The settlement that in the Bronze ages was considered to be simply a village of little importance was destined to become one day the largest and most productive city in all of Ireland in modern times.
Danny was not around during the Bronze ages but he had been to Belfast before. He was there during the time of the troubles and he had left in a hurry getting out before he was arrested or assassinated just because of his last name and his reputation for mayhem. He was much older now and none of his old friends both male and female would ever suspect him to be "Butcher Boy" Danny Hogan from the western part of the city right in the middle of a stridently Catholic neighborhood known for deep roots of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
The fact that he looked so different now was a lifesaver in more ways than one.
Fortunately for him, they had never gotten his prints or his DNA on any lab report or file and only the old file photos identified the wanted criminal Hogan as still being a "most wanted" character of dangerous intent.
Actually, he was standing right in the hallway of the courthouse looking at the lighted display of known criminals and saw his youthful image right up on top along with a couple of former friends that he knew for a fact were already long dead and buried.
A young girl was standing next to him and she laughed at his obvious interest in the list of desperados.
"I hope it is not yourself you are looking for, Mister. These fellows would all be headed for the gallows if we had that sort of thing anymore."
"Butcher Boy" Hogan smiled his most charming smile and was confidant his appearance was the best disguise because his age made him seem less formidable than any of the young roughnecks on the wall.
"That's a fact to be sure, my dear, but it would be nice to be spending some of that reward money if I ever saw any of those troublemakers."
The girl laughed with a deep throaty sound that ruffled his libido like raw whiskey on a cold winter day.
She was just a wee bit of a thing barely coming up to his shoulder.
Of course, he was taller than most and had put on some extra stones eating the rich American food the past two decades. It was time for him to take the thought of a diet seriously and get back to something resembling his "fighting" weight if such a thing was possible at this late date.
The girl was not his type at all. He liked his women big and meaty with generous boobs and hips wide enough to promise a good ride when things got serious in the bedroom. She was the poster girl for the new generation with her pert barely-formed tits and her neat little heart-shaped bottom tucked into a loose-fitting skirt of plaid design that made her look like a schoolgirl even though she was most certainly on the other side of thirty.
He saw the stack of papers and files in her arms and the familiar ribbon of some legal case to be presented in a court of law.
Danny tried to hide his shudder of distress.
First, she has this little sprite of a body and now she turns out to be just another fucking lawyer. He couldn't stand lawyers because they were so greedy and pompous that he wanted them to be wrong even if they were on his side.
The girl saw him looking at her piled papers and announced defensively,
"I work for the prosecutors but I am more of a researcher than one of the official counsels in the cases. They told me I was too young to be effective in the courtroom."
He was surprised she had shared her most personal concern with him since he was no better than a complete stranger. It had to be because he sounded more like an American than an Irishman and she felt it was safe to give such details to a foreigner.
Danny's left leg was starting to ache from standing so long in one place. He had taken two bullets near the knee at the height of the troubles and was lucky that he was still able to walk without too much of a limp in public.
The girl looked down at his leg when he winced as he turned to his left to move along with her to the courtroom.
"Are you all right, Mister, we can sit on that bench over there if you need a quick rest?"
Danny cursed the fact that one of the bullets was still lodged inside near the kneecap. It was not a good location for being dug out without some risk of losing the use of the leg and he had declined to take that risk unnecessarily.
He didn't want her to know the reason for his momentary weakness so he merely said,
"Just a tendon I pulled playing squash a while back. I keep forgetting that I am not as young as I used to be."
The girl laughed and held out her hand.
"I'm Molly Malone and I think you need a good masseuse to straighten that out for you."
He shook her hand which surprised him with her strength and dexterity and replied,
"Hello, Molly, my name is Danny Ryan and I was born not far from here but have spent most of my life in the United States learning all those bad American habits that drive Irish girls crazy."
They sat on the bench for a few moments watching all the rapidly moving courthouse regulars heading to their next appointment with scarcely a look at the people around them. They were equally as blind to the constant barrage of human emotions ebbing and flowing like a tidal wave of hidden feelings around them. Those unspoken vibes were both positive and negative depending on the person and the mission to be accomplished.
Danny could recognize most of them but he kept it to himself.
