Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, August 25, 2012

All My Sins Remembered

Awhile back I wrote something set in my proverbial backyard, in the Gatineau Hills. It was a sequence involving a murder, late at night, on the grounds of the Mackenzie King estate, a place that's open to the public. If you haven't seen it, the original sequence ended up in a blog, which is right here. The sequence will feature early on in A Cold Day In Hell, which will be the third book down the line. The primary antagonist of that book, a terrorist named Cain Reilly, has been introduced in Heaven & Hell (it's really useful writing a series, you can lay the groundwork for future works). The passage I'd originally posted would be the beginning of the present day action, I think, and represents the settling of a score.

Some weeks ago for a writer's meeting, I stepped further back in time and wrote the reason why Cain and his sister would want to settle a score in the first place. That passage will, in time, be the very beginning of A Cold Day In Hell. And so without ado, I present it to you below. Give it a read, and let me know what you think.

Just a word of advice: probably best not to read this one with a weak stomach....

Belfast, Northern Ireland

              He saw the hot steel come closer, and tried to brace himself for the pain. A moment later, it was pressed against his right side, and Peter Reilly screamed in pain, clamping his eyes shut. The heat finally faded away, and he realized the steel had been withdrawn. He opened his eyes, looked at the men before him, saw the contempt, the cold, hostile expressions. He wanted to kill all of them, but he knew that wasn’t to be. Reilly understood he was the only one who would meet a bad end tonight.
            The bastard who had applied the heat to him stood closest; he was a bear of a man, brown hair, blue eyes. Like the others, he was dressed casually, jeans and light shirts, their jackets somewhere else. It was much too hot here to be overdressed, and the man was sweating. He wore a thick utility glove over his left hand, and clutched a steel bar, its tip slowly fading from the glow of heat. Where did he heat it up? Reilly had to ask himself. All around them were large furnaces, vats of molten steel that lit up the large space in a reddish glow, a foundry setting. Reilly wondered if this was one of the foundries in Belfast... he remembered being knocked out while walking in the early evening, on his way to confer with some of his colleagues at a pub on the Falls Road. He tried to jog his memory, to figure out if he had ever been here before.
            There were five other men. Four of them were like the first; the enforcers, the muscle. They were the sort of men who took orders, broke legs, and shot anyone else their boss told them to shoot. Reilly recognized them, though from the heat and the pain in his side, he couldn’t draw their names out of his memory. Not quite yet, he thought to himself. The last man, however, he knew very well. Jamie O’Shea was the furthest away, but he was the man in charge. A cell leader in the Provisional Irish Republican Army, he was a handsome man, late thirties, with curly brown hair and hard blue eyes. Reilly considered him to be the enemy, a vicious, sadistic bastard if ever there was one.
            He felt chains at his wrists, suspended above him, his bare feet barely touching the floor of the factory, his lean, muscular torso aching from the strain and the lingering pain of the wound. They had stripped his shirt away, leaving his pants when they had chained him up. Glancing above, he saw the chains at his wrists, suspended five feet from an overhead mechanical claw, lowered from the ceiling. Reilly felt the sweat at his brow, his unruly red hair wet with perspiration. He was in his late thirties, like O’Shea, and had blue eyes- very Irish, he would have thought. And he shared a profession in common with his enemy, but that was all. Reilly was a feared cell leader in the Ulster Volunteers, had long since established a reputation as a ruthless enforcer, fighting a guerrilla war with the IRA and any Republican activist he deemed a target.
            Reilly looked around, saw a vat of molten steel off to the right, and could feel the heat even from here. The claw ran on a cable line going directly over it, and he realized what they intended to do. Bloody cowards, he thought, glaring at their faces. You’ll remember me, you bastards. And you’ll pay for this. He tightened his face, swore to himself not to let them see any sign of weakness. It was one thing to yell in pain when they inflicted it; it was another to beg for mercy. They wouldn’t give him any.
            He thought, just for a moment, of his children. He had three of them- that he knew of- from different mothers. His sons were older, enough that he thought of them as men. His daughter was just a child. Her mother kept her away from him, had wanted no part of his world for their child. Was she right? He shook his head. Don’t, Peter. What’s done is done. Regretting it now... it’ll make you weak. These bastards will use it against you. Don’t give them that.
            “And so here we are, Peter,” O’Shea said with a smirk, his accent very much the southern Irish variety, unlike Reilly’s hard Ulster accent. “The end of the line, at least for you.” Reilly stared at the man, seeing the amused expression in his eyes.
You bastard, he thought. Do you really think you’ve won? You think it ends with me? That brought out a smile. My sons will learn what you’ve done, Jamie. And one day, you’ll meet the bad end that you’ve got coming. Reilly laughed, despite the pain in his side. “I’ll meet you in Hell, you Fenian bastard.”
“Finn, get him up,” O’Shea ordered. The man who’d driven the hot steel into his side set that down on a table, and picked up a bulky box, linked to a wire, with some buttons on it. He pressed one button, and Reilly felt himself being lifted from the floor, up towards the roof of the foundry. The chains stopped moving up, and Finn pressed another button. The mechanical claw started moving Reilly off to the right, towards the vat of molten steel. He saw the hellish mix of yellow-orange light, the liquid steel that would spell his end. Damn it, there won’t even be anything of me to bury, he thought, feeling the horrendous heat as he moved closer, hanging overhead. “You lost, Peter. And I won,” O’Shea called out, laughing. “Give my regards to your Prod friends in Hell.”
Reilly looked back towards him, feeling the machinery come to a stop overhead. He was directly above the molten vat, the heat overwhelming. He wondered if he’d be dead before dropping into the steel. “You’ll pay for this,” he shouted. “Every one of you!”
“Drop him,” O’Shea said, still smirking, as if he found it funny. Finn pressed one last button. Reilly glanced up above, and saw the claw opening up, the chains coming loose from their grip, and felt himself starting to fall towards the steel below. He couldn’t even manage a scream.

