His eyes glassy, Dan exhaled the smoke and waved at the walls. “These posters are all wrong. They should have Jimmy Dean! One of the black and white ones from Rebel. That reminds me. I’ve got a new tattoo.”
Dan passed the illegal cigarette for Parrot to inhale as he rolled up his sleeve. He displayed his well developed bicep. The words ‘Little Bastard’ in red and black flames with the letters J.D. underneath had been etched into it. Blood and ink mingled on his arm but he seemed not to notice. “Did you know we share the same birthday, the 8th of February? That’s strange, isn’t it? I want to act like him. Do you think I have the looks? Can I make it in the big time?”
Parrot looked him up and down but said nothing. He returned the burning ember to his friend and stretched out on the broken backed sofa, his hands behind his head.
“Is that a hint, brother? You want to sleep? Why didn’t you just say so? Do I have to be a fecking mind reader? I’ll be off and collect you in the morning.” Dan extinguished the exhausted joint and got to his feet, stretching high. He had a handsome face and a lean body, like his hero. He knew how to make an impression, but struggled to hide his attractiveness, afraid of the accusation of pride or boastfulness. For the most part, he tried to keep a low profile, famous only to his friends. He paused in the unlit room, with only candles for light, his senses alert. “Did you hear something? I did.”
Parrot yawned and pulled his coat closer around him, settling down for the night.
A shadow appeared in the kitchen doorway. “I hope you don’t mind. I let myself in.”
Both young men recoiled instantly. The figure standing in front of them was Connor Ellmann, the most feared IRA leader in their part of the city. Dan had never spoken to him but his reputation went before him. He was hated and feared in equal measure by outsiders. He had manned the Derry barricades in 1972 and his quarter of the ghetto had been the last to fall to the militia and they had inflicted heavy casualties on the forces who wanted to break their will and enter their fortress. His resistance had done nothing to harm his reputation. All Dan knew was that he spouted politics and frightened people. In the most heavily fortified IRA drinking den In Derry, Ellmann had his own seat reserved for him, one that no one else dared sit in when we was not there. The Bricks was his centre of operation, a spit and sawdust drinking hole that Dan and Parrot feared to enter. Some said he modelled himself on the Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, with his closely cropped hair, round glasses and plain clothing. Certainly, he looked foreign to the dark haired and dark featured denizens of Derry. He seemed devoid of emotion and looked old fashioned. It was said he had no vices, and disliked those who indulged themselves too much. He was fanatical about the armed struggle and had survived several attempts to kill him. Behind his back, his nickname was The Langer. He was reputed to have done away with over a dozen people. This gossip assailed Dan as the stranger stood there, on the edge of the room, pretending to be enjoying himself.