FACING THE MUSIC
Steve managed to get a message to Roche, who naturally assumed that there had been some major breakthrough. Obviously Michael and Frank had sorted out the matter that they were dithering about yesterday and were now ready to share it. Roche sincerely hoped it was relevant, because he was getting nowhere fast at the moment. It had only been four days, and everybody was working away, but no real progress had been made - at least nothing that would stack up in a court of law.
Roche had been back to see Magda, Vasile girlfriend, and she had more or less just confirmed what she had told them before. Vasile had gone back home - allegedly his mother was ill. He had definitely left the country, flying out the day before Bernie was killed, and had not returned, as far as they could tell. It did not mean that he was not behind the murder - he has people working for him, and certainly people who owe him favours, or want to curry favour with him. He would have had no trouble, or compunction, in farming it out. But they had to leave it at that, for the time being.
Mo had been found. He had more or less reiterated what he had said before. He had no real information - He had picked up nothing on the streets and in any case considered it unlikely that anybody he knew would be involved. The Irish were of no real consequence. There was not all that overlap - he grudgingly also gave the same negative reaction to any suggestion that the Black gangs might think it was a useful move to get Bernie out of the way. Mo sniggered, and said that ‘the old dame’ was not really anybody. They stuck to their own ways, their own turf and ……. No, it was likely just a mugger. Opportunist. Robbery. People were reading too much into it.
Roche, pretending to chat casually to the man leaning against the railings of the local park where he had tracked Mo down, said “Well, I might have thought you were right, Mo, if it was not for the fact that DS Robert Shillington was also murdered. I consider that too great a coincidence. Not the sort of thing that happens, generally speaking, following an accidental death as a result of a mugging gone wrong. Don’t you think?”
“That was bad, man. I was real sorry. Me and him got on real well. I was shocked. Really I was.”
“You spoke to him that day, didn’t you? What did you talk about?”
“He was asking me - like you are now - about the Irish woman Whether I’d picked up anything on the streets. I told him, like I’m telling you, I ain’t heard nothing. Nobody seems bothered, or interested really. I said maybe the Euros, but only because I don’t think it was anybody else. It ain’t definitely the Asian blokes, and as much as I’d like to point you in the direction of the Blacks, it ain’t them. I’m sure of it. That’’s all I told him. If he went off to find Vasile, then who bleedin’ knows what might have happened then! Them blokes are fucking mad. No sense of proportion! They’d as soon cut somebody, as ask them the time. They’re fucking mental. If he went to ask them …. Well, there’s your answer, I’d say! Not that I know, you understand. I ain’t heard anything like that official, just what I think!”
“Right Mo, thanks for your time. Here’s a note for your trouble - and if you hear anything, give us a heads up, will you! He was a good man, Bobby Shillington, and I will make it my business to find the bastard who did it. It’s personal!”
Mo knew only too well that it was no idle threat or hot air. If DI Roche said he would find the culprit, then he most likely would - whether that person would ever end up in Court was another story. Might end up in the canal - having had a fatal accident - if he was on his own when he found him! Roche’s reputation was well known. He was fair and he was quite quiet - that is quiet but deadly! He was known to be a hard man, afraid of nobody and nothing. They often joked amongst themselves that he was batting for the wrong side, and they would all have been only too happy to welcome him amongst their number.
“Thanks, man. Yes, I know. He was sound, he was! Never rooked me of me money, never. Never threatened or even raised his voice. He was a good bloke. I hope you sort it out. Otherwise we might all be suspects, eh! Don’t want you on my case for ever. I got enough people looking to do me, without you as well!” With that Mo sauntered off, shoving the money into his pocket, and not even looking around warily to see if anybody had seen him talking to Roche. Mo had led a charmed life for so long, he no longer bothered. In some ways, though, like Roche himself, it was as much to do with lethargy as bravery. They were really not bothered one way or the other. If somebody got lucky, well so be it.
Roche was aware that none of this got him anywhere. He was becoming irritated. None of the usual suspects seemed to be likely. Except Vasile. Yes, Roche believed he was out of the country, but he had associates, and he had people trying to be associates, trying the impress him. But was it impressive to bump off an old lady - probably the least of their rivals. Would somebody wanting to impress go for somebody higher up the food chain? It was surely only a bit of a no-hoper who would think that such a move would impress Vasile! Roche could not see it. It just did not sit right with him.
