BACK TO THE FRAY
It did not take long the next day for Steve to persuade Jim that he was definitely going down for his involvement in the death of DS. Robert Shillington, but that it would go better for him if he told the full truth, before they brought forward their witness at trial. He said that he had not meant to really hurt the man, but he had wanted to get away because – because he thought that he knew – and that he wanted to catch him! He had hit him. And he had not called for help. But he had not – really he had not! - pushed him into the canal. It was an accident! He was telling the truth!
Picking up on what he had said, Sharon asked what he thought DS. Shillington had known that was so scary. This caused Jim to panic, and start to cry. He was not an arch criminal, despite the fact that he had been sly and manipulative in order to wheedle drink and money from people, but this league was very big for him, and he was completely out of his depth.
“I thought he knew. I thought he was going to catch me! I’d seen him with Roche and I thought ….”
Sharon and Steve looked at one another. This was looking promising. Unexpected, but promising.
“So, what happened when you met Mrs. O’Dwyer the night she died?”
“Feckin’ Mrs. O’Dwyer – she wasn’t no feckin’ Mrs. O’Dwyer when I knew her! Just Bernie O’Rourke in them days! Not so fancy then, I can tell you, but she thought she was queen of the fucking may just the same! But I got her! Not so hoity toity after that was she! Ruined she was! They had to send her away – and good riddance, that’s what I say! She’d always looked down on me. Laughed at me hobnails and called me ’Tinker Jim”. Her and her gang of bowsies, taking the rise out of me at every occasion.
But I got me own back, didn’t I! She left after that – never came back – and I wasn’t a bit sorry.”
“So you had known Mrs. O’Dwyer before?” Steve realised now that every time Bernadette was referred to as ‘Mrs. O’Dwyer’ it made Jim Kelly sufficiently mad that he could not stop himself from talking.
“Well! No bugger could have been as surprised as me when she turned up here. But Jaisus, she was getting on a bit then. Not the glamour puss she thought herself years before! But she seemed to have done all right for herself – a bloody rich husband, and now here she was fucking running the show – and not even letting me into St. bloody Margaret’s when I deserve to be there!” “Did she recognise you, Jim?”
“Not at first – I’d changed a bit …. I suppose! Her fault, her fault …. I’m what she and her cronies made me!”
“One day I got mad, and I told her. She hated the fact that I told her! I think she knew already – but hoped that I hadn’t recognised her.”
“Did she say anything to you about the past, Jim? What exactly did she say?”
“She did not say anything. She just said ’Go away, you are just as disgusting as ever ….” just that! Then she walked away, and ever after, if we met at all – it was as though I was just a horrible drunken bastard – just any horrible drunken bastard – not the horrible drunken bastard who had ... who had … bested her years ago”
“When you say ‘bested’, do you mean seduced?”
Jim laughed. “Well … she was not exactly seduced. She put up a bit of a fight, but she was had! The bloom had fucking gone off the rose, hadn’t it!”
“So, you raped her?” Sharon tried to sound calm and matter of fact.
“Rape!” James suddenly came to his senses and realised that he had gone too far and definitely said too much.
“I need a drink. I can’t think clearly. I’m going mad here – you know I need me drink! Yous are taking advantage of me affliction! I’m not saying any more until I get something to wet me whistle!”
They decided to give him more time to stew, and terminated the interview temporarily until later in the day. He was returned to his cell, still only fortified by tea or coffee, or water. Refusing to eat, and demanding his ‘medication’ - which he declared his alcohol to be. He said if he was a junkie, they would give him something, methadone, or something, so why was he discriminated against because he was afflicted with alcoholism. He was giving the uniform staff on duty endless amusement.
Roche might not have been officially involved in the case any longer, but that did not prevent him from being around when Sharon and Steve were discussing progress. It did not prevent him from conversing with them over a mug of coffee in the office, or giving them his views and reactions, as an interested bystander. Even Steve kept forgetting to distance himself. But Roche was getting frustrated with his audience role, and was itching to get back officially into the fray. He understood why it was not sensible, nor ethical, but that did not make it any easier to tolerate.
He took time out mid-morning to escort Amanda up to the bank to open up a new account for herself, and to be sure that Graham was not lurking anywhere. Amanda seemed more subdued today, and he had concerns that she was regretting her decision to take the bully to court. At least she had taken this step, and the bastard would no longer be able to make her a financial prisoner. That was at least something, even if she did waiver.
