EVERYBODY IS REDEEMED AFTER DEATH!
Needless to say, Roche did not return home at all that night, and was still in the office when Sharon, Steve and the rest of the shift arrived, most of them having heard of Bobby’s death either on the grapevine or via the more formal radio and television news broadcasts. The mood was sombre but agitated and anxious to ‘do’ something.
As was to be expected Roche’s mood veered between taciturn and angry. He hated anything he could not explain, and this was to him completely inexplicable! Where the blazes had Bobby gone after they had left him yesterday? Roche had assumed that he would return to the office until it was time for the dentist. If Roche had been asked to write the script for the aftermath of their spat - or as Roche saw it, Bobby’s mental aberration - he would have pictured Bobby returning in a sulk, finding a secluded desk with a telephone and ringing Liz to moan about how badly he was treated and how insufferable Roche was. That view was reinforced to some degree by the tirade from Elizabeth when she was looking for him the evening before. But she had said quite definitely that he had not telephoned her, nor the dentist, and that she had not spoken to him since he left for work that morning at about 8 ’clock. She was nothing if not completely honest and straight-talking. Roche believed her completely.
Bobby’s car had been found by uniforms at 2 a.m. some mile and a half from where the body was found. It was parked precisely, locked securely, and nothing seemed to be unusual about it. There was nothing in the boot, which was pristine as normal with Bobby, but inside on the front passenger seat there was a scribbled note, a list which said:
CLIVE? …X ….. Prob. VAS - guess!
MO? ….X…. IRISH? MAYBE? ….. EUROS MAYBE?
CHINESE? Clive says X MO X -
It appeared that he had been visiting the known informers for the various gangs. Clive was a long-standing, not reliable, but easily found, druggie who in exchange for a note or two would sometimes have information on the black street gangs - sometimes good, most often not. He was frequently a waste of time and effort, because he was likely to say whatever he thought might get him a few quid, regardless of its veracity, if he had to make it up, then so be it. Roche had long since decided that when he gave them ‘good’ information it was as much to do with guess work and luck as to do with knowledge. After all, what gang in their right mind would allow a Clive to be in on the action! It was a bigger surprise that he had not been bumped off a long time ago - and Roche had his own views about that too. He had nuisance value! What better way to mislead the police than to let Clive loose with a loose tongue! It was unfortunate that now and then he got it right - from a gang’s point of view that is - but they could then rely on the fact that he had been wrong so many times that even the police would find it difficult to rely and act on what he said. Roche knew, not for a fact but because it made perfect sense, and it was what he would do if he were running the show, that there must have been times when Clive had been fed deliberately misleading information with the sole intention of the wrong story getting back to the police. Had that happened this time? Was Bobby deliberately set up?
Mo? Well Mo was a completely different kettle of fish! Mo (nobody knew whether he was a Mohammed or a Moses or a Maurice or a Moabab!). He had always just been Mo. One could assume, since he seemed to be part of the Asian community that he was ‘affiliated’ to that gang, but he never claimed lineage with them. They did not seem to find him a threat but that was likely because his main function seemed to be to inform on ‘the opposition’ - the Black gangs and ‘the Micks’. Certainly most of his information was unhealthy for them rather than anybody else. Background apart, unlike most of the Asian men and boys known professionally to Roche, who were all part of extended and far reaching dynasties, Mo was, as far as one could see, a loner. He seemed to have no family - of any kind, neither parents, nor partner and children. Roche, who thought like a Mo in some respects, realised that he could just be good at compartmentalising. Definitely in his precarious line of work and with his lifestyle, he was probably wise to try to protect anybody close to him. He was unlike Clive in that he was certainly not a junkie; he was not drinker; he was not, as far as one could tell, addicted to gambling. Roche, again with his theories, had diagnosed him as addicted to fear, to the whole game of chance and jeopardy. Though Mo was a strange one altogether, of all of the informants he was the most consistently useful. His information was usually right, but unfortunately for Roche and the rest of the team, his only function was to inform on what he considered ‘the opposition’. He hated ‘the Whites’ (both ‘the Paddys’ and ‘the Polaks’ - his term for anybody from Eastern Europe) but the Black gangs were his own special target, since they were the principal rivals to the Asian gangs. Rumour also had it that his mother, though born in England, had been from a traditional Bangladeshi family, and his father had been an overseas student from what was then French Sudan (now Mali). There were two conflicting versions of what happened next: first, the girl’s family said that the man just vanished back home, leaving the girl 17, pregnant and alone; the second, that the male relatives of the girl ‘disappeared’ the young man, and that the girl was sent back to Bangladesh. In both scenarios, the baby (Mo) was raised as the child of an older married sister, who was childless and whose husband had either: died within the early years of the marriage from chronic heart disease, or run off with a waiter from the nearby tandoori restaurant (depending who was telling the story!). None of this was ever spoken about in Mo’s hearing, and he had never confirmed, nor denied, either story - nor given any other account of his obvious mixed heritage. It was certainly rare for the two races to mix, so he had something of an unusual visage and physique. So, whichever story - or whatever alternative - was true, it had left its mark on Mo, and definitely his arch enemy number one were the black gangs: black people in general, but his isolation, his mistrust, his misogyny and his cavalier attitude about his own safety, made it more exciting and lucrative to earn money by making life difficult for the young, blacker, elements in the city. It had to be remembered, too, that Mo had attended school in a very culturally diverse and rough part of the city. He had not been considered wholly part of any ethnic grouping, so he needed to run the gauntlet most days, with bullying and victimisation coming from all directions. He had no real support from home where he was always an embarrassment - an advertisement of his mother’s shame, and his pseudo mother’s inability to produce a child or her own, or to keep her husband.