Molly probably wasn't aware she could see them as well because she had too much on her plate as it was and didn't want to add to her load without some sort of pay-back for making the effort.
Strangely, Danny could feel the electrical current of the young woman's warm thigh on the side of his leg and he initiated the first attempt to establish some rapport by asking,
"Would you like to join me for a drink at the pub across the street after you are finished work?"
Molly looked up at the tall man with the slightly greying hair and hesitated for a second before responding,
"That would be nice, Danny. I get off at five and I will meet you there. But only for one drink, mind you, I usually don't drink during the week. I try to limit it to only on Friday or Saturday night."
All in all, this move to Belfast was starting out on the plus side for Danny and he was happy that he had decided it was time to move back to his old stomping grounds now that things had quieted down a bit. The only things that seemed different were the newer buildings with the more modern designs but he suspected that was the same no matter where you went in the developed parts of the world with progressive economies. Even the older more traditional parts of Europe were beginning to reflect the changing times with new buildings and traffic patterns on the city streets that made surface transportation a lot easier.
He moved away from the courthouse to the nearby park and watched the people hurrying to their jobs or some other important meeting of some type or another. He felt a little lazy because he didn't have anywhere to be and nobody to meet. That was a good thing because the last thing he wanted was to get back into the "rat race" of living on the edge waiting for the hammer to click on that last round sent in his direction.
Everywhere he looked, the people on the street looked so young that he felt like a visitor from another age or another world. He saw a pair of tour buses parked on the edge of the sidewalk waiting to be filled with tourists from other places. Most of them looked sleepy-eyed and bored even before the tour began. At least some of them looked in his age group and he felt a little less out of place in his own territory.
It seemed only a short time ago that he was scrambling around the Mediterranean doing his best to pick up the ruins of a blown cover and not doing a very good job of it. Now he was back home and in a way he was even less secure than before when his chances seemed slim for living another day.
He walked down the street away from the bustle of the tour buses and came upon a familiar sight of a pub he used to frequent on an almost nightly basis. It had a different name now and it seemed like a different sort of customer going in and out of the large doors like ants swarming from the hidden colony searching for treats. They were the gainfully employed crowd with their ties on the men and swirling skirts above plaid knee high socks on the females stamping them with the seal of labor inspired energy.
Danny slipped inside the familiar door with a sort of microscopic attempt at invisibility and found the place unchanged except for the customers. They were lined up for their sausage treats and coffee lattes to go showing that the new owners knew exactly which side of the bread the butter was on.
No left over wrecks from the night before.
No shaky-handed booze-hounds needing the hair of the dog that bit them.
The sheer abruptness of the transformation astounded him even though he was at ground zero. The pretty girl behind the bar asked him in the sweetest voice imaginable,
"Would you like a breakfast sandwich, sir?"
The "Sir" rubbed on his ego like a taste of rough sandpaper. It made him feel ancient like some relic from the Middle Ages ready to be put out to pasture with the other old folks.
Since he was not really a breakfast person, he just asked for a cup of black coffee to get his system back on track. Fortunately, he tended to blend in from years of practice and was happily ignored as the tides of commerce swirled around him like lemmings over the cliff.
Danny was "heeled" as they say in the American films and the handgun felt a comfort in the small of his back. It was difficult for him to venture anywhere these days without his little friend concealed somewhere on his person. It used to be at one time that almost everyone in the pub was carrying in a similar fashion just because it was the only thing that stood between them and an assassin's bullet.
But that was Belfast and not London.
When he was in London, Danny was circumspect to never have a firearm on his person because they tended to lock you up and throw away the key in those days especially if you were of the Irish persuasion.
With his eyes well-adjusted to the gloomy interior, he noticed that some of the side booths were filled with an assortment of older gents working on the racing forms or talking to unknown parties on the new-fangled phones that seemed to be always in the ear of the younger crowd with mystical importance.
He even recognized some of the faces but kept from staring because he couldn't remember if they were friends or enemies. Things changed so rapidly in those days that one could never be quite sure.
Danny pulled the American newspaper from his pocket and held it in front of his face hoping that he would be mistaken for a runaway tourist looking to get away from the tour guides.
The very last thing he wanted was for anyone from the old crowd finding out that,
"Danny's back in town."