|Private Conclusions By Brian Charleton|
Noddy Norman shielded himself with his guitar, as if that would make a deflecting difference to a finned bullet that exploded upon impact. A near miss burned like the singed smell of an innocent heretic, enflamed at the behest of a zealous and perhaps jealous inquisition, past his left ear. Without seeing any other option â€“ he could not see at all as fright had poured salty sweat down his brow and into both his eyes â€“ Noddy Norman deposited himself on the floor like a suddenly rotten sack of potatoes falling off its winter rack. Fear had made him smell of decay â€“ nearly everyone else in the pub were experiencing a similar sense of rot â€“ but he forced himself to use his elbows like truncated skis to propel himself to the precipice. There were three steps down to an empty storage trough at the back of the stage. Like a suddenly disturbed crab scuttling under a rock, he thrust himself towards the cover of safety. Before he was fully below the line of fire, a bullet took the heal off his boot. That had been the base of his toe-tapping rhythm only moments before. He was prepared to relinquish it as a sacrifice to no god he ever worshiped â€“ despite numerous efforts to convert him â€“ if every bit of him above it was kept safe.
Fear forcing a retraction of the chemicals in the stomach with a subsequent inactivity of body and brain were not the reactions of his girlfriend to the sudden climate change into a hail of death. Abebi Abrafo â€“ Noddy Norman called her Agro after their first night of love together â€“ transformed her not undue surprise â€“ Covert Criminal activists had been warning her for months that her business was a target â€“ into fearless anger. She reached for the AK47 inside the bar and shot out the glass of a neighboring window to the one already shattered.
From the inside, she was able to see through the night by the light cast from movement-sensitive spot-lights. Three men were hopping for their cars as if they were grey squirrels. Thinking they were pretty stupid not to have shot out the spots or the sensors before shooting anything or anyone else, she shielded herself behind the wall. On the count of three she stood before the window and let rip. One man went down, two others sped off in a dark blue Volkswagen. She aimed for the tyres but it kept going. Calling for her two bouncer-barmen, Nkiruka Noxolo and Monifa Uba, to attend to any casualties in the pub, she walked outside. Exposing her heart to a possible bullet from the man on the ground did not bother her so much as losing complete control of the situation. She went up to him and determined that he was alive but incapable of using a weapon. The wind direction of her thoughts changed quickly and she snapped her fingers.
Nkiruka Noxolo was full of apologies as he dropped the woman he was attending to and ran up to his boss quickly, his arms sloped one way, then the other like a glider making a forced landing. The large handsome body of Monifa Uba moved much slower. Abebi Abrafo had once considered him a pleasure machine who, when put to use, satisfied her beyond her wildest dreams. That was before a fondness for food extended his stomach and it was a long time since he or anyone else had seen his bollix. Monifa Uba concluded that the kitchen porter, having stopped into the pub after work for a drink, had fatally stopped a bullet and he ambled away with an apparently disinterested gait so as to zone in on his boss.
Noddy Norman took note â€“ not a verbal note written to himself, more a sound in his intestines like a discordant lack of counterpoint or a series of rhyming lines that were impossible to scan â€“ that his well-being was not the first thing on his girlfriend's mind. Abebi Abrafo said something in a language Noddy Norman did not understand. Mostly he was happy not to understand. When they wanted him to understand, the people here spoke English well enough, better than a lot of people he had grown up with in Cork. He had been the exception when it came to flinting words off each other to spark a conversation or a little jingle. Fortunately for him when he was trying to make a name for himself the only owners â€“ 'that is hardly the right word', he thought â€“ of the pubs who would let him play there lived way over the far side of the line between non-law-abiding citizens and their more submissive counterparts.
His heart still ached for his late much-acclaimed lost leader, drowned at sea in desperate circumstances.
'Even on the roughest pastures of Cork,' Noddy Norman thought, 'there was never any trouble on the scale of what is going on here â€“ not even in fucking open-your-mouth and have-your-throat-slit fucking Limerick. Good and all as they were with weaponry back on the old sod, I don't remember anyone keeping a fucking AK47 behind the bar.'
Despite the differences of their approach â€“ Monifa Uba ambling apparently lazily behind Nkiruka Noxolo's fast-moving though much smaller legs â€“ they nonetheless converged on Abebi Abrafo at exactly the same time. She instructed them in their own language to drag the casualty inside. Noddy Norman had no doubt he would be operated on unquestionably.
Ray A DÃ¼rer, otherwise known as Grisle, though Jeremiah Bentley to the investigating officers in the serious fraud squad, was sitting downstairs in his basement office on Frome Road in London's N.19 with his hands behind his head, his feet up and his belly out, thinking, imagining, dreaming as he finished off a can of Tenants to wash down his quarter-pounder accompanied by heavily salted vinegary chips. He opened another can of lager to wash down the Mars bar he was beginning his desert with and he could imagine himself somewhere warm living off the proceeds of the widowed woman whose husband-murderer he had shot, yet he felt that people deserved to have him active and working.
'It's basically a toss-up' he thought, rummaging in his trouser pocket for a coin, 'between Alicante and helping humanity.'
The phone rang.
"Yuup?" he answered.
"You probably don't remember me but you saved my husband from an assassin not that he was my husband then and even though he is my husband now he's after going off with a glove and I want him back and I don't know who to turn to so I rang you but you hardly remember me."
By the time the woman had got to the end of her sentence, Ray A DÃ¼rer was holding the phone at arm's length.
"Madam,â€ he replied, whispering over the distance between him and the receiver, "I never forget a pretty face."
"You clearly don't remember me then do you. Of all my many attributes, aye, nobody has ever included a pretty face among them. If I was an actress I wouldn't be a model â€“ I'd be into mime. But I'm not an actress. I work for the Council. This departure of my husband on behalf of a glove is breaking me up. You've got to do something."
"Madam," Grisle said, holding the phone as far away from him as his short stubby arm would allow, "to lose a husband to another woman, eh, that's common enough misfortune, ain't it, but to lose a husband to a glove places you in an utterly unique category. Odd things that can go wrong in relationships."