Certainly his provoking of the black gangs was, to say the least, a risky business. They were forceful, dangerous, heavily armed and not shy or afraid to use their muscle and their weapons. Though the Irish were longer established, they were more circumspect. The people who called the tune inside the Irish hierarchy were older and ironically saw themselves as having positions in society to keep up. It was a completely different kind of syndicate. Certainly Bernadette O’Dwyer RIP would never have seen herself as having anything in common with ‘the thugs’. The culture and approach was quite different. That being said, in terms of philosophy, in many ways, they just ran in the same direction on parallel lines. They rarely crossed one another’s paths and if they did, they never, but never, acknowledged the fact. They feigned ignorance of one another’s presence, which was in reality far from the truth. The Irish were not afraid of violence, and had used it on more than one occasion, but it was never the first response and always carried out in more subtle ways. Always third or fourth hand, with the leaders most certainly not getting their own hands dirty. Killing was usually a last resort. This was, of course, more because it was messy and could have time-consuming repercussions. There was never any in-built aversion to it on moral or ethical grounds. It was merely more risky and inconvenient and diverted manpower away from more profitable assignments.
Roche was sure that with Mo, it was definitely a racist thing and not a gangland thing. He was not, as far as one could tell, actively working with any of the Asian street gangs. They somehow acknowledged him, though never accepting him truly as one of their own. They were obviously grateful for his persecution of their rivals, but they knew that it was as much a personal vendetta as a choice of sides. Roche had really no interest in the reason why. He could understand how something in one’s childhood could make you myopic and hell-bent on revenge. It was just the luck of the draw that had put Roche on one side, and Mo on the other. Mo’s philosophy seemed to be: If it was out on the streets, and it was detrimental to a black gang, then it was a double whammy for him: he got paid by the police, and he scored a direct hit on ‘those black bastards’. He had been a target himself plenty of times, and had been at death’s door more than once, but he seemed, like a cat, to have to have nine lives. A bit like Roche, who had himself had his own share of close shaves, and was considered by many of his colleagues to have a bit of a death wish. He never seemed to fear danger, and in some circumstances positively courted it. He had been hospitalised on five occasions, stabbed twice, beaten up, almost to the point of death, twice, and shot once: luckily the person who shot him was probably too drunk to aim straight, and had merely grazed his scalp, before being brought down with a single blow from a very irate John Roche. Yes, he understood Mo, though they were poles apart in philosophy and objective.
Roche did not think Mo would set up Bobby - not deliberately - but his information would have been the most believed by his colleague that was for certain. He was alarmed that neither of the informers had ruled out Vasile! He was a bit of an unknown quantity and it was true that they were determined to make serious inroads into the local crime scene. They were certainly ruthless enough and it may well have been considered a sound and even practical first step to try to pick off the Irish first. That was obviously Bernie not only because she was female, but not young, not physically strong, so personally vulnerable, if she was alone - which she was a lot of the time, having ruled her roost for many years unmolested. She had not considered herself vulnerable even in latter years when they shared the city, relatively peacefully, with the other known contenders. There was a kind of unwritten demarcation line - never negotiated and certainly never discussed or mentioned - between the interested parties. Many of the younger elements within the Black and Asian gangs had grown up only marginally aware of the existence of the Irish ‘Mafia’. They had always worked in an understated way, mostly within a traditionally recognised environment, and had not had to flex their muscles against interlopers much during the earlier years. They had been dominant and physical enough within their own parameters, as many of the Irish community who had fallen foul of them could attest. Some of them were not around now to do much attesting having been forced to flee or had met their maker - of course mourned and lauded with the full rite of the Catholic Church to see them off - even by those that had been responsible for their fate. They were experts at hypocrisy and bravado.
The Eastern Europeans were only recently part of the scene - they were interlopers, but interlopers who had a burning desire to have all of the jam pot, not just share it. They would eventually move in more forcefully on the black gangs and the Asian gangs, but Roche could fully understand that to pick off the Irish would seem like a sound first step - unlikely to bring the disapproval of the others - who might even applaud it - and at the same time moving up a step or two of the ladder.
Roche gave instructions for the policemen on the street, and anybody else moving around, to keep their eyes peeled for Vasile and to bring him in as soon as they laid eyes on him … but to be careful because he was a very dangerous bastard. As he walked away, he thought again, and returned to tell them to bring in Mo too, if and when they came across him. It was possible that Bobby might have said something to him that might give Roche a clue as to what he was thinking, or planning to do. Roche was of the opinion that Bobby would not have been really thinking or planning anything concrete - he would have been working on anger and frustration - and in an effort to get one over on Roche by finding the answers. Roche was not one for pretending. He was not going to give Bobby any more credit in death than he would have given him in life: amongst other ‘nots’ Roche was definitely not a hypocrite. He was disappointed that Bobby was dead, of course he was, but he himself had no fear of dying. To him, life was something that he had got to go through. To lose life would not be that much of a loss. He had no capacity to pretend a feeling that he really did not feel. His reaction was sheer anger that one of his people had been killed by thugs and criminals. It was not acceptable and they could not be allowed to get away with it. He would have felt the same whoever had been the victim - including himself. It was more the effrontery of it than the cataclysmic result that irritated Roche and made him determined to make them pay.
Roche left the uniformed and the several teams that were now heavily involved in the case since one of their own had been killed to canvass the area, do the leg work and try to dig out information on what, why and how Bobby had met his death.
Roche himself had other things to do.