He was back to the Irish themselves. All right the family were away - but were they! There was still the rump of the family in Leeds, and had anybody really checked out the whereabouts of Bernadette’s son? Rumour had it that he had gone off under a bit of a cloud. Mind you, that same rumour had it that the so-called cloud was to do with his criticism of their lifestyle, their ‘business’ matters. It seemed hardly sensible that he would come back to ‘stop’ them being crooks, and thugs, by being a murdering thug himself? But who could tell. He might have changed his colours completely during his absence. He could have just learned from the best in America? They needed to just check where he was, and what he was doing. If for no other reason than to cross him off the list.
He needed to go back to the office - there was still the small matter of Amanda to sort out.
He had switched his mobile to silent while he was talking to Mo. It was against the rules, but rules had never made that much impact on John Roche. He switched on the sound as he sauntered back. Several missed calls. Several texts. One missed call from the Chief Constable. What does that old sod want? Probably moaning about the overtime or something. He can wait. Missed call from Amanda. Oh well, he would be back soon and could deal with it all then. He needed to speak with Michael first - Steve had said he was trying to get hold of him. Hopefully there will be some new information from the DNA and medical reports.
Roche decided to go first to the SOCO floor, which was in the basement. Michael looked very unhappy when he walked in, and he thought he was about to learn that his hopes of a major breakthrough with the DNA were about to be dashed.
“Hello, the old fecker and what have you got for me!”
Michael frightened the life out of Roche by guiding him into his little cubbyhole of an office. He never used the space, apart from if he had something confidential to tell somebody.
“Jaisus! Who died! You’re not dying from liver disease. I told you to stop the boozing!”
Roche was even more alarmed when Michael failed to rise to this bait.
“John, something strange has happened, and something terrible has happened. And I am really, l really sorry! I wouldn’t have had it happen for the world …. I am mortified. ….”
“God Almighty, Michael, you’re alarming me now. Just tell me. It surely cannot be that bad. Not in the week that Bobby has been murdered. What can be worse than that …. Nothing. Do you hear me. There is nothing you can say or tell me that will be worse than that…… so go ahead. Spit it out!”
Michael took a deep breath, and then said “Listen, John. Don’t interrupt me until I have finished, do you hear, because if I don’t spit it all out now, I will lose my nerve, and it will fester!”
“Right …. But go on quick now. Stop your bloody dithering!”. John was inclined to laugh and think that the silly old sod was probably making a mountain out of a molehill, but for once in his life, he swallowed his funny remark, and just sat down.
Michael told John that during the course of doing the DNA analysis, particularly to identify people known to be at the scene, to try to identify strangers, a strange and uncomfortable piece of information had come to light.
John tried to say something, but Michael motioned to him to say nothing, that he needed to go on because it was important and sensitive, and very hard to explain.
It was discovered that there were direct matches between three of the parties tested, and that they were all linked - it was definite, no possible mistake. Michael swallowed hard, and decided to throw in the very worst part next. It would not have been the worst part yesterday, but it definitely was today.
He explained that the findings which he was sending to Roche in the internal mail marked Private and Confidential had inadvertently got mixed up - because Michael was distraught and not thinking clearly - with a communication he was sending, also marked private and confidential, to the Chief Constable. So in short, Roche got Jenkins’s note (which was nothing very secret) and Jenkins got Roche’s note.
Roche was looking puzzled. “Ah yes, the note about the cost of the paperclips - I saw that…. So what?”
Michael swallowed hard and continued his humiliating tale.
The information which was intended for you and which was delivered by mistake to the Chief Constable was ...said …. outlined….
“For fuck’s sake go on, Michael, you’re driving me mad with all the dithering ….”
Outlined the fact that …. Michael blurted out as fast as he could before he lost his nerve complete …... James Kelly is your father …… (Roche looked aghast, and started to get up … but Michael was determined to finish, whatever the consequences) … and …… Bernadette O’Dwyer …. Is your mother!
To make sure that he completed the task and that his conscience would stop punishing him - probably to be replaced by John Roche punishing him - but that seemed, at the moment, preferable - he reiterated the fact that unfortunately the Chief Constable was now also aware of these facts.