"Then you will help."
"You mean you're not joking."
"Joking! Would you be joking if you hadn't seen your husband since the morning after our wedding?"
Ray A. DÃ¼rer took a deep breath and thought 'How could I have a husband and what difference would it make if I had one whether I had seen him before or after this woman's wedding.'
"You have to admit,â€ he said instead, "that bespeaks a certain â€“ certain in the sense of proportion â€“ commitment on his part. He did not go off with the glove, for instance, the morning before or the morning of your wedding, eh?"
"He said he was going to Ukraine. He rang me from there telling me he was coming back having offloaded the glove on a hermit â€“ nothing queerer than a hermit â€“ but he never showed and now our little boy is almost one. For him, as much and more than for me, you've got to got to promise me you will get him back."
Ray A DÃ¼rer flipped the coin towards the ceiling with dexterous dynamism. The coin spun upwards but he never got to catch it. A police officer caught it for him. He was cornered where he sat by the coin-catcher and three of his colleagues, one of whom was wearing a suit from the Civil Service. The revenue officials informed him that there were now ten year jail sentences for tax evasion. The police officers told him that his finger prints were on the bolt to the warehouse where a known Russian FSB agent was shot.
Grisle shot like a bolt into a more comfortable sitting position but not before he politely exited the call with "I promise".
"I'd ring for my solicitor,â€ Ray A DÃ¼rer said, looking from one to the other rectangularly, "only I 'aven't got one, 'av I! Let's settle this den, man to men, so to speak. Your evidence is...?"
"I already told you,â€ the police officer said, "finger prints. We have the bullets from the micro-pistol with which he was shot. We have a warrant to take this place apart, not least so as to find the pistol."
"The evidence is here,â€ a revenue official said pointing to the mess on Grisle's desk. "We have a court ruling to take it away."
"You guys are good,â€ Ray A DÃ¼rer said. "Traditional â€“ yes, very traditional â€“ but very good. Nonetheless, even as a lay lawyer, so to speak, the flaws in your presentation are glaring, ain't they maties. For starters I investigate lots of cases for lots of people. There are a thousand and one reasons why my finger prints might be on that or any other ware-house bolt, eh? I can tell you more than one woman has got her finger-prints on my bolt, so to speak, eh, and those weren't arresting experiences. As for revenue, I concede I might owes you a few bob as Popeye used to say to his old Olive, but we can straighten that out â€“ man to man as I say, eh. Let not the size or texture of any bolt come between us. You can see I've been busy. I 'aven't got around yet to my tax returns, 'av I? But I will. I will. We can come to a ... settlement, so to speak."
"You'll be coming to a settlement alright,â€ the revenue officer said commencing to load documents into a specially designed suit-case, "the settlement of criminals and embezzlers, otherwise known as Her Majesties prison."
"Ha, ha,â€ Grisle laughed, enjoying the joke despite himself. "Now hold on there lads â€“ that's my diary. Girlfriends, dates, you don't want that. Besides, I need it if I'm not to descend into self-abuse."
Without another word the diary along with everything else in the office was taken away.
A person whose number was written in Ray A. DÃ¼rer's diary was Detective-inspector Imelda Burrows. Her thoughts were troubled with recollections of more than one man. After she got an official warrant to search the cottage in Kerry and its grounds, she put on the new extra-grip boots she had imported from Germany. They were especially designed for comfort and grip and getting a grip on matters was what she most felt she needed to do. Unable to shake off her brief though passionate week-end affair with Mental Grisle, she felt she needed to get her teeth into police work and forget about him and find somebody else â€“ preferably all three at the same time. As she slipped her size seven feet into the boots and tightened them up, she appreciated their comfort â€“ 'comfort you could sleep in' she thought â€“ as well as admiring their grip.
Detective-Inspector Imelda Burrows brought her ever-suggesting assistant, Cian O' Dowd with her to search the cottage in Kerry and its grounds. Much was unexplained in Imelda Burrows' mind about the cottage. It had been identified by computer triangulation as the place her mentor, Detective-inspector Earnest Lee Lawless, was headed to meet up with his then girl-friend Annette McKane.
'Not that she was 'then' his girlfriend', the Detective-Inspector thought.
She had done a runner on him the week before.
'Probably to have an affair with another man', Imelda Burrows thought.
They had subsequent cctv of both the Detective Inspector and Annette McKane leaving for the States â€“ though on separate flights on different days. It did not add up in Detective-Inspector Imelda Burrows' mind.
'Granted he was besotted with her â€“ and I am only beginning to realize the meaning of 'besotted' â€“ but why would he skip the country.'
"To avoid Annette McKane facing the charges for the crimes you suspect her of having committed,â€ Cian O' Dowd suggested.
They were by-passing a truck on the Limerick-by-pass and Imelda Burrows was worried. She knew that Earnest Lee Lawless would have no difficulty going that far.
The car phone rang. It was a call from British police based in London.
"Sergeant Louis Maxwell here,â€ the voice transmitted by updated Shannon technology said, "checking all numbers belonging to a suspect in a number of serious revenue frauds. Who am I talking to please?"
"If you are checking all numbers belonging to a suspect presumably there are names attached to them and you know exactly who you are talking to,â€ she responded and Cian O' Dowd listened attentively.
The car phone was on speaker mode and he was well able to make out what the voice on the other end of the connection was saying.
"You name is Peaches Melba then?"
Cian O' Dowd suppressed a chuckle; nearly cut in too soon in front of the truck.
"Detective Inspector Imelda Burrows of the serious crime squad in Ireland here. You have arrested Mental Grisle!"
"Detective Inspector, it is a pleasure and a relief to talk to someone in our line of business but I have no idea who Mental Grisle here. Our suspect is called.... Jeremiah Bentley."
'That fits', she thought.
"Then you haven't arrested him,â€ she said.
"Not yet Detective-Inspector. Investigations are ongoing. What can you tell us about his financial activities."
"Nothing. Ours was....â€
"May I suggest â€˜a social relationshipâ€™," Cian O' Dowd chipped in.
