In this early extract from Rat Island, set in 1995, Irish-born cop Callum Burke has just met his NYPD contemporary, Mike O’Connell. Burke will go undercover with an Irish mob in the city as part of a larger investigation into a heroin pipeline and he studies his targets as he ponders his fate.
Milburn had gone for a piss. O’Connell had stepped out of the room. Callum had grabbed a whiskey from the mini-bar. Bobby Ho had balked.
Callum downed the shot in one. O’Connell walked back in the room.
‘Well, alright,’ said O’Connell. ‘Now daddy’s out of the room, let’s us kids have some fun.’
He gestured to the photocopied sheet tacked on the wall with the mugshots and surveillance photographs of the players they were here to take down.
On top, like the star on the Christmas tree: Tony Lau – 14K Triad Dragon Head. Callum had been avoiding looking at the shot. The last time he’d seen Lau in the flesh, the man had sworn to kill him. Lau had declared his blood vendetta, not with words, but with Triad hand signs. He would be in Hong Kong, picked up by the RHKP when the rest went down.
The first row of pictures below Lau were players from Lau’s large faction of the 14K Triad.
The third row showed members of the Hip Sing Tong Association from New York Chinatown, including the leader, Sammy Ong, and his closest advisor, Papa Ng.
O’Connell pointed at Bobby Ho.
‘These are the guys you’ll be listening to. Some real-time taps, some recordings. We got a place for you on Mott Street to observe the Tong Headquarters, too. Stay well away from these psychos, though.’
He cocked a thumb at the row below. The Flying Dragons street gang from Chinatown, the Tong’s homicidal muscle.
O’Connell tucked his thumbs in his belt, pushed out his chest and gave Callum a shit-eating grin as he cocked his head toward the bottom row of photographs as though revealing the prize on a gameshow.
‘And these assholes are gonna be your new best friends, Burke. Say hello to The Walsh Crew.’
Callum looked at the New York Irish mob. The leader, Fintan Walsh. Jimmy Mulligan, the right-hand man, and others. At the end of the row was Paddy Doolan.
O’Connell said, ‘You boys ready to go to work?’
Callum scanned the pictures again. The crazy-paddy mugshots of the Irish. The hair-slicked, comic book sneers of the Flying Dragons street gang. The surveillance photographs of the Hip Sing Tong men.
Were someone to pin the cops’ shots on the opposite wall, they’d follow the same order of importance, he thought. The feds at the top; then the NYPD and Milburn. Below them, Bobby Ho, vital for his language skills.
And at the bottom, Callum. His was the dirtiest, shit-end-of-the-stick deal in the whole game.
Callum knew to build a Federal racketeering RICO case in the US, law enforcement needed a lot of evidence. The DEA and NYPD team had already been working the case for months. Now Bobby Ho was in place to help transcribe the Tong wiretaps. But they needed more on the Irish crew. The Walsh outfit were the potential weak link. If the task force could build a solid racketeering case against the Irish, they’d have some insurance.
While the biggest, head-in-the-clouds target was Tony Lau, the Dragon Head, the Triads were far too cautious – had too many resources with which to distance themselves from the heroin trail in New York.
The US Tong operated in a closed society. The hope was that Bobby Ho could accrue enough to prosecute but it was a huge ask.
But bust the Irish and prove a connection, and the task force could prosecute the Chinese through association. At least, that was the theory.
Paddy Doolan, last mugshot on the row of Walsh Crew photographs, was a hanger-on who grew up with the top men in the old neighborhood. He was erratic, a romantic, and a sucker for a pilgrim from the old country come to America to make his way. Callum would turn up, another Irishman trying his luck in the Big Apple, and hope Doolan would bite and take to him.
Then, once undercover, Callum would push to get work with the Walsh crew and pray no one took a bite out of him with a .44.