For once Roche was speechless. He was too astounded to be angry, or condemning, or even sorrowful. Was this a dream - a bloody nightmare! It was obvious that Michael was not playing some kind of tasteless joke - he was too distraught for that to be the case. It must be true. He, Roche, had always been a true believer in scientific evidence, now was not the time to waver from that - irrespective of the subject matter. He found himself unable to say anything. He just got up and left the cubbyhole.
Michael was left. Relieved that it was over, but concerned now that his friend had gone off, having received devastating news, and, being Roche, there was nobody with him to share the burden of that knowledge. To add insult to injury that bloody Chief Constable would be on his case doubtless within the next half hour - as soon as he realised he was back in the office. He would use the excuse that he had to take him off the case because of the relationships involved. In reality it would just be because the information gave him carte blanche to be a voyeur to pick over the gory details with impunity.
Whatever had been the slightest doubt that Michael Draper may have harboured earlier that John might actually know, had entirely left him. He had considered the possibility that who Bernadette was and what she represented would likely have made it judicious for him to keep his counsel. If you added on the appalling specimen that was James Kelly who in their right mind would claim lineage with either of them. However, there was absolutely no doubt now in Michael’s mind, it was a complete surprise to Roche. He had been completely taken aback.
He was right. John Roche, never before at a loss, and never before thrown for too long by anything - verbal, physical or spiritual - was now completely side-swiped. He found himself unable to challenge the ‘science’ - it had always been his fail safe. Michael would not have told him if it was not absolutely indisputable. He was certainly not some kind of practical joker - and even if he was, this would not be the kind of cruel lifechanging joke that anybody would play - even Steve, who was acknowledged to be the king of wind up. He made his way back out of the building, finding the closest public house, ordered his usual whiskey and a chaser, and sat down to let the bombshell sink in.
He found that he was not, in itself, bothered about bloody Jenkins. So what if he knew - it made no difference really - apart from this case probably. Even John could see that it was never a good thing for somebody to investigate a crime which involved relatives or relationships. That having been said, he had no intention of backing out of it, so even if he had to resign - again, for the fourth time in 10 years! - he would find the bastard - if not for Bernadette (dear God - that gobshite was his mother!) then certainly for Bobby. As he sat there, slowly coming to terms with reality, he looked out of the window across the street and there she was! The girl again. Smiling - no not smiling - laughing. Who the blazes was she! Where did she keep disappearing to? Once again, he left his drink raced out, but there was no sign. She had been standing next to the newspaper stand, and he asked the vendor which way the girl went that was standing beside him, but the woman looked at him as if he had been drinking. What girl? There was no girl by me? I’ve been here on my own since I took over from George forty minutes ago!
He went back to find that his drink had been thrown away as slops and he could not think of any good reason now to put off the inevitable any longer. And then he remembered Amanda. Oh, Lord. She would have gone home by now - Maybe Steve had the presence of mind to find her a safe house, or an hotel, or something. He hurried back across the square and down the street to the police headquarters. He took the stairs two at a time, not bothering to wait for the lift.
To his relief, Amanda was still there. Probably afraid to return home now, since Graham would have arrived from work some forty minutes ago, to find her missing. She had, though, having spoken to Steve and encouraged by the fragment of conversation she had had with John earlier, and thrown a few bits or clothing in a weekend bag. Bad habits dying hard, she had also spent half an hour cooking him a dinner - which he would probably throw at the wall - and left it in the microwave, with a note attached. She said that she needed time to think, and to mend. He would not believe it. Even she could not believe it. Every other time - and there had been many in their six years together - when circumstances were the same, she would be too frightened - or as her friends would say when she had friends in the early days - too indoctrinated to do anything. She even had believed him when he said it was her fault. She had upset him. She had provoked him. She had let him down.
When Roche arrived back, although by this time he had plenty of his own thoughts to think, he felt that he owed it to Amanda to see what the situation was. She seemed glad to be able to talk to somebody - even somebody usually as taciturn as John Roche, who had never really been all that friendly or welcoming to her. They sat together, him perched on her desk and she told him, almost visibly shaking, that she had booked in - temporarily she hoped - into a cheap and cheerful guest house not far from work. She felt safer in the city, and work here these days was something of a sanctuary. When she had been chatting to Steve earlier, he had said that the others thought that she was a bit detached. They believed that she was ambitious and just using them as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. She was anxious to put the record straight. She really wasn’t at all like that! She was quiet and listened closely to things so that she could learn.
