Killing Down the Roman Line
town had its bad blood, its dirty history. Why would their town be any different? Only one of the books had mentioned the Corrigans and it reinforced his own vague knowledge of the tragic demise of the family. Granted some of it looked suspect, like the alliance of families who banded together in a `Peace Society` to challenge the Corrigans. That could have gotten out of hand. But the book had reiterated what little of the tale Jim knew; that fugitive convicts had laid waste to the family.
    So what was the truth? What was Corrigan up to? Did he have proof to back up his claims that the other families had conspired against his own? No. All he had was a derelict house and a good spook story. Grist for any charlatan’s mill.

    “You going back to school, Jimmy?” Puddycombe collected Jim’s empty glass and set a fresh pint down in its place. He nodded to the books on the table.
    “Catching up on my local history.”
    Puddy picked up a book and tilted his head back to read the spine. “The History of Pennyluck and its People. Sounds gripping. This a comedy?”
    “More like tragedy. Out of all these books, there’s only one mention of the Corrigan murders. A brief one too.”
    “Christ on the cross!” That was Berryhill, leaning on his cue and eavesdropping. “If I hear that name again I’m gonna puke.”
    “You don’t think that’s odd?”
    Berryhill chalked his cue. “What? You believe that asshole’s story?”
    “About as much as I believe the official one.”
    “You’re a piece of work, Hawkshaw. Fucking turn on your own kind like that.”
    Jim gritted his teeth. Berryhill the blowhard. “This town was a pretty wild place back then. All these books agree on that.”
    “That’s true,” Puddycombe said. “They used to post four constables a night just to deal with all the brawling drunks at closing time. ‘Course the constables were drunk too but there you are.”
    “Drunk men fight,” Berryhill scoffed. “Big news.”
    Puddycombe collected glassware onto a tray. “Wasn’t just the donnybrooks outside the pub. There’s was practically war in the streets what with all the feuding that went on. And them Corrigans were a vicious lot. They’d knock your teeth in for speaking out against them. Then torch your barn for good measure.”
    Hitchens had turned away from the TV to listen in. “Puddy,” he said, “you believe that guy’s story too?”
    “All I’m saying is this used to be a very rough town. And the Corrigans were Catholics, like everyone else down the Roman Line. There’s been plenty of blood spilled between them and the Orangemen at the time, on top of all the family feuding.”
    Hitchens dismissed the notion. “That’s bullshit. When a fight turns to bloodshed there’s only two reasons; women or money.”
    Berryhill went back to his game. “You’re both fucking crazy.”
    “You’re all wrong.” Old Gallagher swung around on his stool and piled onto the discussion.
    “Now look what you done,” Berryhill said. “You woke the old man up.”
    Gallagher ignored the loudmouth. “It was a dispute over land. Folks used to squat on unused land in those days. Half the acreage around town was fallow with absentee landlords and whatnot.” He winked at the men. “You threaten a man’s land, well, he will kill you for it.”
    “Land, money,” said Hitchens. “Same thing.”
    “It’s not the same thing,” Gallagher barked. “Not to those people. Land was everything. Safety, respectability, shelter. Roots. What’s money compared to that? Nothing. Just filthy paper.”
    “So says the man without any,” Hitchens fired back. A few laughs around the tables.
    Gallagher ignored the fool. “Jimmy’s right, this town was a wild place with little regard for the law. The only rule folks respected was that of reprisal. And everyone was guilty of it, not just those damn Corrigans.” The Guinness trembled in his hand and he wiped the foam from his lips. “Still, there was something

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