"You heard that,â€ Imelda Burrows said glaring at her assistant who was quite delighted with himself, driving with glee regardless of the trucker flashing his lights at him.
"Well, if you think of anything that may be of use to us, please get in touch."
'Hmmn', she thought, exiting the call, 'no getting away from memories of Mental Grisle â€“ Jeremiah Bentley!'
The cottage in Kerry, the last location for Detective Inspector Earnest Lee Lawless, where he went to meet up with his estranged lover, was thoroughly searched and forensically examined. There was a remote search done on the ownership of the cottage. Five names were registered.
'Hence the new clasps on the windows', Imelda Burrows thought. 'Someone trying to stop the others getting in.'
"Hardly a police matter," Cian O' Dowd suggested with a smirk, having all along felt the administrative effort that had been left up to him of getting a search-warrant for a remote cottage in Kerry was a waste of time he could have spent composing poetry.
Imelda Burrows looked out the kitchen window with the new clasps. There had been lashings of rain and wind recently and she was keen to give her boots an initial testing. So she took a walk by herself in the uneven cottage surrounds, determined not to resist any incline or decline as a challenge for her new grip-all German boots, Alles-faustig on the label. Still trying to get her head around Mental Grisle as a suspect in serious financial fraud, she thought she might even climb a wet mossy tree as an extra attempt to falsify the grip-all claims of the boot. If she slipped she could always send them back and redeem the three-hundred Euros spent.
'You can say with certainty,' she said to herself, 'that defrauding would not be out of character for Mental Grisle.'
'Defrauding' made her think of 'de-frocking' and immediately after that 'de-flowering'. She winced, steadied herself.
'Luckily', she thought, 'there is one part of me that has a grip of things â€“ if only by boots.'
She was thinking of discretely contacting him â€“ 'I do not want to seem too forward or needy or desperate' she thought. 'Neither of us committed to meeting up again. But now I have an excuse. You know him well enough, Imelda, to know he is bound to see through it â€“ what harm if he wants to meet up again â€“ but if he wanted to meet up again he would have contacted me!' â€“ when she opened the door of the pump house and found herself staring in the face of a dead Earnest Lee Lawless.
The husband of the woman who had rung Ray A DÃ¼rer was drinking a Pinot Grigio wine, thinking it all very well to let yourself be led by a glove but you still needed money to survive, to travel, to unravel where and who you were supposed to return the glove to. His name was Eddie McCann. He was thinking of the last time he was drinking half his income away. That was in Dublin when an insurance investigator approached him offering him money to aid and abet a prison escape. Now he was in Kiev, where he had gone after failing to return the miracle glove to a saintly nomad who lived out the country in a stone tower. It had, though â€“ and he thought fondly of one of them, the mother, Olga â€“ managed to protect two women from dangerous abductors, or so he had managed to convince himself.
'Dangerous' he thought, 'was probably an exaggeration as a description of the state the women's abductors were in. They were less than the finished article when it came to premeditated cruelty â€“ the same could not be said for whoever sent them.'
A besuited man â€“ three-quarters empty bottle in one hand, tipped glass in the other â€“ sat down beside him and adjusted his spectacles. Eddie McCann raised his eyebrows for want of a better greeting.
"We were investigating a rogue insurance dealer...,â€ the man said, English accent laced with Irishisms.
'Maybe second-generation', Eddie McCann thought.
"... and he's dead now. Suicide. Your name appeared in his filofax. We have evidence he was bankrolling you and we are sure that it was connected to a prison escape."
'He's bluffing', Eddie McCann thought. 'I was paid in cash. There is no paper trail. Call his bluff.'
"I thought this wine was good,â€ he responded. "But yours must be positively hallucinogenic such is the level of fantasy you are spouting."
"You'll probably get a ten-year sentence for your role â€“ when we take you back to face charges in handcuffs."
"Fuck off,â€ Eddie McCann said, standing up, ready to defend himself, ready for flight.
"Sit down,â€ the suited man said, "have some of this positively hallucinogenic wine. You may as well because once you get out the door my men will have you in handcuffs and they are not renowned for their gentleness unless I say otherwise."
'He's double-bluffing', Eddie McCann thought, pushing him in the chest.
The glasses fell off the man. He fumbled for them before they hit the floor. Eddie McCann squirreled past him and headed for the exit.
Three men in long coats turned from the car they had been examining and made towards the steps he was about to descend. Eddie McCann turned around and went back into the wine-bar.
"Actually I prefer anything Italian to anything positively hallucinogenic,â€ he said to the man he had pushed out of his way, "seeing as how you offered. It's the way they talk transformed into liquid."
The bottle was paid for in cash. Eddie McCann could see layers of large notes in the man's wallet. Two clean glasses were produced.
"When you arrive in County Y with the package X there will be 20 grand in a bank account with your name on it."
"What's in the package?" Eddie McCann asked, surprised.
"You are better off not knowing what it is but if what's in it determines your decision I can tell you it is for the benefit of the people in Country Y."
"Why not just send it?"
"You do not know Country Y. The anonymity and the lack of an address for the recipient is all important."
"There you go. As you said I do not know Country Y. I would be useless there."
"On the contrary, that is exactly what you will be useful for. Obviously clueless, you will obviously be a tourist. You will go to a popular tourist pub there and you will have the package removed from your possession. That is all you have to do. An additional 20,000 in cash will be in an envelope for you."
"That's a lot of money... for one trip."
"The package is important for a lot of people. When you divide the number of people by the total amount of your fee, it is a lot less than 0. 0001 cent per person."
"It must be something very important in the package."
"How big is it?"
"Small enough to fit neatly into the rolled-up sleeping bag that will be hanging from your backpack."
"I don't get this. If it is that important what's to stop me selling it to someone else for a better price or...."
"Or handing it over to the authorities? You have seen my men outside. They are unforgiving at the best of times â€“ not that they have experienced many of them. I leave it to your imagination how they would deal with someone who has betrayed so many people after they had tracked you down â€“ and they will."
