Angel of Hospitality

The R Hotel.

Simple, right?

The R for refuge.

At a hefty price.


Run by a legendary second generation Irish woman. Name of Nora. Her surname, she wasn’t giving that out, least not anytime soon. The stories, you got a babe, and fook, she was all of that, with a mouth like a fishwife, there were going to be stories. The current being, she’d gotten her set up money off a bent cop who she then gut shot. The guy lived and was still looking for her. No one had sold her out, yet.

If the story was true. Certainly no one was going to rat her out to the cops.

There are rules, flexible and very few but they exist.

1.….….…Tell the cops fook all.

2.….….……see above.

She came in at about 110 lbs, all of it lethal. Unusual for a broad of Irish descent, she was blond, with a rack to die for, terrific legs, and a face that missed being pretty due to a scar above her right eye.

Guys, with one boiler maker past caution, said it looked like a small angel. The booze talking. All I know is, it was livid and when she was pissed, which was often, it seemed to have a life of it’s own. But it was the eyes, dammit, eyes that haunted you. And no, that was without a few brews in me.  A deep blue, almost transparent. They shimmered, caught the light in odd ways so when you were talking to her, the eyes, seemed to dance in her head.

Horse shit?

You may be right.

I have no stake in selling her assets.

Did I have a jones for her?


I gave up that fools game when my wife fooked off with a guy from the UK.

A Brit.

Jesus wept.

A lesbian I could maybe stomach, even a regular guy but a Brit.

So, I want the urge dealt with, I phone up my hooker No 1, for five hundred I get round the world in one night and to have my bed to myself in the morning.

Guys say

Well guys say a lot of stuff, most it bollix. But their favorite

I never pay for sex.”

Don’t make me freaking laugh.

Fook on a bike.

Every guy pays, one way or another.

And a lot and incessantly.

But how I got there?

I was first generation Irish, had left the States in a Romantic  and Jameson haze to help the Cause.

The Irish sure saw us coming.

Them laughing… “Yah want to be a boyo, help the struggle, sure, here’s an Armalite, get your arse out there, show us your stuff.”

Put us on the front line.

Iraq, would have been safer.

The three other Yanks, even though we thought we real Irish, were always, regarded as real stupid to the Boyos.

Those three were gunned down with in a month.

I learned…quick.

Kept my head down, my mouth shut and my rifle on ready.

Took out a top guy in The Paratroopers. A dude they’d been after for months.

From the roof of a building in Derry, a shot they said couldn’t be made. The distance was too far. I’d had my rifle modified, without shouting about it. Made the shot and earned their respect if  “Holy Fuck!” is a good response.

I was in.

Then after a bloody fiasco, I had to leave fast, went back to the States, where I was supposed to raise funds.

I did, a lot, nigh on a quarter of a million.

Good huh?

And ran with it.


Oh yeah.

Bit I was tired.

Wanted out.

You don’t get to retire.

I figured, I was born in The USA, I’d know more about hiding out than the Boyos.

So, I was running, fast.

And heard of The R Hotel.

* * *

Situated just off Herald Square, but a shopper from Macy’s.

It was a shit hole, the Square that is, decrepit, seedy, and the only light being a lone Starbucks.

When you see Starbucks as some sort of light, you know how desperate it is to find something to say about an area that is fooked and gone.

A cautious hundred yards from there, is the hotel. You need to have been given the address or bought it.

I bought it.

I could see how you’d easily miss it. It was a Brownstone, rare in that part of the city. But you could tell immediately, this was no run down flop house. This was carefully renovated, freshly painted and more exit’s than Clinton’s career.

Sure sign of a safe house, exits.

I expected the front door to be locked, no. Went into a small foyer. Saw the biggest man I ever, swear to fook, ever saw. Not black or spic or even mulatto. Just mega and hostility oozing out of his pores.

Nora was behind the reception, I recognized her from all the stories I’d heard.

I had a beat up Gladstone bag, carried my worldly possessions. The money was strapped to my body and the gun, used to be your regular handgun but I like to modify them.

Now it had a slide, eighteen shots in the clip that slammed into the handle and a slide, made the velocity as accurate as you were going to get outside of The Texas Rangers.

