The night was bitterly cold, near freezing. It had been far too cold to sleep in my little room on the third floor of the Musgrave Street police station barracks. I managed to rise, dress in my uniform, shave and assemble in the squad room in time for my Midnight shift. I hated that spike pointed RIC police helmet. It made my neck hurt and made me look far too much like the Hun. As I walked from Musgrave Street station to my beat on the docks, I was very thankful for the warmth of my thick coat and comforted by the heavy weight I had slipped in my coat pocket.
The damp cold made my bones ache. I wanted a drink to warm my insides. Even more than that, I wanted a quiet night. My throat was sore. I was tired. The barracks’ breakfast tea was mop water that didn’t wake me. The baked beans, boxty and crumbs of what they called white pudding didn’t sit well either. I didn’t want anything to happen during my shift that I couldn't ignore.
The fog across the River Lagan was thick, white and murky. I patrolled my regular beat, trying the doors to check for burglars as I went. I crossed the Queen’s Bridge over the river and made it to the call box by the Custom House right at 2:00. I continued along Donnegall Quay and rang at 2:15 from the call box by the old railroad bridge along the quay. As I checked shop doors and walked towards the Harbour Commissioners for my 2:30 check-in, I felt something move. I shined my torch around and saw a small man with a grey cap behind a crate. “You there,” I called. “Come on out.” He didn’t come out. He ducked down, pulled a small gun and fired at me.
The world around me instantly became blind and stupid. Everything moved so slowly. I pulled the big revolver out of my coat pocket. I fired three times, but he kept shooting at me.
I retreated, firing twice more to keep him down. My helmet tumbled off my head. I had no time to care. He was IRA. He was there to ambush and kill me as if I were the Black and Tan that had murdered poor Father Michael Griffin. I ducked through an unlocked storm door. No time to reload. I had one last shot, one chance to live. He burst through the doorway. I slammed that heavy door on his gun arm and held it tight with all the might I had. He struggled and fired his gun. I put my gun to his head. As I watched his eyes plead for mercy, I pulled the trigger, splattering blood and brains and bone all over me.
He dropped his gun. I let go of the door and picked it up. He slumped to the ground. I could see the insides of his skull. I could see his brain and the big hole I had put in it. I had expected him to be dead, but his eyes followed me. He cried with a whimpering sound that I thought only a dying dog could make.
I had killed during the war, but it was never like this, never where I could see in his eyes and smell his sweat and the cheap whiskey on his breath, not where I had to watch him die an inch at a time. I screamed and screamed.
My wife Judith was shaking my shoulder. “Noah, Wake up. Wake up.”
I sighed, still shaking. My fingers hurt from having been clenched so hard. I looked across the room. The big green LED numbers on the clock radio read 2:17 am.
Little Esther and Leo opened our door and stared.
My lips trembled. My wife turned the light on and said: “Just go back to bed.”
After the children closed the door and returned to bed, she turned to me and said “Dear God, Noah. What are we going to do with you?”
I fought back my tears, shaking. I had no idea.
“Which one was it,” she finally said.
“You … what you did was self-defense and in the line of duty.”
Judith was right. It could have been one that was far, far worse. They say dying in your dreams was the worst nightmare. Death was nothing compared to things I remembered doing. I used to have very little dream recall. I wished for those days to return. Now every sight and every smell burned into my mind because I kept seeing the same horrors unfold over and over again. My nightmares seemed more real than my waking days.
“Did you take your happy pills before bed, Dear?”
I showed her the empty pill strip. Not that it mattered. The dreams seemed to be getting worse no matter how many pills the psychiatrists crammed into me. I honestly had no idea why my nights suddenly filled with battles and death. Why these dreams? Dying in pogroms in Kiev or went up the chimneys in Auschwitz at least that would make some sense.
She turned the light off. “Go back to sleep. Everything will be alright in the morning.”
I lay back because I wanted her to go to sleep but I was too afraid to sleep. It was as if my life had been invaded and was being taken over by horrors from another century. I had seriously considered making a pot of strong coffee so I could stay up but I knew that sleep deprivation would lead to complete madness. Finally, exhaustion took control of my mind.
It was a pleasant night, cloudy but with just the smallest spots of rain, the night of the August bank holiday. I walked along Whitechapel Road. It was well past Midnight. I had hunger no food can satisfy, but tonight I would earn my satisfaction.
I knew the bobbies would search for me. That is why I had taken simple preventative measures to see to it that they would never catch me. An old guardsman’s uniform purchased from a rag and bone man for half a shilling, a private to be even more invisible.
Another “guardsman” was out that night. He had a corporal’s stripes and wore the cap band of the Coldstream Guards. But his chest carried far too many medals. We eyed each other and as we made vague murmurs towards each other as our prey approached us. There were two of them, one young but harsh and far too man like and the other rather fat and ill.
“I get the young one,” my imitation superior said. I smiled. The fat one had always been my target.
“Half a shilling for a poke,” she said to me.
A poke it would be, but not the one the whore imagined. “Four pence, and a shot from my flask.”
We separated from the “corporal” and his choice. I followed her through the arch that led into George Yard and to the George Yard Buildings. We climbed the staircase up to the first-floor landing and into impenetrable darkness.
She lay down near a doorstep. “How about that drink first?” I let her drain the flask.
She raised her clothing to her middle. I lay down by her, quickly pulling the knife.
Written by DrBobSmith