Tuesday 7th March 3.30pm
Alan Buckley snatched at the phone without looking away from the VDU screen of his PC and cradled the receiver beneath his ear.
‘Yeah, Alan here.’
It was Carol at the front desk. ‘Alan, I’ve got a girl on the line for you. She refuses to give her name and says she has to speak to you urgently. What do you want me to do with her?’
‘Well, it sounds quite intriguing, Carol’, he said, turning away from the screen now and swinging his feet up onto the desk. ‘Put her through.’
Alan Buckley was 28 years old and the rising star of the Dublin press scene. Having joined the Dublin Evening News straight from college four years ago he had spent three of those years writing reports on school sports days and other such luminous events. His spare time however was spent delving into the thriving Dublin drug industry and when he presented his editor, Paul O’Neill, with an in-depth expose on one of the city’s leading crime figures O’Neill was impressed. Impressed enough to put it on the front page, a move, which eventually led to the conviction and imprisonment of several major players in the Dublin, drugs trade. It also led O’Neill to move Alan from the desk he shared with three other nobodies to the position of senior crime reporter.
‘Hello there, Alan Buckley here,’ he said when the call came through. ‘Mr. Buckley, my name is Anna McGahan and I want to talk to you about Michael Parker.’
Immediately she had Alan’s full attention. Swinging his feet down from the desk he flipped the switch on the mini tape recorder he kept constantly attached to his office phone. At his home in Inchicore, in the west of the city, was a similar device on his private line. Alan Buckley always went to great lengths when it came to protecting his sources but he knew that five minutes of tape might one day save him and his newspaper a lot of money if any of his high profile subjects decided to initiate a libel suit.
‘Okay, Miss, eh, McGahan, is it? What has the delightful Mr. Parker done now?’
‘Not on the ‘phone. Meet me this evening at the Gateway Bar. Do you know where that is?’
‘This is not how I normally do business Miss McGahan. I suspect you’ve been reading too many cheap detective novels,’ Alan came back.
‘Look, what I’ve got is really worth your while, but we do it my way or not at all. Now, do you know the bar?’
Alan grunted that he did.
‘7 o’clock tonight then,’ she said, hanging up before he could protest further.
Alan stared at the receiver briefly before replacing it in its cradle.
‘Jesus, who the hell is this crazy bitch?’ he asked himself as he pulled his diary from the top drawer of his desk, not to check if he was free tonight – Alan Buckley was always extremely organised and knew just who and where he was meeting for the next three weeks – but to record the planned meeting. This was his own form of insurance. When you met with the kind of unsavoury people that Alan often did it was wise to have a record of it somewhere. This prodded a thought in his mind. He had been putting a lot of pressure on the head of Dublin’s leading drugs gang lately. Was this a set up? Was he been lured to a trap for a little tête-à-tête with the wrong end of a baseball bat as had happened to a colleague on a rival paper recently? He decided to be careful, but as they were meeting in a public place he figured he should be all right.
‘Just don’t follow her down any dark alleys, Alan.’ He told himself as he turned back to the screen and resumed his typing.
6.45pm
Anna McGahan entered The Gateway bar on Harcourt Street, climbed onto a barstool and ordered a bottle of Budweiser. Waving away the glass offered by the barman she clenched the top of the neck in the joint of thumb and forefinger of her left hand and twisted the bottle in a cursory attempt to remove anything that might be lingering under the rim. Bringing the bottle to her lips she drank deeply before looking around the bar. It was quiet at this time on a Thursday, which was perfect. Not too many people about to observe the meeting but not so quiet that the barman would remember them very easily. Easing back in her stool she surveyed the bar slowly. She recognised nobody. She had chosen to meet here, as she was not a regular and to the best of her knowledge none of her friends were either. She had arrived fifteen minutes early so that she could check the place out thoroughly before the journalist arrived. She also wanted to choose where she would sit. She decided now on a table at the rear of the bar, which offered a clear view of the front door and most of the bar area, but which was a little detached from the tables near to it by the entrance to the toilet area. Taking her bottle she moved to the table and sat facing the front door.
At precisely 7.00pm Alan Buckley entered the bar and scanned the room. He spotted Anna immediately – she was the only lone female in the bar – and walked over to where she was sitting. Casually he slid into a chair opposite.
‘Hi. Anna?’ he enquired, offering his hand across the table.
‘Correct. You’re Alan, Right?’ She had seen his photo beside his by-line in the Evening News often enough to recognise him. Alan reached into the pocket of his jacket and produced a mini tape recorder and placed it on the table between them.