She giggled (John Roche most days would have been condemning of the giggle, but for some reason he found it quite endearing today) and said she had not always been so quiet and ladylike! Graham did not like her to be loud or pushy or know it all. It was easier to just not upset him.
She had joined the force when she lived in Dorset - her home county - but Graham did not like it down there, and thought she spent too much time visiting her family. He did not like her family - particularly her father, and she had three brothers. Graham was not comfortable around men. He had hoped she would not have to work at all when they moved to the city and that she would stay at home and look after him, but his wages at the university were not good enough for the kind of house he wanted to live in. So he had to agree to her trying to just get a transfer. She was fortunate to get the move.
Anyway, shortly after they arrived, before she could take up the post - which was in a different district -, Graham had got very ill. One of the side-effects of the medication that he was on - or maybe it had always been the case, she did not know for sure - was that he could not have any children. When she did not fall pregnant quickly, he insisted that they be tested. He was really angry when it turned out it was him - he blamed the hospital and the medication. Anyway, secretly, she had felt relieved, she confessed, because it was hard enough trying to survive herself, without bringing another victim into the world. He would probably have been OK with a child, or children, perhaps it was just her ... but it was a risk. Anyway, she was glad that it was him and not her, because he really would have paid her back big time if he thought she was letting him down.
It was a long time since Amanda had spoken that much, and even longer since John Roche had had the patience to listen to
‘idle chattering’ for that long. Afterwards he told himself that it was probably because it saved him from having to dwell on his own terrible news, but whatever the reason, it served its purpose and both of them felt better for sitting and chatting for a while. Walking Amanda back to her guest house, in case Graham was lurking, he asked her if she was intending to return to Graham - was she just hoping that he might change his ways by her gesture - or had she left for good. Amanda said that she hoped she had left for good, but that she was very fearful of Graham, and he knew where she worked and he would easily be able to find her. He would leave it a few days because he would ‘give her time to come to her senses’ and after that he would find her; he would first of all coax, and cajole, then he would make a scene at work, and then he would resort to his usual fall-back, his fists and his feet. It had worked in the past, he had no reason to believe that it would not work again.
John Roche walked back home, with thoughts crashing about in his brain:
Bernadette his mother!
James Kelly his father!
He had spent far too much time talking to another man’s wife.
That other man had better watch his P’s and Q’s. He might be a dab hand at beating up women, but it was no wonder that he was not comfortable in the company of men!
His most intrusive thought, however, was the fact that for almost all of the day he had not spent more than ten minutes thinking about Bobby Shillington. He had been working on the case - of course he had, tracking down Mo, talking to Magda - but Bobby, as a person, had not really come into his mind. He felt very guilty about that, and made a commitment to himself, to Bobby wherever he was, to bring his killer to justice, whatever it took. Jenkins or no Jenkins. Irrespective of whether his name was Roche, or Kelly, or Brian Boru, he would not be diverted.
Walking into the entrance to his block of flats, he caught a fleeting glance of somebody very familiar moving very quickly up the stairs. He rarely waited for the lift. It was often broken or being propped open by somebody moving furniture or washing down to the laundry room or lumber room in the basement. He took the stairs two at a time, expecting at every bend to catch the visitor. He reached to top, and even let himself out onto the roof, which had a magnificent view over the city - a view which Roche rarely, or ever, availed himself of. There was no sign. But she had been there. He had distinctly seen her going up the stairs. She must have gone into one of the other flats. He could hardly knock on every door. She might just live here! Perhaps she fancied him - and that was why she was stalking him! He could feel his face redden at the very thought. She was just a child. Could not be more than 16. But there was a familiarity there - he knew he had seen that face before - not on the smiling disappearing creature - but somebody else. The same, but different. If he could figure out why they were different, that might tell him something.
He went into his flat, and contemplated his strategy. He had to find Jim Kelly …… Oh God! Father mine, I love you dearly! What a thing to be told. Your mother is a Gangster’s Moll - no, give the woman credit, she is the gangster, not the moll - and your father is a piss sodden, meths swilling, hobo who could not tell the truth if his life depended upon it. What hope have I. All I can say is thank God I did not know before because I would probably have topped myself! And there was I thinking it was all bad being dumped with the bloody Christian Brothers and beaten by the merciless nuns. I probably got the best of the deal, as it turns out!
As he dosed in the chair, he was watched by a visitor who smiled to herself and hoped that soon they might be introduced properly.