As they walked back, he got just a fleeting sight of the ghost girl. She was becoming very indistinct now and would soon be gone altogether. It was a strange feeling for John. He had at first been intrigued by who she was, and then when she started not to feel real, he began to be fascinated by the mystery, but now, just like her form, his interest in it was fading too. It was becoming part of the whole pattern of his life, with people never staying around, and only flitting through.
He did not mention her to Amanda. It was not that he thought she might think him off his head, more that it was no longer a topic of real interest to him. Just not worth opening the conversation. He had no idea even whether she would actually be able to see the girl. Was the girl visible to everybody, or just him? He rather thought just him, because nobody around her seemed to acknowledge her presence, and because it would be surely something one would react to if you were standing next to a person, who just disappeared, or faded away. No, it was probably just him. Perhaps he was going nuts. Perhaps the DT’s had got him sooner than he had anticipated!
They walked back in silence. He was aware that something had changed since the previous night, but he was so used to relationships not materialising that it seemed sad, but not odd and not even devastating. He had become impervious to hurt, to loss, to disappointment.
When they were back in the office, Sharon and Steve had once again taken up the story with James Kelly. He was getting worn down now, and was close to throwing in the towel.
“Now, Jim, back to where we were before. So you raped Bernadette, and she recognised you. Did she threaten to tell the police ...?”
Jim actually laughed at that! “The police! What a joke! I would have been almost relieved if she had said that. She threatened to tell Ger – and the boyos. Jaisus, I’d seen what those blackguards could do – they are not nice people! …. I believed her. I kept me nose clean, and out of her way. I might be a drunk, but I’m not stupid!”
“So what changed then? Why did you kill her?” Jim looked at last utterly defeated.
“When we met up that night, and I asked her – again – pleaded with her to ask Shane to let me move into St. Maggie’s when the next vacancy came up, she laughed. She said that they don’t welcome rapists on holy land – and that my only warmth would be got in the firey flames of hell! She told me that I might think I had ruined her life – but who had made the best of it? Her a wealthy woman, the pillar of the community, me a worthless drunk. She said that nothing had changed, I was still the same nobody that I had been when I was 15 and nobody gave a damn – not even my son knew of my existence.”
“What was that about your son – did you have a child?”
“Well that’s all she said. I never knew. The last I saw of her back in the day in Ireland was when they moved her away from her Ma’s house. There one day, gone the next. Nobody had said anything to me – not about the ……. the ... “
“Rape is the word you are searching for” interjected Sharon “Then what else did she say to you the other night that made you lose your head?”
“She said that my son was not all that far away. That my son was John Roche …. Mr. Roche the copper! I said how was that possible! She said that it was just coincidence. If she had known that either one of us was here, she would have gone somewhere else, or stayed in Leeds. She had made a good life for herself, and nobody was going to take that away from her. Not me, and not any kind of ‘repercussions’ from an ordeal, a mishap – a horrible situation she had found herself in – thanks to me, and to him! She had not told anybody – and did not intend to tell anybody – and if I dared mention it, she would have me and ‘the mishap’ dealt with.
“So, you killed her!” said Steve.
“I never meant to hit her. I just struck out, I couldn’t help meself! I’ve been on my own all these years. I had nobody at all after the age of 16 and even before that me old Ma was too fond of the fellas and cleared off, God knows where the day before me 16th birthday. Me Da had skedaddled off before I was born – I’d nobody, nobody at all! I had no idea I had my own flesh and blood close by. I seemed at the time more than I could bear, and I just lashed out. I obviously don’t know me own strength. I was not sure that the punch even landed, but she toppled down and kind of crumpled whimpering. I cleared off. Like I told you before down to Maggie’s to see if I could get in the warm. When I got back, I thought she was gone, but when I walked into the carpark, she was there – still, dead, blood around her.
I didn’t mean to kill her. But to know I had a son, and to hear her threaten to take him away, I just lost the head!
“Is that why you asked especially for DI. Roche when you rang?”
“I just wanted to see him. Now that I knew who he was. I just needed to see him! And then he came along. My son! Family!”
Both Sharon and Steve realised that there were great big areas of difference in the facts, and the tale they had just been told. But he had seemed to be telling the truth. He had seemed relieved to be telling the truth and why admit to killing her, and make such glaring mistakes in the how and the where?
