ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, THERE ARE WORSE THINGS IN LIFE!
Roche slept remarkably well. Though he had not left the chair, and was still in his clothes from yesterday, he felt quite good. He had had a very vivid dream, and despite the uncomfortable revelations of the previous day, it was a dream, rather than a nightmare. Which was a miracle. He was not a man - and had not been a boy - who had lived on fairy stories about his real parentage. He had not believed himself to have been the beloved son of a princess and a knight who had both been slain by an evil rival, leaving him to the tender mercies of …. Holy Mother the Church! No, he had always been realistic and in his head the scene had been quite the reverse: His mother was the victim of rape; she had died giving birth to him; his father was a criminal and had run off to America - or Australia. Not Ned Kelly, because he had always been seen as a bit of a romantic figure - a rogue and a scoundrel, but driven to it, and fighting the ‘establishment’ like all good Irishmen should. No, Roche saw his father - if he ever pictured him at all - more like Rasputin. Villainous through and through. He was, then, absolutely not a romantic, but the dream was very nice and he had woken with a smile on his usually very sardonic face. But he was glad there was nobody there to witness it, and would probably punch anybody who tried to soften his hard-man image out on the streets.
He showered leisurely, and dressed carefully. It was a new day. A better day. He would find the bastard that had killed Bobby - and Bernadette. It was not possible for him to think of her as his mother - there was too much bad blood (ironic - since it was forensically the same blood!) between them. He had given some thought as to whether he believed himself to be capable of the things she had done. Was he cut in the same mould? He thought perhaps he was, in many ways. He knew himself to be ruthless and devious. He was just lucky that he had fallen on the right side of the line. He could have been a very successful criminal. Unfortunately, he also knew he had many of the attributes of his ‘father’. All right he did not very often get so plastered that he wet himself, and there was no way that he was as feckless and useless as Jim Kelly - but obviously Kelly had not always been like that. He couldn’t have. How could a young Bernadette O’Dwyer - or whatever her name was back then - have fallen for a bloody awful specimen like James Kelly - if he was! But …. Perhaps, like his assumptions of old, maybe he did rape her - maybe that was what turned her into. . into … whatever it was that she had become. He was suddenly horrified with himself that he was already beginning to imagine ‘excuses’ for Bernie. Here he was immediately ready to blame somebody else! He needed to get back to being himself. He was John Roche, bad ass, thief taker, people hater, misogynist of this parish. He would not get side-tracked and rewrite history! He would not even, willingly, rewrite his story!
He left the flat, determined to shake off the intrusions of the previous day, and get back to work. He was not working at his best - even before yesterday’s bombshell news. He had been too caught up in the ‘who’ of the case - the fact that it was O’Dwyer - and had failed to detach himself adequately to do a decent job. Then, with Bobby, the reverse was the case. He had - possibly wrongly - got it into his head that the two deaths were linked. It was possible - he still thought not probable - but it was possible, and he had not explored or checked the facts, that the two deaths were completely separate and just coincidental.
He had not really given even half his proper mind to either of the deaths - one because of hate, the other because of closeness. He needed to return to being the detached and, let’s face it, cold hearted and emotionally-deficient bastard that he normally was, only interested in the truth, the facts. He would wind the clock back and start again!
As he walked to work, he decided on two courses of action: First, he needed to find bloody James Kelly - AGAIN! This time he would not be so easily soft-soaped by the drunken Irishman act. He could kick himself for his stupidity and naiveté last time they spoke. Kelly must have been laughing all the way to his next drink! No wonder he was keeping a very low profile - which under normal circumstances he had never been able to do before. Normally everybody came face to face with Jim too frequently and tried desperately to avoid him.
Second, he had to get more accurate information about Bobby’s death. He had not really got a proper report about the cause of death. He had assumed - but the Lord knows why - that he, too, had been stabbed and thrown into the canal. He had never been one for ‘assuming’ before. He always waited - and hounded people - for the facts: the chapter and verse. He hoped that bloody Michael and Frank had not been so fucking busy ruining his peace of mind that they had not got around to more important matters! He had realised that the whole charade the previous day when Michael began to tell him, and then said he had changed his mind, was because the bloody man was dithering about his own parentage! Cowardice, and time wasting. He/they both Michael and Frank had more important things to do. He hoped they had done those things. If not, there would be hell to pay!