"Whatever else I do,â€ Eddie McCann replied, "I am not about to betray you to the authorities, as you call them. It still does not fit with me. I think I'm going to have to decline your offer though thanks for the wine."
"You seem to be forgetting,â€ the bespectacled man said, "that this is not an offer you can accept or decline as if it were an offer of ice-cream after you dine. This is an opportunity you can only accept or else â€“ well, it will be screams after wine."
Eddie McCann was silent for a while. Being forced into a corner made him stubborn. He considered that there must be a back-way out of the wine bar for staff. 'Granted', he thought, 'they could have that covered too but it is worth a try.'
"I'll piss on it,â€ he said to the bespectacled suited man as he slid off the stool heading towards the jacks.
"I hope you intentions are honorable,â€ Olga said to Dmitri after Lidiya and Stefan had gone out for a walk. They had declined the trifle deliberately so as to leave their respective parents alone with each other.
"This is not the age of honourable intentions,â€ Dmitri replied with a laugh.
"Wouldn't it be great if they got it together?" Lidiya said to Stefan, already half way down the road.
He had trouble keeping up with her.
"Let's not talk about them,â€ he said. "Let's talk about us."
"Us,â€ she said dismissively. "What's there about "us" to discuss. I'm going to college in Moscow in September.... That's if Mam can afford to send me."
"Well, you then. Who were your assailants?" Stefan asked.
"Let's not talk about them,â€ she said shaking her head. "It will be ages anyhow before they come to trial. I could well have finished my law degree by then.... if Mam can find the funds to send me to college."
"If you keep ruling out things to talk about,â€ Stefan said with a snort, "we'll be meditating in silence before long."
"I suppose they were traffickers of sorts,â€ Lidiya responded.
"They should be eradicated, not brought to trial," Stefan said.
"They weren't very good at their job,â€ Lidiya said, remembering the big fat one blubbering in her front room while the thin menacing one consoled him.
"Just as well,â€ he said. "Lidiya, I worry about you alone, you and your mother."
"There has to be no issue about a woman living on her own, no threat, no fear."
"I know,â€ he said. "Still we live under each other's protection."
"I am going to go and visit them,â€ Lidiya said decisively, as if just making up her mind.
"You can't or nobody can put barriers in front or behind or on either side of what a woman can do."
"Okay,â€ Stefan conceded, hands raised high, "but visiting them.... Lidiya, how could you ever even look at them!"
"You see that's where you're wrong,â€ she said. "You have to face your fears. You have to find out where they came from."
"Lidiya,â€ Stefan said. "You are amazing."
"Which is to say that I will go and visit them if I can raise the cash for the journey. Besides I have already applied to law school and they want proof of my commitment. What better content for my essay on commitment to the law than the case of two abductors especially as I want to specialize in international law."
Back in the house, there were long pauses between Olga and Dmitri like a corrugated iron shed room over which the music from his IPod rained. She was fond of Rachmaninov. He put on movie scores instead and asked her to tell him about her former husband.
"You are asking me to recall a nightmare I would rather forget,â€ she said.
"That effectively ends that attempt at a topic of conversation,â€ he muttered to Zara's 'Somewhere my love'.
"What about your... wife?" Olga asked after several minutes listening to some Leonard Bernstein score.
"Hmmn,â€ he said. "You know, she died. Cancer got her like it seems to be getting so many people these days. You know I often think that... eh... supposing they found a cure for cancer but it meant destroying some essential gene function relating to biodiversity. We could say get rid of the scourge of cancer but the human race would evolve into a homogeneous uniformity. Do you think it would be worth it?"
'Some sort of perspective on cancer was all he said about his wife', Olga mused. 'I had hoped he would tell her he was madly in love with her and madly missed her or the exact opposite but that was all he said.'
"That's too big a question for me,â€ Olga responded and Dmitri was wondering what topic of conversation he opened she would not close.
There was more silence. It lasted the length of two songs from two different Bond movies.
"Your job going all right?" he asked.
He knew she had a part-time job as a cleaner.
"Nothing wrong with it,â€ she said, "except for the wages..."
She was not about to begin a rant concerning low-paid work when you were trying to raise a family nor had she any interest in a comparison of the economy now and before â€“ under communism â€“ when everyone had work so she added "...as you would expect."
"Olga,â€ Dmitri said. "Olga, there is something I've been meaning to ask you."
Her diaphragm contracted though she was not alarmed. Synthesisers played. Most men in her experience of them come to some intimate proposal sooner or later. She hoped that what he was coming to had some emotional content to it, but she did not have much faith that it would have. It was only their second dinner together, prompted by Stefan's friendship with Lidiya. Both dinners Dmitri had cooked in his house. She could not have afforded to invite him back and wondered if she had the money would she have bothered.
She raised her eyebrows expectantly but felt a little fake.
"You know I am an archaeologist,â€ he said and she nodded.
That did not sound to her like a very promising emotional opening, like, "you know I am someone who digs up the past". She would rather leave the past buried.
"Well a lot of the digs are funded by universities and institutions and I happen to be on indefinite sabbatical from Moscow University. But anyway, having secure tenure allows me to send Stefan to college there for free. Now, if Lidiya were my daughter...."
"That is the most peculiar marriage proposal ever...." Olga interrupted, immediately getting Dmitri's drift.
She could not have said it was the most peculiar proposal of any sort ever that had been presented to her, given the peculiar proposal she had from men over her life.
He opened his arms, as if he were about to apologize, as if he counted this as topic number four she would not talk about.
"... but far from dismissing it am I,â€ Olga added.
Angela Tilby was on reception. As part of her job she had to fill a folder with media references to the company she worked for. It was quiet now so she was reading the paper. The subject of the article was the IDA.
"Its job" the article read, "has been to attract multinational companies into the country. The IDA had been instrumental in attracting the big names in the IT sector to Ireland, along with the lowest Corporation tax rate in the EU. IDA executives operate by getting a base tenant into an area, buying up the land around it, and inviting in similar companies or suppliers to augment it. The result: jobs and revenue.
