The first 1000 words of the manuscript, Fox Freed:
Looking back years later, Ronan Rafferty would come to see the twenty-fourth of November 1984 as a crossroads in his life. A crossroads that would ultimately lead to his death.
As the cold, black night hung over the cramped lanes of Belfast, the twenty-five-year-old shipyard labourer slunk into the dimly lit bar he frequented nightly. There was no warning to signal the coming cataclysmic encounter that would spark this irreversible altering of fate. He ordered his usual first pint of lager, chose his usual quiet table in the corner, and festered in his usual self-deprecating shroud of lonely suffering that he had cultured oh so diligently over the countless nights before.
The other occupants of the bar took no notice of him. They had grown accustomed to the freckled, pale man with the auburn mop of greasy hair, and scruffy stubble, sitting wistfully by himself, a raw deep sadness constantly stretched upon his square face. He had become yet another feature of the bar, a silhouette against their rowdy revelling and their endless rounds of liquor. Occasionally a bar-goer would spot the gaze of the lonesome man meet their own, but his eyes would quickly drop when noticed.
Ronan’s body ached with the memory of the week’s labour. Hours of cutting sheets of steel and welding, the pungent burnt fumes refusing to leave his nostrils. He had worked in the Belfast shipyards for most of his adult life, and the mundane repetitive work did little to forsake his mind from the black fog that had seeped into his conscious. A depression that had intensified by Mulligan’s death. He forced himself to take a few gulps of his lager, to think of the incident. A deep burning sense of guilt and anger pulsed through him.
A blast of freezing air slapped across his face as the door of the bar opened and another throng of locals piled in. Ronan watched the red-faced, jovial group with keen eyes, scrutinising their helpless mannerisms. The bumping of comrades shoulders, a grateful uproar as one of the newcomers bought their friends the first round. A sense of comradery that Ronan longed for. He was lonely. But he always had been, of course. He dropped his gaze again, fiddling with the pile of napkins, tearing at their fringes.
Another blast of icy air swept through the bar, signalling another arrival. The immediate, unnatural hush that was suddenly suspended over the noisy bar made Ronan instantly look up from the rim of his mug, once more.
The person standing at the door looked so out of place Ronan, at first, didn’t trust his own eyes. Ronan had not a single hankering for women, but he wouldn’t be surprised if the woman that was now gazing searchingly across the room was the most beautiful human being he had ever set his eyes on.
The woman was black, her hair cropped short to her scalp. Even from this distance, Ronan noticed her lips were painted in a sheer deep mauve, and her eyes were shadowed by a magenta hue. As he removed her simple brown coat, she revealed a lilac jumpsuit underneath, contoured by a thin scarlet red belt on her waist, an outfit that seemed so alien to the room of drab bawdy labourers, Ronan couldn’t help but wonder if the woman had grown accustomed to countless eyes on her form.
As if in slow motion, her purposeful search finally reached Ronan’s unwavering stare, and with a horrible realisation she began to walk towards him, her blue-grey suede boots echoing in the now silent pub. The woman took no notice of the obvious sea of scrutiny; the instinctual male lust, the zealous female loathing. As Ronan blinked slowly, her stare didn’t falter, her face a beautiful impenetrable gaze. Heads swivelled on necks unashamedly following her stride, friends huddled together muttering to each other at the stranger’s entrance.
She walked, Ronan perceived, with authority. Her head held high, her back straight and her strides meaningful, it was an authority that came naturally to her, an unapologetic influence that didn’t need reaffirming. As she finally reached his small dark corner she extended her arm.
“Ronan Rafferty?” Her voice matched her presence; a deep pronounced clarity lined with an African accent. “Busara Ayabei, may I sit down?”
At first, Ronan only looked at her outstretched hand, perplexed and both terrified at her sudden intrusion into his dismal evening. He noticed the intrigued and mystified gazes upon his interaction. The woman did not falter, and waited, until finally Ronan pulled his own hand from his glass and shook hers, almost delicately. Her grip was warm and strong.
She sat down without an invitation.
“Wh-what did you say your name was?” He found his voice, as her eyes quickly peered over the near-empty pint of lager.
“Busara Ayabei.” She repeated, her voice slow and paced. “You are Ronan Rafferty, aren’t you? Catriona Riordan’s cousin?”
Realisation suddenly dawned on the pale man’s face and he hurriedly stuttered.
“I have nothing to do with my family these days if you’re a reporter. I know nothing of her conviction.”
“I’m not a reporter.” She waved her hand in dismissal. “Do you want another pint? What were you having?”
He didn’t respond, but regardless, the woman stood up and glided over to the bar. Ronan could only just hear what she was saying to the barman, who looked just as intrigued as everyone else in his bar.
“Another one for him, I think. And a gin and tonic for me. On the rocks.”
The barman only nodded and grunted whilst the woman slipped a note on the counter and returned to confused Ronan without waiting for her change. Ronan noticed the barman pause slightly before eagerly snatching the note off the bench.
“Now, Ronan-can I call you Ronan?”
He nodded slowly.
“Good, Ronan. I’m going to be frank. I came in need of your assistance.”
She paused slightly for him to respond, but besides a slight furrowing of his brow, he remained silent.
“I’m a dear friend of your cousin, Catriona Riordan. As you know she is held in Armagh Women’s Prison for the murder of Tory MP, Lord Michael Porter in ‘79. She received a life sentence, found guilty of a terror charge in connection to the Irish Republican Army.”
Ronan remained silent, not daring to nod or to even open his mouth, as the stranger, who apparently by her word was not a reporter, outlined his cousin’s conviction of six years previously in a manner usually reserved for news reporters. His nostrils flared as he inhaled rapidly, his heart pounding. The woman’s expression was so calm, so unreadable. There was a challenging eminence about her, a radiance that confused the onlooker. She was overwhelmingly beautiful but impressively intimidating.
Her eyes narrowed.
“You’re going to break her out.”
Let me know your thoughts, feelings, qualms and queries. Any criticism would be much appreciated. Do you think this is an inviting 1000 words for a manuscript?