He also wondered whether Amanda had slept well, and decided that he needed to find out more - when time permitted - about Graham. Perhaps Graham should meet somebody his own size and his own gender!
Arriving at the Police Headquarters, he first went downstairs to chase up the latest information about Bobby. He presumed that the post-mortem had well and truly been done by now, and that there was a report of the findings somewhere…. If they had not been too busy involving themselves in some kind of soap opera situation!
“Frank. What have you got to tell me about the Bobby findings?”
No good morning, no pleasantries of any kind. Frank was intimidated by Roche at the bests of times - and this was not the best of times. He immediately got flustered and stammered that Michael had not yet arrived. He should be in any minute.
Roche said that he had not asked whether Michael was there or not. He was asking him about Bobby - and if he was not able to tell him, then where would he find the paperwork that would.
As Frank was still bumbling and dropping the papers he held in his hand in his agitation, Michael Draper arrived. Though he was still a bit conscious of yesterday’s debacle, he was older, and more used to John Roche. As well, he had gone over the matter in his head many times during a sleepless night, and had come to the conclusion that he could not have done it any differently - apart, of course, from the mix-up with the Chief Constable. There was no way around that - it was, to say the least, regrettable! But the DNA thing - well that had to be done. It was pertinent to the investigation - it linked the body and the finder of the body - the fact that the physical ‘link’ was Roche, was, to some degree, incidental. Draper knew he had to ‘man up’ and deal with Roche as a professional.
“Good morning, John. You’re an early bird this morning! Good morning, Frank. Are you all right - you seem flustered?”
Roche did not answer directly. Frank said “No, no…. All’s well. John was asking about poor Bobby’s findings. I was caught a bit on the hop. I’ll get them now!” With that, with some relief and alacrity, Frank went off to the filing cabinets.
“Frank …. They’re here. They were only finished yesterday evening late, so they are still over here.”
Michael walked over to the bench, and picked up two sheets of paper out of the tray. He walked back in the direction of Roche, and said
“Do you want the papers, John, or do you want me to tell you what we found?” He was still a bit wary, and was caught between trying to sound ‘normal’ and unsure of what mood Roche was in, since he had said nothing to him - not even good morning. There had been no measure by which Michael could judge his mood.
“No, Michael. The facts would be enough. What have you got for me?”
“Right …. Well, death due to drowning. BUT …. He seems to have hit his head off of something - something dull - more likely wooden than metal - before he went in. Strange as it seems, my guess - indeed my findings - is that it was very likely an accident - rather than some deliberate act. If it had not been so closely preceded by the other death, there would have been absolutely no doubt in my mind. I was extra thorough because of the circumstances. If it had not been for the wound on his head, I would have reluctantly suggested the possibility of suicide. The wound though - if pushed - I’d say he tripped, hit his head, and
“Thank you. As you say, it’s hard not to link the two deaths together - I know coincidences happen, but … For Christ’s sake, Michael, do not go bantering the suicide theory around the place - Lizzie will, rightly, be unimpressed. She already thinks I overworked him, she’ll definitely believe that I hounded him to his death! I’d hold my hands up to that if I thought it was possible, but I don’t for a minute believe that Robert Shillington was the suicidal type. He was fed up, aren’t we all, but he was hell bent on celebrating their seventh anniversary - even blew me off to do it! We were going to Leeds - to check out the broader O’Dwyer situation - and he dug his heels in and, for once in all the time that I have known him, he said ‘No’. he needed to be home on time for the dentist, but more especially because it was their anniversary.
And, as well …. he did not just go home, or back into the office and sulk. He was all right enough to take himself off and track down Clive Beckford and Mo Ahmed and quiz them to see whether there was any word on the streets about the O’Dwyer murder. So …. No suicide Michael. Do you hear me. Not possible! Do not even hint at the word!”