"The IDA have been under a lot of pressure during the previous seven years. Expressions of interest from new foreign companies to invest in Ireland, to open offices or a manufacturing plant or offer services like telesales were virtually nil. Quantifiable investment was actually nil. It was all they could do to hold on to existing investments but a lot of them had scaled back. The IDA end-of-year figures had been in negative equity for seven years running. Rumours abounded that jobs would be lost in the IDA itself for the first time in its fifty-year existence. Previously buoyant friends and work colleagues look at each other with fraught glances, wondering how they could get one up on the other so as to look good and avoid the axe when it comes. Sick colleagues were not replaced. No one new filled positions when the older staff retired. Pressure was on the over 40s to leave early."
Angela Tilby was young. She had gotten her job seven years earlier when she left school. It paid for her mother's health care. She had to go private or the woman would be dead by the time she got called for her operation on the public scheme. That cost big money. Having a government job, albeit an increasingly insecure one, enabled her to raise the money at a time when only the credit unions were lending. It paid for her out-of-town apartment.
"Only in the last seven months were little green shoots of recovery in evidence,â€ she read. "Everyone was ultra careful to nourish them as if they were a new born baby. Even so nerves are fraught, as if one mistake could abort the whole business of Ireland Inc."
Angela Trilby lifted her head from the newspaper. It was after mid-day and she was thinking of her lunch. Angela Trilby found herself facing across the reception counter a woman who worked on land-planning banks from a room down the corridor.
This woman had purple hennaed hair and dressed in white blouse, black skirt and sensible shoes. She had an A4 brown envelope in her hand. Even though there were people coming and going in the lobby, this woman was attracting all Angela Trilby's attention. Angela Trilby knew her name to be GrÃ¡inne Sorenson.
"In-box, not immediately note in front of where I sit, incompetence, impertinence, a document of this importance, note has to be dealt with as utmost priority, I told you, I told you a hundred times note to watch out for it, to make sure I had it in my hands the moment it or anything like it with reference to Land Bank 0038076, just when it looks like recovery is getting going, there are people like you, Angela, who are the cause of it dying before coming to life, Angela Trilby, what sort of name is that, I shall be reporting you note to your line supervisor and I will make sure the Director herself note hears about this, how anybody can remain in a trustworthy position on reception â€“ reading the paper â€“ and not be able to handle very important documents, extremely important documents that I have the responsibility of expediting and you have delayed me from defusing their explosive content and every moment note counts against a successful outcome and I can assure you, Angela Trilby, that if this explodes, it will be in your face the shrapnel will lodge â€“ regardless of your head ducked down reading the paper â€“ and I for one will be happy to see puck marks gouged out of your ugly complexion and even if by my intense skill and intensive efforts I manage â€“ manage, note not like you who cannot even manage putting a document in front of me on my desk but had to leave it in my in-box where it will only get dealt with when I get through the massive burden of work I shoulder when it should have been thrust under my very eyes at precisely the time of its delivery by dispatchers I note to this office and you signed for it and yet failed in your bounden duty to draw my attention to it and its vitally important contents for the whole revitalization of our economy and that goes for our jobs too, Angela Trilby, well, your job anyway noteâ€“ no doubt you were looking at the pictures in the paper when it arrived â€“ I will make sure your job is on the line note, note and under permanent review if not an outright sacking note which is what I will be pushing for, you little lazy slut of an incompetent excuse for a reception clerk...."
A senior male colleague, walking by â€“ though for all Angela Tilby knew he could have been hovering, listening â€“ interjected.
"I need to talk to you, GrÃ¡inne,â€ he said and with extreme reluctance GrÃ¡inne Sorenson moved off with him, as if a predator had been dragged off a carcass on which it was gorging.
Anglea Trilby was left to deal with incoming inquires. Her stomach lost the appetite for her proposed lunch. Her mind lost the desire to ever eat again. She found her coat with shaking hands, her bag slipped from her grasp. She tripped over it, picked it up and headed out of the office door.
Nkiruka Noxolo and Monifa Uba got the man their boss shot inside to an interrogation room.
"Play on,â€ Abebi Abafro, beginning to get in complete control of the situation, said to Noddy Norman as she passed back through the restaurant cum pub.
Medics had arrived to take care of the wounded. The dead were put in ambulances.
Noddy Norman assumed she meant 'cover over the noises of the interrogation'.
There was a shelf at the back of the bar where musicians who played in this venue left their instruments. He got a ladder from the shed at the back of the kitchen â€“ now minus a dead kitchen porter â€“ climbed up, and selected an electric number. Back on stage he plugged it in to the amplifiers and tuned up. It sounded grand to him. Between the shock of the bullets and Abebi Abafro's apparent disregard for his well-being and the request to "Play on,â€ Noddy Norman decided to try out one of his new compositions.
"As we passed under the first of three bridges,â€ he sang, playing chords and melody on his new guitar retrieved from the shelf, as Nkiruka Noxolo put it this way to the shot captive.
"Brother,â€ he said, "I can see you are only misguided. There is no intrinsic malice to you at all. You fell in with the wrong crowd, brother, that is all. There is still time â€“ this is the time when all is still â€“ to repent of all that and come clean. I'd hate to hear your screams when Monifa Uba gets his implements into you."
Monifa Uba was wiring up a series of electrodes attached to a transformer and plugging it in.
"Oh â€“ my God â€“ look at those rippling ridges,â€ Noddy Norman sang.
His electric melody soared even as his chords reached down to the greatest depths of which this amplified guitar was capable. His audience â€“ thinned out a bit since before the shooting â€“ seemed to be recovering from their shock and were ordering drinks again. One or two were even eating.
"The first thing you need to tell me brother, and this will not be too hard on your soul, is your name."
"And the second thing,â€ Abebi Abafro said bursting into the room, "is who you are working for."
And the land-scape was a mashed metaphor:" Noddy Norman sang, easing into a regular rhythm in travelling-down-the-road mode.
The wounded interviewee, clearly in pain, was silent.
