twenty with a lot of eye make-up in here in the last four days?”


Diane thought about it for a second and then she laughed. “Hey, how’d you know my name was Diane? You really must be a private investigator.” She put her hand on his arm again. “A good one.”


“The girl,” Jones said.


Diane leaned closer and laughed. “Oh, right. Duh. I’m such a scatterbrain. It’s the wine,” she leaned in a little closer. “I get into so much trouble when I have too much.” With her hand still on Jones, she said, “Let me think.” Her thumb moved back and forth over the fabric of his jacket. When she spoke, her voice was quiet—an invitation to come closer and share a secret. “I think I might remember someone like that. Why don’t you buy me a drink and we can talk about it?”


“You think you saw her?”


Diane smiled. “Maybe.”


“She would have been left handed.”


Diane looked. Jones caught her.




Jones shook his head. “Nothing to be sorry about. I’m not left handed. Listen, why don’t you let me buy you that drink.”


Diane smiled wide. “If you insist.”


“I do.”


The promise of a drink loosened the grip on Jones’ arm. He watched Diane walk back to her table with a lot of hip thrown into her gait.


“I gotta ask. How the hell do you know she’s left handed?”


Jones looked over his shoulder and saw that Sheena had made her way back. “The smudges,” he said. “Her knuckles made them when her hand moved to the right.”




Jones turned and rested his elbows on the counter. “The place she picked to write was another dead giveaway. No righty would have picked that spot. It would have been too hard to write there. That’s why most of the other tags are in the middle of the door.”


“What are you, some kind of handwriting expert.”


Jones smiled and lifted his arm. “Used to be left handed.”


Sheena looked at the empty jacket sleeve unimpressed. Jones put it down and instantly liked her more than he had a second before. She rested her back against the prep-counter opposite Jones and crossed her arms. “Are you really a private investigator? Like in the movies?”


Jones shook his head. “If this were the movies, I’d have already the case solved.”


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Bitter Paradise

Bitter Paradise

A Dr. Zol Szabo Medical Mystery
More Info


Max watched Hosam end the call and scowl into some dark, forbidding place. It was like he was staring into a black hole – Monocerotis or maybe CygnusX-1 – in a far-away section of the Universe. Behind him, the dusky red spatters on the front door looked almost dry, but the splotches on the picture window still glistened.


“What did he say?” Max called from his chair at the back of the shop. “Is he…” His voice cracked on him like a frog’s stupid croak. Being fourteen, that happened a lot. “Is he coming?”


Hosam seemed incapable of hearing, his mind somewhere in the next galaxy. But his thumb was in this one, and it was stroking his thick black moustache. His comb and scissors were here too, poking from the pocket of his blood-soaked apron.




The front-desk phone was still tight in his fist, and there was no missing Marwan's blood clotted on the keypad. A moment later, Hosam jerked his head like he was tumbling out of a bad dream three thousand lightyears away. Steadying himself against the desk, he put down the phone and rubbed the back of his neck, staining it with more of Marwan’s blood. Hosam’s deep-set eyes, usually a light greyish-blue, were as dark as the muzzles on a pair of Stormtrooper E-11 Blasters set to fire.


Finally, he blinked. “Yes, Max. Your father, he says he is coming.”


“Right now?”




Inshallah, that was for sure. Even though Max and his dad never went to church, he hoped God or Allah was pulling hard on whatever strings it took to get Dad there fast.


Max pressed the facecloth against his forehead. Hosam had given it to him a few minutes earlier after he’d examined the gash and said Max was going to need stitches. For now, Hosam said, Max should keep pressure on the wound. Hosam also said he’d have to cut Max’s hair another day. Travis’s turn in Hosam’s chair had finished seconds before the incident, so his low fade was already done. The two boys were now sitting side by side in the chairs where clients normally waited for their barber to call them. Today had turned out to be anything but normal.


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Postmark Berlin


“And so, because you drank yourself senseless, you weren’t here for our parishioner Meika Keller. She came looking for you here at ten o’clock last night. Said you had agreed to see her.”


What? What was he saying? Meika Keller? Had she been talking to Brennan recently? Yes, of course. It was just . . . when? Yesterday, wasn’t it? He tried to clear his head.