O’Shea smiled to himself, watching Reilly plunge downward. He thought Reilly might have caught fire in mid air, but wasn’t sure. The body dropped into the vat, there was a bit of splatter of molten steel on the floor around it, and then stillness. And that’s that, he thought to himself. Good riddance to the bastard. Who knows, Peter? Whatever traces of your body are left might make part of a good bridge sometime.
He glanced around at his men, all of them with hard faces. There were others outside, keeping any workers who might be about this time of night away. O’Shea knew the owner and the manager of the place- both solid supporters of the Cause- but there was no accounting for a stray worker at one of the other foundries on the property who might wander in. It was just as well to post men to watch for anyone approaching. Not that he thought he would have needed it. And the job was done. Peter Reilly’s roasting in Hell right about now, he told himself, a satisfied smile on his face.
“Come on, lads,” he told the others. “Time to celebrate.”


  1. This is going to be a great opening...but definitely not for the squeamish.

    You're as good as any of the guys currently making the New York Times bestseller lists. Better, actually.

  2. I agree with Norma. Shades of Dumas!

  3. Wow! Powerful stuff! Definitely makes for a great beginning to what seems a dark story.

    Great job!

  4. Having a weak stomach, I read at my own risk. You sent shivers down my spine: incredible beginning to a great novel!

  5. Riveting!! Wish I could turn thre page for more!

  6. Excellent! I think I need to go pee now. I had to hold it to finish reading it hoping the guy would escape the molten steel. Sadistic.

  7. Powerful start, William. Bravo.


  8. Blimey!!! Poor Reilly! :-(

    I'm such a girly and did the readerly equivalent of watching a gruesome movie through my fingers!

    Take care

  9. That's a great opening, William - you had me hooked. And I could picture the setting, too. It's beautiful there.

  10. @Norma & Eve: thank you!

    @Beth: it'll definitely be dark...

    @UnderCover: shivers down the spine was what I was going for!

    @Maria: thanks!

    @Shelly: the poor guy had to bite the dust, so to speak...

    @Eden & Demitria: thanks!

    @Old Kitty: What a way for him to buy the farm...

    @Lorelei: thanks!

  11. Talli, I'd love to see Belfast. I wrote a sequence late in Heaven & Hell set at the Europa hotel that I really liked. Back in the days of The Troubles, it had a reputation as the most bombed hotel in Europe.

  12. This awesome, William!! Glad I made it over in time to read it.
    I've been meaning to get over here sooner .... I've been a bad blogger buddy lately, but back in action now that school's in!!! Huzzah!!

  13. Great job, William. You definitely evoked emotion.

  14. A vivid and chilling account and a great introduction to your story. You are really amazing!

  15. Sounds like it'll be a good opening!

  16. @Pk and Kelly: thanks!

    @Lena: that's what I was going for!

    @Cheryl: when in doubt, toss a guy into molten steel.

  17. Great job, William. Powerful imagery. (I could feel the pain, yipes!) Really liked how you brought in the kids and where they were in life. Great contrasts here!

  18. Thanks, Kittie. I really wanted to go for the rawness of the moment. When I read this out loud to my writing group, there was complete silence over the phone. Everyone was in this moment of shock.


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