"I am going to try one more time, brother,â€ Nkiruka Noxolo said "and after that I am going to leave the room. Pain and screams, they do not appeal to me. There are medics outside and on my request I can have you cared for. After I try, one last time, I am going to leave you to methods that are not mine. I do not even approve of them. That is why I am offering you an alternative. Last chance."
"â€™twas love, yes love, that I remet her for,â€ Noddy Norman sang, positively lyrical now as he kept up the travelling-down-the road rhythm.
The bleeding interviewee remained silent. Nkiruka Noxolo made for the door of the interrogation room. He did not look back but he heard the voice say quietly
"A defeated ego scraped off the floor,â€ Noddy Norman sang, his guitar solo heading for the heights.
"That took a long time to come out,â€ Abebi Abafro said. "We are wasting time here. I want to know who you are working for and I want to know now."
She had indicated to Monifa Uba to apply the electrodes. Nkiruka Noxolo came back into the room, closing the door quietly.
"Brother,â€ he said, "you don't want this to happen to you â€“ nor does God. Tell the nice woman who you work for."
"Pass under the second of three bridges,â€ Noddy Norman sang, his chords chunky, raunchy even. "Oh â€“ my God â€“ look at those rippling ridges
"And the land-scape was a mashed metaphor:
â€™twas love, yes love, that I remet her for...."
Silence again came from the man who gave his name but for whom the revelation of his employers was a fear not worth facing even relative to the immediate fear of Monifa Uba's electrodes. Abebi Abafro lost the head, or gave a very decent impression of losing the head.
"I've had enough!" she screamed angrily. "This is a waste of my time. You've already cost me so much in terms of medical expenses and window replacements. You are not going to waste any more of my time. This is me! Abebi Abafro!! Uba-Uba apply the electrodes."
Chimwala Faraji seem to shrink to a squeezed sponge of wet moss after the verbal onslaught against him as Monifa Uba-Uba moved with the same lacidasical though deadly intent as he had across the yard to retrieve the prisoner in the first place.
"Lord save me from witnessing unbearable pain!" Nkiruka Noxolo exclaimed, making his way out the door of the interrogation room once again.
"The Ivy League,â€ Chimwala Faraji whispered, choked, spluttered but nonetheless got out.
"Then we approached the third of three bridges,â€ Noddy Norman sang like a man on a determined mountain ascent,
"Looking down from the top of those ridges,
Sea-waves rippling in a wedge-shaped wind
Youâ€™d swear to bejayzus we never sinned...."
Abebi Abafro was not surprised. Now she wanted to know their layout in the area so she could begin reprisals. Chimwala Faraji looked at her with terror-stricken eyes.
"We passed under the last of three bridges,â€ Noddy Norman strummed, on the home stretch now,
"Oh â€“ my God â€“ look at those ridges
And the land scape was a smashed metaphor:
Tâ€™ was love, yes love, that I remet her for...."
He stopped, having forgotten the last lines, bowing acceptance of the scattered applause. Abebi Abafro took control of the microphone.
"I can confirm" she said, "that it was the Ivy League behind the shootings. I got enough information to clear the ground between here and the dump."
They were on the way up the stairs, the law-enforcers who took away all his material possessions.
"'ey! 'ey!!" Ray A. DÃ¼rer shouted after them, referring to the coin he had tossed when on the phone to the woman whose glove-absconding husband he had promised to return to her. "Was it 'eads or tails den?"
Of replies â€“ none.
When the large woman in casual fatigues came down the stairs, Ray A. DÃ¼rer had his head in his hands and a spotlessly clean office.
"You with the other mates," he said in a throaty voice strung out with barbed bee-stings. "What mates you talking 'bout man? I come alone."
"You're not with the other shower?" Ray A. DÃ¼rer responded, making an obvious if, even to himself, unimpressive deduction.
"Correct,â€ the woman replied in an that's-obvious-and-very-unimpressed tone. "You could do with cold shower â€“ improve your mental speed man."
Ray A. DÃ¼rer looked at her like a dog who did not want a bath.
"Out with it,â€ he said. "What's your beef?"
"You have your walks here, from darkness into light,â€ the woman said. "My name is Uzeto Ufahamu. I believe it has something to do with raising awareness 'bout depression â€“ your walks from darkness to light, not my name. You ask me what I am doing here. Brother, you asked me 'what's my beef?' I went to school in your country so I know you are not referring to my flesh. If you were I would say I am not one of those fancy cows too big for its mother's birth canal. No, I am stocky. You don't milk me but I am proud of my beef. So you were not entirely wrong asking me 'what is my beef?' I am trying to walk entire people from darkness into light. My people, they are floundering in quicksand. To be honest, it is not quicksand â€“ it is more living, more parasitic, more rooted, more growing, more insidious and strong and unrootable than quicksand. Before my people can walk anywhere, anywhere outside enclosing darkness, parasites who are choking body of our politics and every spirit have to be destroyed."
Ray A. DÃ¼rer looked at her with 'And-I-thought-I-had-problems stare' before responding
"Assassinate their leader â€“ whoever 'they' are?"
"Ass,â€ she replied and he jumped as if kicked. "Make no mistake, you ass, there are no leaders â€“ no dispensable ones man â€“ "
Before she could take off at a gallop, or at least at an intensive parkland graze, Ray A DÃ¼rer interjected.
"Nothing new about that."
"You mistake my meaning,â€ she said. "What I mean is that if you take out leader, and make no mistake brother you'll have to, any number of other members are ready and willing to take over as leaders. They sure are man."
Ray A. DÃ¼rer thought about that for a minute.
"Well, as you can see, my desk is clear,â€ he said. "Your arrival coincides with a hiatus" â€“ he nearly said hiatus without the 'a' â€“ "in my employment. You want me to get to the root of it, whatever it is."
"You don't understand Mr DÃ¼rer,â€ the woman said sounding a bit fatigued with Mental Grisle. "Every tentacle of this organization â€“ make no mistake you could call it disorganization if it were not so bloodily effective â€“ has thousand roots. It is entwined with far-off tentacles. Like war, there is no pattern to it, at least there is no pattern except there being no pattern. It has got itself entrenched on some of the highest branches of society."
