Read The League of Sharks Online
Authors: David Logan
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by
Quercus Editions Ltd
55 Baker Street
7th Floor, South Block
Copyright Â© David Logan, 2014
The moral right of David Logan to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
A CIP catalogue reference for this book is available from the British Library
eBook ISBN 978 1 78087 578 1
Print ISBN 978 1 78087 577 4
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Also by David Logan
For Lisa, Joseph, Grace and Gabriel
For my best friend's brood:
Marley, my godson, who was born while I was writing this,
his big sisters, Naomi and Emma, and big brother, Josh
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Junk Doyle was twelve years old when his mother stopped loving him.
That wasn't supposed to happen. Not ever. It did, of course. All the time, all over the world. Some kids weren't lucky enough to be loved in the first place. Junk was. Very much so. For twelve years anyway. He had a mother and father, Janice and Dominic, and he was the apple of their eye. A chip off the old block. A mummy's boy. A daddy's boy.
He was big for his age. Took after his dad. Dominic Doyle was a carpenter and a good one. He was an artist. He married an American, Janice Truszewski. She had been travelling around Europe with her friend, Esther Creigh. Both from Milwaukee. Nineteen years old. Their first time out of the state of Wisconsin, let alone outside of the continental United States.
Esther wanted to trace her roots. Americans love to trace their roots. Their ancestors struggled to escape only for the offspring of their offspring of their
offspring to come back again. Esther and Janice arrived in Ireland and Esther instantly understood why her great-grandfather had decided to leave. Janice, however, fell in love. First with Ireland and shortly after with Dominic. While Esther went back home and married a humourless orthodontist called Steven, Janice stayed and married Dominic. They lived in a tiny village called Murroughtoohy, on top of a cliff looking out over the Atlantic, in a grand old house that Dominic had inherited from his grandmother and spent the next several years rebuilding.
A little over a year after they married, they had a son. Junk. Of course his name wasn't really Junk. It was Colin. Colin Itzhak Eugene Doyle. However, from a very early age, before he could even walk, he had a habit of grabbing anything and everything within his grasp and hoarding it. When he was a toddler he was like a little waddling tramp. His pockets were always bulging with twigs and buttons and biros and springs and toys and stickers and sweet wrappers and all forms of â¦ junk. The nickname started off as a joke. It was just a joke that never ended and at some point it became his name. When he started school, he was Colin for less than a week. By the first Thursday, even the teachers addressed him as Junk. He had long outgrown his habit of hoarding, but the name never went away.
And Junk was a happy boy. Why shouldn't he be? He lived on the beautiful west coast of Ireland with lots of room to run around inside and out. And he had loving,
doting parents. Everything was perfect until he was six years old. Then, she came.
Born in the middle of a storm-ravaged night, she was a squalling bundle of wrinkled pink skin. And the noise. The noises she made were the first thing Junk didn't like about her. He woke to hear his mother screaming in pain. He leaped out of bed, stumbling as he raced out of the room to see what was wrong.
His mother, father and two women, a midwife and a doula, were in the living room. His mother was naked, leaning against the sofa, the floor underneath her plastered with layers of newspaper, bin bags, sheets and finally towels. No one noticed Junk hidden in the shadows by the doorway, watching as that creature forced its way out from between his mother's legs. Junk's eyes were wide, tears sputtering in the corners as he saw the blood smeared down his mother's thighs. His precious mother. She screamed. The pain was too much for her to take. Junk could see that. No one could go through such an ordeal and survive. The slowly emerging parasite was killing her.
Junk covered his ears and closed his eyes tightly as his mother screamed again. Junk knew he had to do something. It was up to him. Everyone else, his father included, was just standing around and letting this horror transpire. His father was rubbing the base of his
mother's back, trying to convince her it would all be OK for God's sake.
How could this torment ever be OK?
His mother was small, that monster was huge. Junk looked around. His eyes settled on a doorstop by his foot. It was in the shape of a rearing elephant and heavy, made from cast iron. He picked it up; it wasn't easy, it took both hands, and he was all ready to run in and batter that creature into oblivion when his mother started laughing. Everyone was laughing. His father was kissing his mother and saying, âThat's my girl, Janey, that's my girl.'
Junk craned his head and saw that the creature was out. It had burrowed its way out. Still attached by a long, white vein. It was not too late to smash its head in.
Junk looked up as he heard his name. His father was coming towards him.
âHow long have you been standing there?' Junk could only shrug and shake his head. Words were still a way off. He put the elephant-shaped doorstop down and his big father knelt in front of him and ran his vast, plate-sized hand through Junk's mane of dark hair. âCome on. There's someone you should meet.'
