The section called Ballsbridge suffered in similar fashion to the rest of Dublin. Before the Drop, prestigious Ballsbridge represented the prosperity and hope of the New Ireland with large Georgian homes and swanky stores lining the streets. Most foreign governments established an embassy in the village. A bridge spanned the River Dodder, still adorned with a sign that read Ball’s Bridge, and everyone called the neighborhood that name from that point. Ballsbridge Village displayed the disparity of pre and post Drop, a former upscale neighborhood now teetered on the brink of urban collapse. The village housed pubs, a college, and many former luxury hotels, some abandoned and transformed into drug dens. Stately older homes fell into disrepair after the economic collapse. More storefronts stood empty and boarded up than open. Business ventures still in operation barely functioned, stock full of dusty and slow moving merchandise people either did not want or could not afford.
RTÉ News presented a statistic on the evening news. Since the Drop, the occurrences of rainy days increased at a substantial pace. During the boom times, in an average month, Dublin experienced thirteen days of rain. Since the Drop, the number of rainy days increased to twenty-five, and overcast days rounded out the remaining days. Most Dubliners could not remember the last sunny day.
A five-block section of Merrion Road appeared more prosperous than the remnants of the once proud neighborhood. The area contained sparkling addresses such as the Royal Dublin Society, the US Embassy, and Herbert Park. The prestigious attractions still lay between interspersed empty or burned out husks of buildings past their former glory. Despite the eyesores, the section fared far better than the rest of Ballsbridge. A grocer occupied a central spot on Merrion Road. Fítheal’s appeared on the marquee, pronounced Fee-hulls, translated from Gaelic meant “goblin” in English. In actuality, Fítheal was the surname of the original grocer who opened the establishment in the twenty’s. A new green awning covered the entrance, fragrant flower boxes adorned the windows, exposed original brick floors added character to the interior, and a large crusty old manager who could tell a customer everything about a particular fruit or vegetable added charm. A constant stream of Dubliners moved in and out of the store, mostly because of the affordable prices. New products come in from the back, moved by men with dust and sweat pooled on their brows.
To the Gardaí, Fítheal’s Grocery presented the perfect definition of a suspicious business that operated as a front. Neighborhood residents speculated on how a small shop operated with the high degree of success in this economy. Speculation aside, people overlooked suspicious behavior on a business that made affordable to provide food to their families. Little evidence existed of any negative impact of Fítheal’s side business on the locals. In fact, in addition to prices, the store employed many residents, including numerous cashiers, who greeted each customer with a smile, and stockers who brought a continuous supply of fresh produce from the storeroom with a jolly demeanor.
As the stockmen passed through the double push doors into the back storeroom, their manner dropped like a guillotine into scowls as if the distaste of dealing with the rabble out front produced vile in their mouths. A pall of smoke filled the air of the warehouse. Combined with the humid odor of sweat, the foul atmosphere assaulted the nose. Past the legitimate shelves of warehoused stock operated the true business, this business made the owners wealthy. Half a dozen men operated two greasy rusted press machines and hand-cranked counterfeit twenty punt notes. The high quality of the notes proved sufficient to pass in the stagnant Irish economy, as most any local business found themselves desperate enough for any currency coming through the door to ignore the quality. On the front of each note in pastel shades of pink, grey, and blue emblazoned the logo of Banc Ceannais na hÉireann in Gaelic letters, and on the back the English translation of the Central Bank of Ireland. Organized crime in Ireland managed to stall the politicians who tried to persuade the Irish to join the European Union and adopt the Euro. Counterfeits of the Euro presented a tougher challenge than the Irish Punt. If Ireland joined the EU, it would make a dent in the only profitable industry in the country.
The printing press stained black in on the men’s overalls, t-shirts, dungarees, faces, and hands. Several bottles of Bushmill’s Irish whiskey passed from man to man, ended in the hands of a man who gritted a Churchill cigar in what passed as his teeth.
The door to the alley in the rear of the warehouse opened. A large in a shabby grey suit swaggered into the room. Sweat glistened off his forehead and the damp spot under the arms of his suit expanded. He wiped his forehead with his coat sleeve and looked at the large patch of wet cloth. His moustache appeared twice the size of his face. He walked into the center of the room and waved a piece of paper in his hand.
“We made the list, lads,” he roared. “The South Balls made the list.”
“What you talking about, Errol?” The man with the cigar clamped in his teeth asked.
“The South Balls made the Garda’s most wanted list,” Errol said. “Imagine that boys, we pass off thirty percent of the bills to the local Gardaí station so they have spending money, and they got the nerve to put us on their most wanted list.”
“Bullocks, you just can’t trust criminals these days, even when they’re dressed as Gardaí,” another said.