'Whatever this is', Ray A. DÃ¼rer thought, 'it is not beginning with a blank.'
"Sounds like you have no shortage of information on them,â€ he said out loud.
"Make no mistake, Mr. DÃ¼rer," he responded, "shortage of information is not issue â€“ brother we have abundance of information in any area except the most important one."
"The most important one being how to eradicate them."
"Correct,â€ she said, "I knew I had made no mistake coming to you brother."
"Why did you come to me?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.
"Make no mistake,â€ she responded, "your reputation is an internet sensation. We have run traces on you. Make no mistake, Mr. Durer, we know more about you than you probably know about yourself."
"You wouldn't be the only one,â€ Ray A. DÃ¼rer laughed bitterly.
"The main reason I came to you â€“ with full backing of government â€“ at least with full backing of those who as far as is known are not already entwined in ivy league â€“ is that from conception in Manchester to two seconds before I walked down your stairs, you have no connection whatsoever with our country."
"That is an advantage,â€ Ray A. DÃ¼rer nodded, thinking the opposite.
"Make no mistake Mr. DÃ¼rer that is massive advantage. You cannot be someone ivy league has already got its roots into."
"Roots,â€ he mused what he hoped was significantly for the want of anything better to say. "I always found that the toughest root to eradicate was the one most awkward to get at."
"Make no mistake, Mr. DÃ¼rer,â€ he responded, "they circle business in manner that is anything but pi-r-squared. You can circle their circle, at least you can try, and still not get to root of them. Some of strongest roots are hidden beneath thickest ones. Make no mistake as to my meaning, Mr. DÃ¼rer. This is one of densest most effective attack-defence organisms in universe. I do not exaggerate. You will even find yourself chopping down branch of legit business by mistake."
"You probably passed the cleaners on the stairway,â€ he commented, "who cleaned up my office. Any chance we will be flying by private jet."
"Naturally,â€ she replied, "and immediately if you are available".
"Free. On my estate. For as long as you are available to me."
"Oh! I'm available alright," he said even as he thought that he had not taken on one this big before, 'and to you too if you want me', he thought but did not say.
Her first reaction when she saw the corpse of Detective-Inspector Earnest Lee Lawless sitting with its back to the mechanism in the pump house was relief. Like a loved but resented father out of the way, now she could police exactly as she desired without feeling the need to run to him constantly for confirmation of her lines of enquiry. Detective-inspector Imelda Burrows' second reaction was that unlike the multiple ownership of the cottage this was most definitely a police matter and she called on the phone for the forensic people and the Chief-Superintendant.
The place was fingerprinted. Annette McKane's remnants â€“ on file for years â€“ were all over the place along with the blood of Lawless. Nonetheless Imelda Burrows went about â€“ got Cian O' Dowd to go about â€“ eliminating the five listed owners of the cottage from suspicion.
"They all have solid alibis,â€ he reported back.
"You are leaving something out,â€ she replied.
Cian O' Dowd looked at her, speechless, wondering how she knew or did she know that he had dated one of the alleged owners.
"I..?,â€ he said.
"You,â€ she said accusingly, "forgot to report that even though each of the listed owners had a solid alibi, they each took the opportunity of casting suspicion on the other four owners."
"Correct,â€ he said, relieved, in what he hoped sounded like an admiring voice.
"As I expected,â€ she said.
"May I make a suggestion?" Cian O' Dowd said.
"Everything evidential is grammatically incorrect and that is should be that all the evidence points to the guilt of Earnest Lee Lawless' former girlfriend, Annette McKane,â€ she responded, "is, no doubt, your suggestion."
'God', he thought, 'she is really laying it on thick today. Glad Lawless isn't found dead every day of the week.'
"Actually,â€ he said, sounding as supercilious as he could, "my suggestion was that everything evidential points to Annette McKane's guilt â€“ except the who â€“ whoever he was â€“ who skipped the jurisdiction looking like Lawless."
â€œEvidence cannot point,â€ she snapped though she did clearly remember the cctv footage from Shannon airport of Detective Earnest Lee Lawless parking his jeep and subsequently leaving for South America from the Departure lounge.
"'Looking-like-Lawless',â€ she thought out loud. "'Probably actually is lawless.'"
"You've lost me there, Detective-Inspector,â€ Cian O' Dowd responded, "though an admirable turn of phrase I'm sure you've waited a long time for the opportunity to utter."
"John Thaw in other words,â€ she snapped dismissively, "though you will find that his real name is Alphonsus McGuire or Fancy-foncy as he was called in school."
'Nonetheless' she thought, this time to herself, 'not even Mental Grisle' â€“ another romantic sigh of regret â€“ wondering would she try and contact him to try and falsify her hypothesis â€“ 'could connect the two events, the death of a Detective-Inspector and a known criminal skipping the jurisdiction looking like the dead Detective-Inspector, at least not in a court of law and that assuming two hellishly large assumptions.'
"This John Thaw alias Alphonsus McGuire should be traced and extradited," Cian O' Dowd suggested.
Detective-Inspector Imelda Burrows did not bother to respond 'Exactly the two hellish assumptions I have already thought of' because she had rung Grisle's number.
"Hello Peaches Melba,â€ the same British sergeant who had interviewed her earlier in the day answered and she exited the call.
Cian O' Dowd had heard but before he could smirk the Chief-Superintendant arrived.
Detective Inspector Imelda Burrows was given the job of investigating the death of her former mentor, Detective-Inspector Earnest Lee Lawless. As a first step Imelda Burrows interviewed GardaÃ on the ground in Limerick to find out exactly who is who in the absence of John Thaw. Familiar names and faces appeared in their reports. Plenty of them had run contrary to Earnest Lee Lawless in the past, had cried foul, only to find themselves booted in the balls for their trouble. Yet in her estimation none of them were capable of this type of murder. She wondered was that conclusion part wishful thinking.
'Anyway', she thought, 'I have nothing on them. I have plenty on Annette McKane.'
She traced Earnest Lee Lawless' former girlfriends' aeroplane ticket and found out she flew into San Francisco. She went into court and got an extradition warrant and applied to the FBI but they reported back that they had absolutely no trace on Annette McKane.