His father stood up. It was like that old TV footage of the Apollo 11 rocket taking off. When his father stood, he just kept going up and up. He took Junk by the hand and led him over to where his mother was now lying on her back, covered with her favourite quilt. The creature was lying on her belly, snuffling. Junk was wary, knowing this
demon could attack at any second. He was ready for it though.
âHey, Poodle.' His mother often called him that.
âMa!' Junk let out a half-hearted protest, mostly out of habit. He hated it when she called him that, especially in front of other people.
âMeet your little sister. This is Ambeline.' His mother rotated her body slightly so that the small, brown-stained goblin was looking at Junk. It was twisted and grotesque.
âWhat's wrong with it?' asked Junk.
âNothing.' His mother laughed. He looked up and his father and the midwife and the doula were all laughing too. âThat's what babies look like. You looked like that once.' Junk frowned. He doubted that very much. âNow you're a big brother, Junk, it's your job to look after her, make sure no harm ever comes to her. You're her knight.'
As the years passed, Junk proved himself to be a poor knight. His jealousy towards Ambeline was plain for all to see. His perfect little world had been changed, ruined in his mind. Barely a day went by when his father or his mother didn't have to reprimand him for shouting at his little sister, or pushing her, or punching her, if he thought he could get away with it. He blamed her for everything that went wrong. A toy got broken or lost: Ambeline broke it or hid it somewhere on purpose just to spite him. He was constantly trying to get her into trouble.
One grey, wet morning in the third October of Ambeline's young life, Junk was sitting on a window seat in their shared playroom, staring out at the clamorous drizzle that was peppering the glass and making it rattle in its frame. Beyond, the Atlantic fumed, almost black, complementing Junk's mood perfectly.
The door behind him opened and Ambeline slunk in dragging Hup, a tattered old blanket that went everywhere with her.
âWhat you doin', Jungy?' asked Ambeline, her voice muffled from behind the yellow blanket.
Junk wanted to be left alone. A hot breath of anger flashed through him. His ears darkened to a snarling maroon. âGo away,' he grumbled, hardly bothering to open his lips.
âWhy? What you doin'?' She gazed up at her big brother with huge blue eyes that seduced everyone she met. Everyone but Junk.
Why won't she just go away? thought Junk.
âYou wanna play with me?' she asked.
Both of Junk's fists shrank slowly into a tight clench. The sound was like leather being twisted and then one curled hand shot out and struck. Ambeline gasped in surprise, but not pain, for it wasn't her who was hit. It was Junk. He had hit himself across his right cheekbone and dragged his nails down towards his mouth. He screamed at the top of his lungs and fell to the floor, clutching his face. Footsteps came pounding up the staircase and the door flew open. His mother exploded into the room.
âWhat is it?' she demanded. âWhat's happened?' She saw Junk cowering on the floor, a little blood glistening under his eye. âOh my God! What happened?' She dropped to his side.
âShe hit me!' cried Junk, forcing little anguished sobs between the words.
âAmbeline! You horrible girl! That's very bad!'
Ambeline didn't respond. She just looked at her mother and brother, frowning, a little bemused. She wasn't sure if this was a game. If it was, it wasn't much fun. She would rather play shops.
Janice snaked her arms around Junk and held him lovingly, shaking her head at Ambeline.
That time it worked just the way Junk wanted it to. Ambeline was kept away from him for the rest of the day and even put to bed earlier than usual. Every few weeks after that Junk would try it on again, but soon his parents grew wise to this pantomime and eventually Junk would get punished for trying to get his sister into trouble.
Then, one day, when Ambeline was a little older, some synapses in her brain joined together and she realized, with relish, that she had great power over her brother. She took to walking past him and slapping him or kicking him or poking him, causing him to cry out. Then she would sit by, looking innocent, while her parents reprimanded Junk for yet another ruse. Junk's resentment towards his little sister grew and grew.
This is not an unusual situation. For centuries
siblings have been warring with one another as they grow up. What makes it unusual and warrants this story being told is what happened next. What happened in the early hours of a stormy December night.
By this time Ambeline was six years old and had blossomed into a beautiful little girl with huge almond-shaped blue eyes and long fair hair. Junk was twelve and, though handsome, with dark green eyes and a mop of chaotic black hair, was just not cute any more. Friends and relatives and people in the street would always comment on Ambeline's angelic beauty, and mention would be made of how she was the absolute spitting image of her mother at that age. Usually as an afterthought they would say something about how big Junk was getting.