‘Well you can forget that for a start’, she said, pointing at the recorder. ‘Are you crazy, or something?’
‘I like to back up all my sources’, he said defensively.
‘Look, everything that happens between you and me is strictly off the record. OK. As far as I’m concerned we’ve never met and anything that passes between us never happened. If this gets out the best that could happen to me is that I might get away with just losing my job. Anyway I’ve got nothing to tell you. Wait’, she said as Alan began to rise from his chair, ‘I don’t know exactly what he’s up to but I can find out. As I say I’ve nothing for you right now. He’s got some files, I don’t know what’s in them, but he never lets anyone near when he’s working on them and he keeps them well hidden at the apartment.
‘All right,’ he said, resuming his seat and returning the recorder to his pocket, ‘you’ve got my attention. You can get your hands on these files?’
‘Shouldn’t be a problem, but I’d have to get them back pretty sharp. If he finds they’re missing he’ll come straight to me.’
‘OK. So I presume you’re not going to do all this simply out your love of democracy and fair play. What’s in it for you?’ ‘Ten grand – in cash, and that’s not negotiable.’ she said taking another draught of her beer.
‘Hey, slow down. This is not Watergate, you know, and I don’t work for the Washington Post’, he said incredulously. ‘This will be the biggest news story in years if it gets out, and you know it’, she said.
‘I don’t know anything of the sort. All I have so far are vague promises and your word that Parker is up to something big, and let’s face it, the word of someone seeking a bribe for information…’
‘What exactly does that mean?’ Anna said, angrily, bringing her beer down hard on the table, causing people at nearby tables to turn and look at them.
‘It means,’ said Alan, ignoring the glances ‘that I know nothing about you. You arranged this meeting; you asked for the money and so far you’ve shown me fuck all worth getting excited about. For all I know I’m being set up by Parker. He’s already in a tight spot and revealing a media plot against him would really take the heat off for a while, wouldn’t it? At least ‘til after the election anyway. So, Miss McGahan, it’s time to shit or get off the pot. If you’ve got something let’s see it. If not stop wasting my time and yours, OK’
With that Alan stood, nodded goodnight, and strode to the door.
‘Shit’, Anna swore. She hadn’t expected this at all. Now what was she supposed to do. She knew little enough about Alan and now thanks to her, he had the scent of a story on Parker. If he decided to follow it up himself and Parker got wind of it he would eventually come asking questions. Those were questions Anna really didn’t want to have to answer. Jumping from her seat she followed Alan through the door. Looking up and down the street she saw him walking to his car and raced after him.
‘Alan, wait’, she called as he reached the car and began to unlock the driver’s door. ‘Alan’, she called again and he turned as he sat into the seat. A moment later she reached him, breathless, and steadied herself on the door as she tried to catch her breath
‘You look like you could do with a sit down’; he laughed, reaching over to unlock the passenger door. ‘Get in’
Anna walked around the car and collapsed into the seat.
‘Keep up the aerobics. It’s doing you the world of good,’ he joked.
‘Very funny,’ she said. ‘OK. Here’s the deal. You’re not going to put anything up ‘til you see some evidence. I can’t have you running around making enquiries that might jeopardise my position.’
‘So’, he asked.
‘So I’ll get you some goddamn info. Now you listen. I’m taking a considerable risk doing this so I want five grand on delivery, you can view the stuff first, but you don’t copy anything ‘til I see some money.’
‘That’s it?’ he asked.
‘Yeah.’
He pulled a business card from his pocket, scribbled a number down on the back, and placed it on the dashboard. ‘That’s my mobile. When you have something, ring me. I’ll talk to my editor and see can I arrange something about the money.’
‘No way.’ she said, ‘I don’t want anyone else knowing about this’.
‘Jesus Christ. I can’t just walk in, ask him for five grand and tell him nothing’.
‘Nobody knows but you and me’, she insisted. ‘I can’t take the chance of Parker finding out, for God’s sake’.
‘OK, you drive a hard bargain. I’ll give you that much, and I do have to admire your balls in even coming near me with this. I’ll talk to O’Neill and I’ll be extremely vague. If he says no that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned. That’s the best I can do, OK.
‘I’ll be in touch,’ she said taking the card and climbing out of the car. She began walking towards St. Stephen’s Green and hailed a passing cab. ‘I’ve got to get a real job,’ she told herself as she headed back to Parker’s office to work late for the third time in as many nights

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