The South Balls represented the new breed of up and coming Dublin organized crime groups. Mild in comparison with several of the other mobs, The South Balls focused on victimless crimes such as counterfeiting, gambling, and black marketing. Recently, the group upped the ante when they staged a daring broad daylight execution of an honest Ballsbridge magistrate who caused problems by having the nerve to show morals as he stood up to them and refused their bribes.
“How much do we have?” Errol asked his men as he looked over the stacks on counterfeit bills on the table.
The six men looked around at each other and each shrugged their shoulders. The last turned, picked up a stack of bills, and slowly started to count aloud.
“Oh bogger, never mind,” Errol said. “I don’t have that much time for you tossers to count it. Let’s get it boxed up and ready to go.”
The men scattered about the warehouse, dumped produce from boxes to ground, and boxed the counterfeit notes into the emptied boxes.
“You two,” Errol said. He pointed to the two youngest members of the group. “Go get us some more boxes.” The two young men disappeared down a corridor with floor to ceiling shelves.
A loud crack surprised Errol and his men. They men stopped their tasks when the sound of grunted voices came into the main room.
“What’s going on?” Errol yelled.
The sound of booted footsteps echoed in the silent storeroom.
From the darkened aisle, a figure came into view. Only the outline of the man appeared, though all in the room saw him as a tall imposing body in a trench coat. The silent room allowed the faint sound of fresh leather squished and the chink of metal to boom as the figure walked towards them. A single glowing oval pierced the darkness where the figures eyes should be.
A smooth steady voice flowed from the darkness. “You want to know what’s going on, do you, Errol?”
The figure stepped forward into the light.
“The Fenian Avenger,” a man whispered.
Urban legends of the Fenian Avenger proliferated through the Dublin underworld. His face struck fear into the criminals first. A green mesh mask extended from the leather exoskeleton suit entwined with a metal fiber that covered his entire body. The suit provided protection from knifes and protected him from a standard bullet. His nose, mouth, and chin exposed by the mask added a human touch. The mask contained a slim microphone embedded in the material, unnoticeable to anyone. At his waist, his utility belt resembled Batman’s in the comics. On his left thigh, a strap secured a long rod with a wicked electric tip capable to send a volt of electricity into a body. His eyes covered by a visor that with an eerie green glow. The mask ended at his hairline, and a mop of sandy brown hair dithered down to his shoulders. The Avenger stood tall with an angular muscular frame. Description in the gangland world described him at six feet eight inches and two-hundred and fifty pounds of muscle. In reality, he stood six feet four inches and tidy two hundred pounds soaking wet.
The members of the South Balls backed away in cautious steps from the Fenian Avenger.
“Don’t let him scare you!” Errol shouted from the safety of behind his men.
The four men looked at each other with tentative expressions before they advanced on the Avenger with slow steps. The Avenger’s gloved hands snapped towards the closest two men, grasped them by the neck, and cracked their heads together. The two men dropped unconscious to the ground.
In less than thirty seconds, the South Ball’s advantage in numbers dropped by four unconscious bodies. The two remaining men exchanged nervous glances. The blonde man on the left stepped back with a shaky leg.
“Get in there, you boy,” Errol shoved the young blonde man and he stumbled to the ground at the Avenger’s boots.
The blonde man lifted his head and gazed at the masked face of the Fenian Avenger. Tears streamed down his cheeks, the boy looked no more than nineteen years old to the Avenger. His lips trembled and mouthed the word “Please.”
The Avenger nodded his head imperceptibly.
The Fenian Avenger cocked his left arm in the air and swung his fist with speed and force. The punch appeared to everyone in the room to know the boy out. In reality, the swing was a nifty piece of stage fighting. A stomp of the Avenger’s boot simulated the sound of contact with the boy’s chin. The Avenger’s right arm pushed the blonde boy to the floor to complete the illusion. The boy lay on the ground and appeared unconscious.
The sound of a switchblade opening pierced the large room.
The Fenian Avenger spun to face a dark featured man who held a six-inch blade. In his other hand, he held a broken bottle of Bushmill’s whiskey. He crouched and jabbed the switchblade towards the Avenger.
The blade struck the Avenger in the abdomen, bounced off the mesh armor, and nicked the blade. The Fenian Avenger stepped to the side in a quick motion and the dark haired man lost his balance. The Avenger grabbed his wrist and twisted. The knife fell from his hand to the floor as the sound of bone crunching caused him to scream. He waved the broken bottle of Bushmill’s and struck the Avenger in the back, not enough to penetrate the exoskeleton. The Avenger drove his right elbow against the man’s forearm that held the bottle and snapped the bone. The bottle shattered on the concrete floor. The dark man howled even louder with the second broken limb.
The Fenian Avenger raised his left leg and spun in a half circle. He landed the side of his foot in the dark man’s temple. The Avenger applied his knee against the man’s shoulder, dropped him hard to the ground, and rested his weight on the man’s windpipe. With a quick blow to the chest, the Fenian Avenger forced the last gasp of breath from the dark man’s lungs.