“What did she say to you?” the bishop asked now.


“Say to me? When?”


“For the love of God, Brennan, wise up here. What did she want to talk to you about?”


“I don’t ….” It was coming back to him through the haze now. The woman had been chatting with him at Saint Mary’s University, where she was a professor and Brennan a part-time lecturer. As Meika was leaving the campus, she asked if she could come and speak with him. Could she meet him that night after a charity event of some kind that she had to attend. That would have been last night.


“What time is it?” Brennan asked now.


“It’s too late, Brennan. That’s what time it is.”


“No, no, I’ll see her. Just let me . . .”


“Was it a confession she asked for, Brennan? At least, tell me that.”


He tried to reconstruct the conversation with Meika Keller. She was usually cheerful, witty, full of personality. She had always struck him as unflappable. Yesterday, though, her manner was different. There was something on her mind and it must have been serious, if she wanted to meet Father Burke at ten o’clock at night.


“I’m thinking yes, Dennis, she may have wanted to see me in the confessional. Well, I’ll track her down now and apologize and hear what she has to say. Maybe help put her mind at rest.”


“No, you won’t, Brennan.”


Something in Cronin’s manner gave Brennan a chill. “What is it, Dennis?”


“At seven thirty-five this morning, Meika Keller’s body washed up on the beach at Point Pleasant Park.”


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Though the Heavens Fall


Chapter I


Monty Collins


It was Tuesday, January 24, 1995, and Monty Collins was on assignment in Belfast. He was defending a lawsuit filed against a Canadian-owned company that had a large farm equipment factory on the outskirts of the city, and he had secured a temporary placement with a Belfast law firm by the name of Ellison Whiteside. Monty’s office was in the city centre near Queen’s Square, with a window looking out on the Gothic-style Albert Memorial Clock, which stood over one hundred feet high in the square. He did some paperwork on the farm equipment file and conferred with a couple of local clients, then left the office for lunch in the company of two fellow lawyers from Ellison Whiteside. It was their habit, and would now be his, to head over to McHughs bar, no apostrophe, for a pint and a bite to eat. Wisely, his companions had brought umbrellas for the short walk in the cold winter rain; Monty turned up the collar of his jacket and kept his head down till they reached the bar. They got the last vacant table and ordered soup, sandwiches, and pints of Guinness. It was apparent that the pub regulars had got an early start to the day. Two old fellows were having a row over the leek and potato soup, specifically about what leeks were and where they were grown.


“They’re in the same family as onions. And garlic.”


“In yer hole, they are! Where are we, Ireland or Italy?”


“You’re not even in Ireland!” someone declared from the bar.


“Those are fightin’ words, Charley. Every inch of land on this island is Ireland, and every blade of grass growin’ on it.”


“And every leek!” another guy chimed in. “And they’re green and white. Not a patch of orange on them at all.”


Soup grew cold but pints were consumed before their ideal temperature altered for the worst.


Monty enjoyed a few laughs with his colleagues until they departed for a meeting. He sat and finished his meal. When he was about to get up, he saw a man slide off his barstool and come towards him. He had a wild crop of white hair and stubble on his face, and he appeared to be in his late seventies.


“Those fellas with you were from Ellison Whiteside, am I right, sir?”


“That’s right.”


“You’re new here.”


“Yes, I am.”


“What part of America are you from?”


Monty and other Canadians got that all the time. Everyone assumed they were from the United States. A very few people could discern a Canadian accent, often making the comment that it was softer than the American. Maura was recently told that hers was “sweeter.” No surprise there, Monty supposed; Cape Breton speech often sounded like a mix of Scottish and Irish. He addressed the man in McHughs and said, “I’m from Canada.”


“Oh, I beg your pardon. My mistake. No offence intended.”


“None taken.” And if offence had been taken, Monty was too much the polite Canadian to say so.


The man lowered his voice then. “You’re a solicitor with Ellison’s?”


“That’s right.”


“Well, I have a matter I’d like to discuss with you. A highly confidential matter.”


“I keep all my work confidential.”


“Very good, as it should be. And it’s good to have somebody new in town. The solicitors here have become a wee bit cynical. Worn down by all the violence, you know.”