Michael was somewhat of the opinion that Roche’s rebuttal of the suicide possibility had as much to do with his own conscience as anything else, but nonetheless, in his own mind too, he did not really see it as a real possibility so merely said “No, of course not. I think, though, I am inclined to ‘accident’ rather than murder. Though you may know better than me what the blazes he was doing strolling by the canal. Apparently his car was over a mile away?”
“OK, well … that’s just one of the mysteries that need solving. Thanks for the info! By the way, you can tell Frank he can come out now - the bogeyman’s gone!”
When he arrived at the fourth floor, he was pleased to see that Amanda had arrived. Her closed eye looked better, but she was still very bruised - and with some of the bruises now beginning to go yellow, she looked like some kind of photographic experiment. Had she not felt safer in the building, by far she would have preferred to stay out of sight. The guest house, though, was not encouraging of guests to stay in during the day. Last night she had considered returning home, as was the usual pattern after such episodes, to apologise, and promise to try to be better in future. That way she could return to what she had grown to accept as normality. She had also considered an alternative. She could sneak in and collect more of her stuff during the day when Graham was at work. But she had been too afraid to do that. On more measured consideration, she realised that she did not want to do either of those things.
Lying in the privacy of her single bed, in her own room in an insignificant guest house close to work, with the kindness and thoughtfulness of John Roche still making her feel warm and safe, she realised that she did not want to go back - ever. She was fed up with being a punch bag! There must be more to life. She began to think about the practicalities of not returning. A thing she had never had the courage to think about before. She realised first of all that she needed to do something about money. All of her money - her wages, what savings she had ever had - were in their joint accounts, and he - Graham - had not allowed her to have her own debit card, let alone a credit card. She could not go to a cashpoint. She could go to the bank itself - but would he be waiting for her there? As an intelligent woman - a police detective constable at that - she was a disgrace. She knew she was, but physical fear, fear of being alone, fear of people knowing, fear of making a stand, had all turned her into the shell of a woman, rather than the happy go lucky, intelligent and self-confident teenager she had been all those years ago. If only she could turn the clock back! Sometime during the night, Amanda had decided that she could turn the clock back. Whatever it took. She was not going to live that life any more.
“Well, how did you sleep? Are you feeling better today?” Steve and Sharon who were already there and at their desks, were somewhat surprised at the friendly way that Roche greeted Amanda. They looked at one another, Steve frowned, but Sharon looked thoughtful, and raised an eyebrow and twitched her head in their direction - then fluttered her eyelashes, placing her hand on her heart! Steve turned the sides of his mouth down, and looked startled, shaking his head in disbelief, and pretended to vomit. Roche was oblivious to all this, concentrating on Amanda, who said “Yes, thank you. If you have time later today, could I talk to you about something? Something personal. I need a bit of advice.”
“Later. I need to do a lot today. I’ll find some time later. There’s a lot of catching up that I need to do - with the two deaths on our hands”!
“Oh God yes. I’m sorry. I did not mean to …...oh. I’m sorry. Yes… Whenever!”
Steve smiled. There that’s the old Roche. It was just a mental aberration! But Roche cut into his relief by adding:
“No, no, no …. I’m sorry, I phrased that badly. It’s absolutely fine. The day is full but, if not before, perhaps we can get something to eat or drink this evening. It’s obviously not a work-related issue, so best have a proper conversation out of the office. How about that?”
Amanda smiled and said that would be fine. Whenever he had time. She was a free agent. She reddened when she said this, and Sharon and Steve once again grimaced at one another.
Roche returned to his desk. “Right”, he said. “Bobby! Well, downstairs say that the evidence points to the fact that he tripped, hit his head, and fell into the canal. I find it almost impossible to believe, but they seem convinced. Not beyond these walls …...do you hear, on pain of death - by my hand - they were even suggesting, apart from the head wound, that it could be suicide. I have put them straight on that one! Nobody, nobody - do you all hear - lets that word pass their lips! If it gets back to Elizabeth, it will be devastating and groundless. So keep your wits about you. You too Amanda.”