“Tell me Jim …. what did you do with the knife?”
“Knife? What knife? There was no knife. I just hit her and she must have hit her head. No knife, you cannot say I had a knife – I know you coppers have stitched people up in the past – but I’ve already told you I killed her …. I did. But I don’t have a knife. I used to have one, but I lost it somewhere.”
“When was that Jim? When did you lose your knife?”
“I don’t bloody know – about four or five years ago – it was a little foldy-upy thing! I think George O’Donnell nicked it. He was always borrying it!”
“Why then did you move her behind the big motor, Jim. Why did you move her at all?”
“I didn’t move nobody! I hit her – I’ve told you that, and she fell and she hit her head on the low wall around the side of that bit of ground with the old gravestones on it – behind the Club – Mortimer Street, or whatever the bloody name of it. When I went back that way from St. Maggie’s she had moved herself. The big bloody motor was there, but I could see her legs. I was cutting through that way to see if George or anybody was dossing in the doorway – we sometimes do that, but I decided to ring the polis – and now I bloody wish I feckin’ hadn’t, you can be sure of that – from the telephone box by the club. I stopped a woman who was just getting into a car to ask for change, but she ignored me and pushed me out of her way. Then another bloke passing by on a bike, when I asked him, said that you don’t need money to dial the polis. He waited with me for a while, but then had to go, he was off to work he said. It all sobered me up all that fright and I needed a drink pretty bad, so I couldn’t wait any longer.”
Steve and Sharon both looked at one another, and then at Jim Kelly. They could not help but believe him. Jim could lie with the best of them, but his lies were always easily identified, and there was absolutely no need for him to have gone into that much detail. They still had him for the manslaughter of Bobby, and now for assault – by his own admission – of O’Dwyer, but they seriously doubted now that he had killed her. He certainly thought he did, but it just did not stack up.
Back to the cell went Jim. No statement was prepared or signed because the interview session had thrown up more questions than answers, and their certainty of his guilt at the start – based on his own admission, so a kind of cut and dried case, - had now, almost entirely, disappeared. They needed, rules or no rules, to bounce all of this off of John Roche. Even Steve was in agreement with that – irrespective of the consequences. He felt confused, but somehow excited. He felt they were close to something, but it was unclear what that ‘something’ was.
They found Roche having a disagreement with a coffee vending machine that had taken his money and provided him with a strange coloured liquid, which more resembled dishwater than any kind of beverage. Sharon grabbed his arm, and said “You need to go to Giovanni’s for coffee – let’s go and have elevenses!”
Roche was surprised, but realised that Sharon was escorting him out of the building for a reason. He was surprised that Steve was with her, and was not finding some reason to distance himself from the conspiracy.
Sitting over their coffees, Sharon – aided and abetted by Steve, who couldn’t help himself – told John what Jim had said, and more to the point that, having listened not only to what he said, but how he said it, they were inclined to believe him. That meant that he might have knocked her down, but somebody else had come along, taken advantage of the situation, and moved the ‘body’. They had also parked her Honda CV partially over her to delay the finding. If Jim had not been partially looking for her – even if only through fear and horror – then she may not have been found until the morning.
Also, who was the woman getting into the car that shrugged off
Jim? It might also be useful to find out who the cyclist was – just to corroborate the story, and because he may have more information about the car. Jim would not know a mini from a horsebox, so it is not use thinking he would be able to tell us what make or model it was – much less its number.
Steve and Sharon returned to try to look for CCTV footage, or find out who the cyclist might have been, while John, irrespective of his promise to the Chief Constable, decided that now that he believed that the murder of his mother was not his father (Jaisus, this was turning into a story – and not a fairy story, more a horror story by the minute!) and he was probably not related to the ‘murderer’ at least half of him was free to ‘lend a hand’.
As Sharon and Steve had been talking, several pieces of information that he had been told before, and to his shame had ignored, started to take on more significance.
He went off to cadge a cup of tea and a piece of cake with Miss Speller – who had told Sharon such interesting things, and which he, in his stupidity, had failed to see the significance of.
Having escaped from her after an hour and a half he was relieved to return to the outside world. She had, though, probably provided more information than anybody else to help find the culprit and explain what had happened.