“Town” sounded somewhere between “tine” and “tarn,” “bit cynical” like “but sunnacal,” “violence” like “vayalence.” Monty nodded in acknowledgement.


“So could I have an appointment with you? Without delay?”


Might as well get it over with today. “Sure, come in after lunch. Ask at the desk for me. My name is Collins, Monty Collins.”


“Interesting combination, sir. Sounds as if you’ve a Brit and a lad from County Cork in your family tree.”


“I have both; you are correct.”


“I’ll see you this afternoon.”


Monty paid for his meal and his pint and returned to his office, where he sat reading the file of a man who claimed he had tripped coming out of the loo in his local bar and had fallen on his knees. Monty could imagine how popular this man — and his solicitor — would be if they took a well-loved publican to the law over something like this. It was hardly the life-and-death legal drama he was accustomed to in the courts at home, defending clients who faced the possibility of life in prison for murder. He shook away those thoughts and started to reach for another of his files when the firm’s receptionist popped her head in the door. “Mr. Malone would like to see you, Monty.” She rolled her eyes.


“Sure, show him in.”


She mouthed the words “good luck” and went back out to reception. Then Mr. Malone, the man from McHughs, was in his doorway. He reached around and closed the door ever so quietly and sat in one of the two client chairs in front of Monty’s desk.


“So, Mr. Malone . . .”




“Hughie. How can I help you?”


“You can help blow the lid off one of the biggest cover-ups the wee statelet called ‘Northern Ireland’ has ever known!”


“Cover-up,” Monty repeated.


“A cover-up at the highest levels is what I suspect.”


“I see.”


Hughie sat there nodding his head.


The old cover-up story again. This was not a new experience for Monty, nor for others in his profession. In fact, in a certain kind of case, with a certain kind of client, the client typically goes through a series of lawyers as each one drops his case for lack of merit. That often results in the disgruntled client lodging a complaint with the Bar Society or commencing a lawsuit against the lawyer on completely bogus and fantastical grounds. In virtually every case, the lawyer is accused of “being in on it,” that is, being part of a conspiracy with another party or parties to the complaint, along with other lawyers, the Crown prosecutors, and the judges. It is not unusual for the CIA to crop up in these allegations and, until recently, the KGB. Sometimes aliens had a hand in things as well. These cases often resulted in the client representing himself and foisting on the courts hundreds, even thousands, of pages of the claimant’s ramblings, on everything from his conspiracy theories to his revelations on the meaning of life and the universe. The self-represented litigant. As the old saying goes, “He who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”


“Tell me what has you concerned,” Monty urged him, against his better judgment.


“In the wee hours of November the fourteenth, 1992, my niece’s husband, Eamon Flanagan that was, fell off the Ammon Road Bridge and drowned. This happened the same night, and in the same vicinity, as a fatal shooting, which has never been solved. That same dark, early morning, Eamon just happened to fall off the bridge and drown.”


“Why do you believe this was something other than just an unfortunate accident?”


“There is no justice in the artificial state known to the world as Northern Ireland.”


“Yes, but in this instance, what do you think really happened to this man?”


“He was attacked and then thrown or pushed off the bridge.”


“What evidence do you have of that?”


“If you don’t mind me saying so, Mr. Collins, you sound like all the rest of them.” Signed lake all the rust o’ thum.


“This happened over two years ago. If things went as you believe they did, why has nothing been done before now?”


“Others have refused to take on the case.” Of course. That’s why he homed in on Monty, the new solicitor in town. The blow-in from away. “They’re afraid of losing their livelihood. Or worse.”


“That doesn’t exactly encourage me, Mr. Malone.”


“This statelet, this wee bastard of a political entity, is kept in place by fear. Terror from above.”


Monty had no desire to open that particular door, so he tried to steer the conversation back to the facts. If there were any. “What is it you know, which makes you think this was not an accident?”


“The injuries on the body.”




“Blunt force trauma to his leg and other parts of him.”


“And that tells you what?”


“That he was struck by a powerful force before he went off that bridge.”


“Or he suffered trauma in the fall. The structure of the bridge, perhaps, or rocks below? I don’t have the advantage of seeing the post-mortem report, so there’s nothing I can say about that.”


“Katie has it.”




“His daughter. May I send her in to see you?”