“I’m with you, boss” said Steve. “I find it really hard to believe that it was an accident. That would be a bloody great coincidence would it not? And why would he be bloody strolling along the tow-path in the middle of the afternoon, with his car a half mile away. …… There’s something fishy there! Are they sure downstairs? Could it be poison or something? Something to make him wobbly - Rohypnol or something….”
“The bloody date rape drug …. Jesus, that’s a horrible thought! No, they did not find anything like that in the PM. Apparently his head struck/was struck by something dull - more likely wood than metal. A bit like he caught the edge of the lock, or a post or something as he fell. Can we - Sharon you organise - get the uniformed to have a look for blood or hair, or something on the lock posts, or whatever, along there. Any signs of him tripping - lost belongings, anything … “
“Will do”, said Sharon. “What further news on Madame O’Dwyer? The mob is due back - or some of them - are due back tomorrow. Melinda phoned to ask when they could arrange the funeral. I said we’d get back to her.”
“Well. I guess I had better tell ye all this, before some other fecker does!” They always knew that he was going to say something either embarrassing or personal when he went - as Steve would say “all bloody Paddy on us”. Roche was a kind of chameleon. He genuinely could be almost indistinguishable from a local, or he could be broad Irish as they come. It did not seem to be a deliberate choice; it was completely unintentional and spontaneous. He did ‘the Irish thing’ more when he was embarrassed or put out over something. It was a kind of self-preservation thing - he went into acting mode, as though it was not really him, but some kind of part he was playing.
“Hold yeer hats! Boyos. What I am about to tell you is more feckin’ marvellous than any bloody story book. Are ye all sitting comfortable? ….. Then I will begin ….” He swallowed hard. Took a deep intake of breath and continued:
“It has come to my attention, via the scientists downstairs - who must be right because they have spent a lot more years at school than any of us - that …. I am no longer devoid of parents - well I am devoid now of one parent, but not two! I am now …. conversant … with whom my parents are/were! Now that should be a wonderful piece of news, don’t you think! But …. Before you buy the cake to celebrate, I should tell you that there is a bit of a twist in this tiger’s tail.” Once again, the swallow, and the sharp intake of breath…” Ladies and Gentleman, my mother, God Rest Her is/was the fair Bernadette O’Dwyer.” Sharon and Steve gaped. Amanda yelped audibly.
Steve then managed “Fuck me!” Roche, with ironic laughter, then said …. “Wait, there’s more ….
You haven’t heard the half of it yet …. My daddy is ……. Drum roll ……no other than Mr. Pissy Pants himself, James Kelly. Now should I not be a proud son of a bitch today! Yesterday I was an orphan brought up by that vicious old crow Holy Mother the Church, and today - well yesterday to be more accurate - I have discovered that that was merely an accident of circumstance. The truth was much much worse!
Silence fell on the room. Amanda, to Roche’s embarrassment, walked over and hugged him. It said more to Steve and Sharon about his state of mind, that he allowed her to do so.
Then after a moment of two, he gently shook her off and said
“Right maudlin moment over - back to work PDQ, and let’s find a killer. I will try to forget who the victim is/was, I find it difficult enough to escape from the fact that daughter of Satan, Melinda, is my half-sister!
To lighten the mood Steve - who could never stay serious for long, and in any case he was extremely embarrassed - said “Does that mean that you are entitled to part of her worldly goods now that you are officially an orphan, you poor motherless chap’! Seeing as your dear old Ma must have been worth a bob or two - all right, it’s not exactly untainted money, but still … that bloody Parkinson, the solicitor with all the mouth when he comes in with dodgy clients, would be a good person to ‘consult’!
“Now there’s a thought, Stevo! It’s a pity that the Chief Constable would probably look askance at the idea of me inheriting a percentage of such ill-gotten gains!”
Sharon cut in “From what I hear on the street, Chief Constable Jenkins is one of her coterie of friends anyway - he could hardly count her worldly goods as ’ill-gotten gains. If he did, he would have to forego her company more often!”
“OK, ladies and gentlemen – lads, lasses, … Work! Work! Work! … Off you go!”