"May I make a suggestion?" Cian O' Dowd asked.
Imelda Burrows raised an annoyed eyebrow in his direction.
"The post-office robberies the day of the train strike. All of those arrested were from Limerick, associates or former associates of John Thaw. Maybe one or two of them with a grudge against him will be able to tell you something."
"Right so,â€ she said. "Interview the lot of them."
"But it's five o' clock on a Friday. I have a date at seven."
"Take Monday off. If she is worth it, your date will wait...."
'It's not a she', he thought but did not say. and 'Yeah what would you know', he thought but also did not say.
"But I don't have any preparations organized yet,â€ he did say.
"Go!" she screamed.
Cian O' Dowd reported back to Detective-Imelda Burrows on Sunday. It was John Thaw who organized the robberies but no one knew where he had gone or anything about a cottage and Detective-Inspector Earnest Lee Lawless. American police rang. A zealous duty clerk had checked with immigration concerning any irregularities on the day and after the time Annette McKane touched down in San Francisco. She had been questioned because her 'tourist visa' looked suspiciously like a forgery. She had no address of a hotel where she was staying so she said she was visiting a monk in a Zen monastery who had offered her help. The address of this Zen monastery was available.
'Either I will look out the toilet window', Eddie McCann thought, 'and see that the exit is guarded or else I will get hopped on, maybe after a car load of suits has pulled up alongside of me. There must be a third option.'
He went back to the bespectacled suited man at the wine bar.
"The trip is not without its dangers â€“ " he said.
"Such as?" Eddie McCann asked.
"Getting through the airport without being arrested and searched. Getting to the pub unscathed. There are "interests" that do not want the people to benefit from the contents of the package you will be carrying. You have had your contemplating piss. And you willing?"
Annoyed at himself for being so obliging, Eddie McCann said "yes".
The airport he flew into reminded him of Edinburgh so he did some mental exercises involved in deleting memories he did not want to have activated. This was pattern-interrupt technique. Given that his memories followed a circuit Eddie McCann found it necessary to jump in and to interrupt them before they could fire off thousands of connected neurons. Given that these memories passed through some pretty deep emotional and very boggy territory connecting up his own father not being there for the first sixteen years of his upbringing with his own absconding before his child was born â€“ 'is born' he said to himself, doing a quick calculation â€“ wondering to distraction whether his own father had thought of him at all over the sixteen years when he was not there â€“ he realized it was really his new bride Agnes he was running away from. He felt that he was really running away from what Agnes represented for him â€“ security, stability, predictability â€“ when what he most wanted to do was stretch out the limits of insecurity as if it were an elastic band until it snapped. It was not Agnes herself he was running away from, he agreed with some promptings in his mind. He liked her. He may even love her, especially her ability to talk allowing him to happily say nothing. He wondered about himself.
He interrupted these memories and their associated emotions and thoughts with one single image: the mitten. He had a glove that his father had brought back from his travels, a miracle glove that was supposed to cure his mother, except that by the time he got back she was sixteen years dead and resurrecting a 16 year dead corpse was beyond the power of even this mitten. It was supposed to be a miracle cure not a miracle messiah surpassing even the greatest previous resurrecter of corpses. Holding this glove in mind like a painting depicting the goal of a person's entire life, deleted his emotional, thought-associated memories. That was when he was pulled in by security at customs controls and thoroughly searched in the most intimate of his physical spaces.
The room was perfectly white, sterilized. He stood naked as they went through his back-pack and unrolled his sleeping bag. The package landed on the floor. He had no idea what was in it. The security guard was wearing surgical gloves and he handed it to a man in a suit who he had contacted by phone. A brief conversation ensued. Eddie McCann made to get dressed.
"You won't be wearing your own clothes where you are going,â€ the man in the suit said in English spoken with an African accent.
The security Guard handed him a nondiscript uniform.
"What about my belongings?" Eddie McCann asked, the only one of which he valued was the glove.
The security guard shrugged. He did not speak English. Instead he pointed at the bin.
The prison was overcrowded but not unfriendly. One space beside a locker on a tiled floor was where he slept under a blanket with mould on it that looked like someone got sick a good while ago and nobody had bothered to clean it since. He hoped there were no unseen mites in it and scratched his head, a mere psychological reaction he decided to assume. The unhygienic overcrowding reminded him of Mountjoy as he lay beside the locker with nothing better to do than think, 'except that I went in there voluntarily â€“ in so far as doing something for money so as to survive could be described as 'voluntarily'. This isn't all that different, ending up in prison as a result of taking on a job to earn a few bob. Come to think of it', he thought, remembering the exact layout of the yard and the workshop at the back of Agnes' father's gaff, 'that was a prison too. It certainly felt like one.'
'That was why I broke out of it', he thought.
Another pattern, he realized.
He had been involved â€“ a forced involvement the first time around admittedly â€“ in the breakout from two prisons. In keeping with this pattern he tried to cheer himself up by telling himself it was only a matter of time before he broke out of here too.
He made friends with a Protestant minister in the exercise yard, not that there was enough room between the prisoners for exercise.
His friend, Bill â€œGreyâ€ Joshua Somolo, told him army personnel were being recruited from among the prisoners but not to go because it meant certain death.
"I've already told them I was in the Irish army,â€ Eddie McCann said. "I thought that might make them treat me better for diplomatic reasons if no other.'
"It will procure your release from purgatory only to find yourself in hell,â€ Joe Moses Abuoolu responded, not exactly very encouragingly to Eddie McCann's ears.
"I thought you didn't believe in purgatory,â€ Eddie McCann replied.
"I was only trying to speak your language" Joe Moses Abuoolu responded.
His words seemed to come from various parts of his body which jerked every time he would utter them.
Next day Eddie McCann was removed from prison in combat clothes.
Lidiya was furious with her mother for accepting or even considering the offer â€“ "disguised seduction" she called it â€“ from a man.
"Why is it always women who are responding too male offers; why isn't it the other way around!"
* * *