Every cell in Monty’s body cried out No! But, trying to stifle a sigh, he said, “Sure. Send her in.”


Malone nodded and stood up and left the office.


Monty got busy for the rest of the afternoon and put the Hughie Malone visit out of his mind. He would not hold his breath waiting for the dead man’s daughter, if there was a daughter, to make an appearance in the offices of Ellison Whiteside, solicitors, Belfast.



Monty Collins and Maura MacNeil had come to Ireland because of Monty’s work on behalf of Canadian Earth Equipment Inc., which was one of the biggest clients of his law firm in Halifax, Stratton Sommers. The lawsuit against the company had been launched by farmers and “agribusinesses” — Monty hated that word; it made him lose his appetite — who claimed that their equipment wore out prematurely because of manufacturing defects. It was a multi-million dollar claim. Canadian Earth insisted that the fault lay not with its processes but with the company that supplied the metal for the equipment. Monty’s role would be to gather evidence and statements from the vast manufacturing complex to use in its defence and in the third party claim against the metal supplier. Stratton Sommers expected him to get this done and return home by early May. The fact that he was a Queen’s Counsel at home in Nova Scotia with more than two decades of experience gave him a leg up when it came to meeting the qualifications to practise law in the North of Ireland. Monty was pleased to have been chosen for the overseas posting, but it had to be said that his partners and associates had not exactly been queuing up in the hopes of snagging this assignment. It was not Paris, not Rome, but Belfast in the midst of the Troubles. With that in the forefront of his mind, Monty had done his research; the flat he had rented was close to the university and the Botanic Gardens, a part of the city that had been spared much of the horror of the past quarter century. A ceasefire had been in place since August, but nobody knew how long it would hold.


He and Maura had agonized over whether she and the children should accompany him. They settled on Dublin for her and the two youngest kids, Normie and Dominic. Normie was eleven going on twelve and Dominic was three. The oldest boy, Tommy Douglas, was attending university at home in Halifax. Maura had arranged a leave of absence from her job as a professor at Dalhousie Law School in Halifax, and she had been taken on as a part-time lecturer at the University College of Dublin’s law school. The family had been in Ireland before, but law courts and law books had not been part of the earlier trip.


Monty had spent three days in Dublin, at the little row house Maura had found on the city’s north side, before he headed north to Belfast to start work. He had leased a nifty little Renault hatchback from Burke Transport, and he left the city with assurances that the family would all be together again soon. It was a pleasant two-hour drive through rolling green fields. He was stopped at a border checkpoint, but the army — that being the British Army — did not detain him long.


Ellison Whiteside was a firm of solicitors specializing in civil litigation, and the arrangement was that Monty would work a few cases for the firm in addition to his work for Canadian Earth. This provided an interesting change of focus. In Halifax, he was a defence lawyer trying cases in the criminal courts. Or representing defendants and their insurance companies in civil trials, taking the position that the person claiming injury was barely hurt at all, that there was nothing wrong with the plaintiff beyond a few minor aches and pains, and that he or she was not entitled to retire from the workforce at the defendant’s expense. Now, here in Belfast, he worked mainly on the plaintiff side. Now he’d be the one claiming that the injured party would never work again, My Lord, because of the pain in his back, neck, leg, head, or little finger. He had to admit that the work wasn’t as exciting as winning acquittals in high-profile murder trials, but the sojourn in Belfast would be an adventure, he was sure.


There was somebody else who had a hand in this whole scheme, and that was Father Brennan Burke. The priest was practically a part of the Collins-MacNeil family now. Born in Dublin, he had a big extended family in Ireland. Although he was a frequent visitor to the country, he had always wanted to spend a longer stretch of time here. Brennan had originally intended to stay in Dublin but with prompting from some of his northern Republican relations who had never recognized the border — “It’s all Ireland, Brennan” — he decided on Belfast. That way, he said, “I can make sure that Monty will continue to receive the sacraments. And he’ll never be alone when it’s time to raise a glass after hours.” So he signed on to assist the other priests at a church in the north part of the city, and he would be staying with a cousin by the name of Ronan Burke.