The Fenian Avenger stood and scanned the room. His distinctive visor enhanced the darkened corners, recognized facial features to match against database picture, and allowed his partner at the control center to see everything he saw. The latest design of the visor, to allow advanced facial recognition, also limited peripheral vision. During the fight, he lost sight of Errol.
The Avenger heard the sound just before his visor alerted him a fiery object approached him. His quick reactions allowed him to duck his head, and the flaming object flew past him, a bottle of Bushmills transformed into a Molotov cocktail. The bottle hit a rack of wooden pallets, which engulfed in flame. In a few seconds, half the storeroom became a glowing orange Hades as the temperature raised at a rapid rate.
“Damn, Angus,” the Avenger said into the microphone. “I hate wearing this getup. Not only do I look like a tosser, but I can’t see anything to the sides.”
“Can you stop whining for once?” The voice on the earpiece said.
The Avenger spotted Errol, he ran through the door into the storefront. The Fenian Avenger detached a nightstick, which he flung like a Frisbee. The stick caught Errol on the base of the skull and fell into the main section of the store unconscious.
The Fenian Avenger scanned the storeroom for survivors. The first two men he attacked awoke during the scuffle and he saw them run out the back of the building. The dark man gasped for breath while he struggled to crawl into the front store with two broken arms.
The Avenger’s new ally, the blonde boy, arise from his feigned unconscious state as the fire worsened around him. A set of wooden shelves above him erupted in flame and collapsed, buried him in burning timbers.
The Avenger leapt to the fallen shelves and pulled burning timbers off the boy. His hands grasped the blazing wood, his hands protected through his gloves. The heat from the fire hit his exposed face and scalp. When he removed the last shelf, he saw the boy’s clothes on fire.
Removing his trench coat, the Avenger snuffed out the burning man. He picked up the boy and slung him across his shoulder. The Avenger ran across the room.
“The fire in the room is spreading fast,” the Avenger said. “It’s going to spread to the residences close by soon.”
“I’ve already called the Fire and Rescue,” the voice on the microphone said. “And for what it’s worth, someone has notified the Gardaí already, they may already be there. Better hurry it up.”
As he crossed the doorway into the fiery storefront, the Avenger knelt down and grabbed Errol by the ankle, and picked up the nightstick lying next to the unconscious boss. He dragged the body out the front glass doors.
On the street, a large crowd gathered. Smoke billowed out of windows on all floors. The crowd cheered at the sight of the Fenian Avenger. The Avenger set the blonde boy down, he softly set his head from his glove to the floor. Errol began to cough and the Avenger dragged him away from the blonde man and handcuffed him to the lamppost.
Fire engines arrived, the throngs of gawkers parted. Many onlookers surprised at the sirens, as the fire interested them, however sightings of the legendary Fenian Avenger presented a once in a lifetime opportunity. YouTube and status pages filled in a rapid pace with pictures and videos of the Avenger.
The Avenger hopped on the hood of the nearest car and raised his hands to the crowd to quiet them.
“This man,” he pointed to Errol handcuffed to the post, “is the leader of the South Balls. Make sure the Gardaí know this and make sure they actually arrest him and see to it they do it, as the South Balls are some of the most wanted fugitives in Dublin currently. He is also directly responsible for this fire.”
“You got it, sir,” a young boy in front of the crowd. He saluted the Avenger.
The Avenger smiled and saluted the boy back.
“There is a chance these men will be back on the streets before this fire is out,” the Avenger said. “We all know how things are, and I will make every effort to ensure it doesn’t happen. But, as you can guess, I don’t carry a lot of weight with the Gardaí.”
The Avenger jumped down from the automobile. He turned to face the blonde young man, still lying on the sidewalk.
“Why?” The blonde boy asked, his face a mask of confusion.
The Avenger smiled and knelt down. “Why would I save you and that scumbag?” He said softly.
The blonde man nodded. “But, I tried to hurt you.”
“You’re heart wasn’t in it. I’m offering a second chance,” the Avenger said. “What’s your name?”
“How old are you?”
“Boone, after the paramedics give you a look, I want you to go home to your family.”
Boone’s face relaxed as the meaning of the words sunk in. “You’re not sending me to jail?”
“Screw up again and I’ll do more than that,” the Avenger said.
“Thank you,” Boone said. “I owe you, and I promise I will be of service to you.”
“Good, I’m glad,” the Avenger said. “It’s good to have friends. A man can never have too many friends. Someday I may ask you to help my cause.”
An ambulance pulled up in front of fire truck. The Avenger turned to the technicians. He pointed to Boone. “This young man’s name is Boone. He helped me in the fire against the criminals. Make sure he gets taken care so he can get home to his family before they worry about him.”
The Fenian Avenger walked to the burning building.
Boone meandered through the crowd away from the spectacle. When he cleared the crowd, he broke into a sprint and only slowed when he reached home.
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