She looked up, no expression, asked

Help you?”

Her intonation suggesting that help was the very last item on her dance card.

My hold-all was heavy and I went to put it down, she asked

You doing?”

Am, putting my bag on the floor.”

She fired a glance at the big guy, I fingered the customised in my waistband, she said

If you were staying, you could put the bag down but who confirmed that?”

Ah fookit.

A ball-buster.

I’d been married, I knew the drill.


Please, miss, may I stay in your fine establishment?”


She debated for a moment on whether to unleash the dog of war. I could sense he was good to go.

She did what she was to do, in the all too brief time I knew her, she surprised the hell out of me.

Went the opposite of what I was primed for, said

Pretty arrogant for an ugly fucker, yeah?”

God knows, I’m no gift, I know, my mother told me often enough. Used to holler

Sweet Jesus, what an ugly child!”

Yeah, like that.

My ex wife, an old movie’s buff, used to say, a lot

You look like Victor Mature, after the plastic surgery went down the toilet.”

I said

It isn’t arrogance when you can back it up.”

She liked that. Asked

Is that a quote?”

Cassius Clay.”

She looked at me, then

Interesting that you use his pre-Muslim name.”

I shrugged.  Then

How long can we expect to have the pleasure of your company?”

Who the fook knew.

I said

It’s flexible, can we do per week?”

We could and she named a figure.

Holy shit.

She was actually smiling, an invite, to what? asked

So, can you back it up…Cassius?”

I laid out the freight on the counter.

She took a key from the rack, said

Top floor, nice view and lot’s of space.”

I nodded.

I was heading for where I hoped some elevators might be when she threw

What you had in your waistband, Plato would have been faster.”



Welcome to the madhouse.

* * *

The elevator zinged and about to climb aboard when


I turned.

She tapped a heavy book on the counter, said


I gave a theatrical sigh, learned from the best, my ex, snapped

That necessary?”

A tiny smile, not of warmth, Jesus, maybe glee, sprinkled with malice. She said

Only if you want to stay here…or…”

Glanced at Plato.


He was grinning, gunning to go. I stomped back, my boot heels echoing on the mock Terrazzo floor. She turned the book to me. Christ, Thank God, I’d a pen.

To ask her?

No freaking way.

Plus, I was getting more a little tired of her mouth, gorgeous as it’s shape was.

I signed

Ralph Finnerty. Home…Ohio.”

She looked at it, asked

How is Ohio?”

You ever been?”


Then, it’s lovely.”

She glanced at my Claddagh Wedding band.  The heart turned out. Meant you were on the hunt and Sweet Jesus, the heart is a lonely  hunter. The days of predator as dust in the Ohio wind.

I said

Not no more.”

Her eyes, that deepest blue, reeling and a rocking in her head, asked

Couldn’t hack it, huh?”

I let that hover, seep it’s viciousness, said

Couldn’t hack her smart mouth.”

Did Plato smile?

* * *

The room was large by Manhattan standards. Meaning it was larger than a closet, just.

Joy though, a glass/door window, opened to the roof. Stepped out there, stood, calculated.


I was invisible to prying eyes, unless they had a helicopter. An old disused air conditioning vent was attached to the side of the building.

Looking good.

Prised a board back, oh sweet Lord, nearly perfect.

For storage.

I’d need to but all weather wrapping, maybe a large briefcase. Got my face in tune, headed out and neither then, or my return, did I see Miss Congeniality.

Had grabbed a Starbucks double Grande Latte and slice of Danish. Snacked on those as I went shopping.

By late afternoon, I’d stashed the money, how safe it was?

I’d find out.

That evening I’d to meet a guy. Wore my battered  leather bomber, 501’s, Converse, nicely scuffed and a T…with the logo,

Lizzie Rock.

The guy, not a friend but we had a history, purely financial.


A scumbag who made scumbags look bad. He’d sell me to the Boyos in jig time.

I was counting on it.

I met him in a bar on the Lowe East Side, as soon as I entered, I thought

Fook, cops.”

He was in the back, sucking on a Corona. Looking like a rat who’d been turned inside out and then drowned.

He said

Finn, looking good bro.”

I asked

You meet me a fooking cop hangout?”