Monty had made plans to go for an early pub supper with Brennan. Brennan expressed an interest in seeing Monty’s new residence, so they met there. He had the downstairs flat in a typical red-brick Victorian terrace house with projecting bay windows, on Camden Street near Queen’s University. They headed out from there, walked through the university district, and came to the shore of the River Lagan. Fortunately, the weather had changed, as it did frequently during any one day in Belfast, and the river shone in the setting sun, reflecting the flame-coloured sky above. They kept to the Lagan’s bank for a while and then turned into the streets of a neighbourhood Brennan called the Markets. A Nationalist area of brick houses with Republican murals and the green, white, and orange Irish tricolour, which would most likely be described here as green, white, and gold. People were out of their houses chatting and enjoying the late afternoon warmth. Monty and Brennan greeted them and were greeted in return.


They then left the residential area and found themselves on a busy street fronted by an imposing Portland stone building with columns and multi-paned windows. Monty had had a glimpse of the building on a short trip to Belfast three years earlier; it was a sight you wouldn’t forget. It was the High Court, its noble elevation marred by the enormous concrete blast wall that surrounded it. When would they be able to dismantle the wall? When would they deem it safe from car bomb attacks? Was there really a chance that peace would prevail at last?


“Some of our greatest buildings are those dedicated to the ideal of justice and the rule of law,” Brennan said.


“And rightly so,” Monty agreed. “Fiat justitia ruat caelum.”


“Well, we’re in a place now where justice and the rule of law have been taking a thumping for over twenty-five years.”


“Longer than that, I suspect.”


“Much longer indeed. Centuries. But you’re an officer of the courts now, Collins. You’ll put things to rights.”


“Yeah, with my trip and fall cases. Those are my files these days when I’m not sorting through cartons of papers from the equipment manufacturer. At least these cases won’t get me killed. Or so I would hope.”


“Nothing too thrilling yet, I guess?”


“Could be worse.”


He and Brennan continued on their walk, keeping an eye out for a place to enjoy some pub food for supper, and they found what they were looking for at the Garrick, a beautiful old bar with dark wood and gleaming fittings, dating back to Victorian times. As they sipped their pints and waited for their meal to be served, Monty asked, “So you’re settling in at your cousin’s place? You don’t miss rectory life and Mrs. Kelly?” Mrs. Kelly was the priests’ housekeeper in Halifax. A nervous, fussy woman, she made no secret of her disapproval of Father Burke for reasons too numerous to mention.


“I imagine the screws in the Crumlin jail would be easier to take than Mrs. Kelly,” he said. “But all that aside, it’s lovely staying at Ronan and Gráinne’s. Plenty of room. Aideen’s the youngest; she’s at university in Galway. Tomás is about to be married and is living just around the corner, so he calls in for visits. Lorcan is rooming with some other lads in a flat off the Falls Road. I’ve a nice, comfortable room upstairs at Ronan’s, so it’s grand.”


“I understand Ronan works for Burke Transport, northern division?”


“He does. Part-time, a few mornings a week. He used to run it but he was, well, away for a stretch of time. Or two.”


“I see.”


“So somebody else runs the place and he’s there about half the time. His son Tomás is full-time, though. Does the books. Studied business and accounting, all that, in college. But Ronan wouldn’t be able to devote all his time to the transport operation anyway. He has other activities that are taking up his energies.”


“His name pops up frequently in the news.”


“He’s in the thick of things with the ceasefire and with some extremely delicate machinations that are going on, to try and get a peace agreement.”


“Good luck to him.”


“He’ll be needing it. To the Unionists, any accommodation with us papists is a surrender. And one of their mottos, as you’ve seen on the murals, is ‘No Surrender!’”


“Unionist,” Monty knew, meant union with the United Kingdom, not with the rest of Ireland.


“They are already calling the process a sell-out. Sull-ite. But they can’t have been sold too far down the river, because the Republicans are calling it a sell-out, too. Or they assume it will be, from what they’ve heard to this point. So you can imagine the rocky road ahead of the fellas trying to strike a deal. Here’s Ronan, with the best intentions in the world, and he’s getting as much resistance from his own people as he is from their age-old enemies.”


“He’d better watch his back,” Monty remarked.


“God bless him and keep him.”


It was a familiar phrase, uttered frequently and without much thought. Not this time. Father Brennan Burke had the look of a very worried man.


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