Sharon and Steve were intending to go and check on the search of the tow-path and the canal bank, but made a detour to talk to Michael Draper about releasing the body. Later in the day Roche had instructed them to go and speak the O’Dwyers, ostensibly to let them know when they could arrange the funeral but to quasi interview/dig for information. Anything useful. Anything visible. Any sign that they might know something. The last thing that was needed was some kind of retaliation exercise. Roche had been concerned when he spoke to them, that apart from the words of sadness spoken by Gerard O’Dwyer, there did not seem to be much in the way of heartbreak - not only him, but the rest of the family either. All right they were a hard-nosed bunch, but still she was their wife/mother! He also knew them to be retaliatory and unwilling to let even the merest slight go unchallenged, so a major act of provocation must surely be avenged.
He had instructed them carefully, to the point that they were somewhat surprised that he was not doing it himself. Steve openly, and Sharon less vocally, thought that it was a bad sign. This new information had really damaged him. He now felt less comfortable around them, so less commanding.
On route to the canal, they naturally talked about the new revelations, and though it was not really funny, it provided a good deal of sarcastic and sardonic banter, particularly from Steve who could not help himself. If he was not talking about it, he was thinking about it. He just could not get it out of his head. He did, in a more serious moment, ask Sharon whether she thought that the boss’s hatred of Bernadette had been because somewhere in his deepest psyche he had known, and had resented her for abandoning him. It was impossible to totally discount this observation. Sharon just wanted to change the subject.
As they drove, they came across a newly bathed, cleaned and checked over James Kelly who had discharged himself from the hospital, and had somehow acquired a pair of pristine chinos - several sizes too big and long - and a bomber jacket, with an eagle emblazoned on the back, also engulfing his wiry form. ...
Steve could not help himself, he said in glee …. ”Look, look Sharon …. It’s daddy!” and started to laugh all over again.
Sharon though was more interested in the phenomenon of this more purposeful James, who showed no signs of drunkenness or dither. He was a man on a mission. He looked somehow shifty! To somebody who did not know him, he would appear purposeful and determined, but such adjectives had never been relevant to Jim Kelly for as long as she could remember. And that was a very long time. She was a local girl, who had never lived or worked anywhere else. Kelly had been an institution - and not a proud institution - for as long as she could remember. She knew she had seen him around - looking much like a younger version of his present unprepossessing self - when she was first at secondary school and had to change buses in the city centre. That must be over 20 years ago - no, God how years flew - over 30 years ago. She had been 11. She was 43 now! So he had been a bum for decades! When did he arrive? When did he leave Ireland? Her nan might know. She was 87, and sharp as a tack. Still did her own shopping - visited the bookies, and sang a mean ballad in her local karaoke when the mood took her.
“Will I pull over and see what the old bastard is up to?”
“No, just stay back and see where he is going. Keep your distance - but …… wait…. He is cutting across that old waste ground. What is he up to now! Pull over, drop me off. You circle the block and go to the other side, and I will try and keep him in my sights.”
If it had not been James Kelly, Sharon would have found it impossible to shadow him across the scrubland. It was a wide open space, with not even any trees or derelict buildings to provide cover. James, however, seemed hell bent on his own plan, and was making steady progress. Coming closer to the only break in the flat, patchy grass and rubble, he did then stop and look cautiously around him. He saw Sharon and tried to run, but Steve was there to cut him off the other side. They got him in the car, and then went back to see what he had been trying to get to. They found a small branch of a tree, some foot long and probably as much as four or five inches in circumference. It had blood and hair traces visible on it, and it was hidden under dead leaves and shards of bricks and concrete. So much for Bobby
‘tripping and hitting his head’. They rang the station, and asked for a car, or van, to come and retrieve their prisoner, who was locked in the car looking and feeling very sorry for himself.
Having rung Roche to give him the news, they went back to their original plan, going via the canal and informing George Cox who was in charge down there of the uniformed officers who were searching the scene, that the weapon had likely been found, but that it might still be worth keeping an eye to see if anything else useful turned up. They then continued on to visit the mansion of the O’Dwyer’s. A wasted effort, since nobody was home, with no sign of life or indication as to whether that was short-term, longer-term, or permanently.