Chill buddy, take a load off, cop bar, safest joint in The Five Boroughs.”

A waitress came, pretty wee thing, I ordered, A Jameson, Bud back. Sheil’s said

Get me one of those babe, he’s paying.”

Oh, his winning fooking ways. I asked

You get it?”

A new passport, driving licence, library card, the works. Primarily a new name.

He looked round, furtive then, passed over a slim package. I took out a fat envelope from my jacker, pushed it across the table. Now, crunch time, I said

Wee bonus for your trouble.”

He peeked inside, said

Ah, you’re a grand man.”

Displaying once were teeth, once were off white. Tipped his forelock.

I drained my boilermaker, stood, then as if a thought suddenly hit me, said

Next few days, you need to touch base, I’m at The Chelsea Hotel then, I’m in the wind.”

I swear to God, he sang, yeah, and very badly, like this

…writing sad-eyed lady of the lowlands for you.”

Ruined it by adding


No freaking clue.

I was moving, said

I’m more your Rory Gallagher kind of guy, check out the track Philly.”

The only truth I told.

* * *

I figured I’d bought me self, about two weeks grace.

Then Mexico or bust.

It was arranged I’d join a batch of German tourists in Houston, to make the coach trip into Mexico.

Had my flight to Houston, my ticket for the coach.

Until then, all I had to do, was stay alive.

Four nights in, I got back late, had caught a late movie and a late dinner, both forgettable. I’d had a few brews, was feeling a nice buzz. The hotel lobby was quite, bathed in a warm amber light, muted.


In the corner of the lobby, were two leather chairs, coffee table. Hadn’t noticed the figure until I heard

Mr Finnerty.”

She was dressed in a short black dress, tight black t‑shirt, killer heels kicked to the side of the chair.

Her long blond hair, cascading down to her shoulders, catching the amber light. A vision.

I asked, trying to catch the gulp in my throat

Late hours?”

Lame, right?”

A bottle of Black Bush on the table. Dented but still three quarters full. She said

A relative died and The Irish, they take a drink, yeah?”

Same old tired fooking clichés, I added my bit, said

Or, the relative recovers, a drink.”

Laugh, if brief.

She bent over, seeking a second glass, allowing me a full jail term appraisal. She asked

Join me?”


* * *

and so Dear Reader, I married her.



We were at it like rabbits within two drinks, howling at some dark moon.

And thus, fookit, I lost focus.

For the next week.

I was mesmerised, was I in love, Jesus, I don’t know, I was on torrid heat.

Then, time to skip time.

My flight to Houston was that day, at noon. I got out on the roof, retrieved the stash. I’d left my gun on the pillow, would have to take it apart, flush it. Homeland Security were top of their game.

I was thinking

Going to miss her.”

Got back inside.

She was sitting on the bed, my gun held loosely in her right hand, like an afterthought.

Dressed in white jeans, faded denim shirt, bare feet.

She asked

Running out on me lover?”

Jesus wept, she looked irresistible.

I smiled, went

You jerking my chain sweetheart? Come on, we have a great thing going, I’ll be back in a week and what do you say, we grab some days in The Caymans?, sound like a plan?”

She gave the briefest smile, said

I have a plan.”

Shot me in the gut, Oh Christ, they’re right, it hurts like a son-of‑a bitch. She leaned over me, the tattoo over her eye looming clear.


You arrived in the very nick of time, the hotel is fucked, debts like a cheap Enron.”

Ball-breaker, huh?

She stood in front of the mirror, ran her lovely hand through that glorious hair, asked

A cut maybe, you think?”

Then hefted my case of cash, stopped, asked

Ohio, this time of year, nice?”

And was gone.

I’d wrapped my hands around my stomach, trying to hold my entails in, blood seeping then gushing through my fingers.

All I could see was the mark above her eyes.





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About the Author

Ken Bruen

Ken Bruen has been a finalist for the Edgar, Barry, and Dagger Awards. The Private Eye Writers of America presented him with the Shamus Award for the Best Novel of 2003 for The Guards, the book that introduced Jack Taylor. And in 2010, the Mystery Readers International bestowed the Macavity Award on Ken and Reed Farrel Coleman for their crime novel Tower. Ken lives in Galway, Ireland.



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