TWO FUNERALS, BUT NO WEDDING
The day was dark and overcast, a typical November day followed by a rainy and dreary evening which did not auger well for the lavish and well-catered ‘wake’ that Gerard had organised for his ‘wonderful’ wife, Bernadette O’Dwyer, at her erstwhile home. Her husband was being suitably sad, but brave, and all of the family, including the extended families, were there. There were also the staff and volunteers involved with all of Bernadette’s enterprises, as well as staff and important customers from Gerard’s various companies. In addition, there to show their respects, were many of the foot soldiers and acolytes who had kept the couple’s less legitimate operations blossoming, and in doing so kept the ‘tragic pair’ in the luxury that they thought they had every right to expect.
All present were surprised when the already large numbers were swelled by several representatives of the law. Both uniform, some with flak jackets and even some with weapons, as well as the detectives who had been investigating the murder of Bernadette O’Dwyer. Minus, unfortunately, their usual leader, John Roche, who was at that very moment nursing a pint – in the Irish Club – and wishing he was with his team.
To the amazement and anger of many of the guests, Gerard O’Dwyer and Patricia Ann Downing were arrested and charged. They had decided to charge Patsy with the murder as well, in the hope that she would turn on O’Dwyer out of self-preservation. She was not the most loyal or brave ally that one could have, and Roche (who had continued to pull the strings behind the scenes) knew her well enough to know that she would do whatever was best for herself. She had come from the mean streets of Protestant Belfast, had not lived the life she had, without learning to look out for number one first and foremost.
Some of the more burly visitors made a move to prevent them being taken away, but in a surprising move, the so far silent member of the family, Tristan O’Dwyer, jumped on to the bar and shouted “Enough! Do not turn my mother’s send off into a battleground! Leave it for now! We’ll sort it!” More surprising, was the fact that people did as they were told. Even the most potentially belligerent seemed to take the order. It was noticeable, though, that Gerard himself seemed surprised, and not altogether in agreement with the intervention. He frowned and looked across at his son, who did not return the look, but just continued to survey the scene from his higher vantage point, to ensure that people were complying with his request. After that, the action went off without a hitch, though nobody was left in any doubt that it was only a matter of time before the bubble would burst and chaos would ensue.
Later that night, Roche was still nursing a pint in the Club – only his third in as many hours – which was a miracle. He was alone, having shunned company as much as company had shunned him. They did not do this because he had suddenly gone out of favour, as much as the fact that if he was going to be the subject of reprisals, they were not going to be caught in the crossfire.
Somehow, too, the news had got out about his parentage. In practice, it should have been impossible to say how, but Roche knew. He would have put money on the fact that Frank had told his wife, who was a receptionist in one of the local GP surgeries. Although one would have thought that both of their occupations would make them capable of keeping a secret, the fact remained that nobody should presume any secret is safe, when it is known to people. Any people. Somebody always gives it away – deliberately or accidentally. This had taken everybody by surprise, and had become the undercurrent of debate, only second to the death of Bernadette, and the imprisonment of Gerard, Patricia Downing and James Kelly.
Roche sat there, minding his own business, and quite numb to his change in circumstance. He could not make up his mind whether it mattered or not. He had become unresponsive to most things, but he knew he should feel something about this. This was big. This was major. But he could not. He did not seem to be able to feel any anger, shame, relief or dislike for any of them. They were all still nothing to him. He could not even find any room inside himself to hate them.
A person came and sat down at the table opposite him, which forced him to look up out of his drink, and out of his own thoughts, to see who the brave person was. He took a few seconds to realise that this was Tristan, the up to now distant son of Bernie and Ger O’Dwyer.
“Tell me, how sure are you all about Dad’s guilt? Is there any room for doubt? Has he said he did it – have you any proper witnesses?”
Roche was always wary when an O’Dwyer spoke to him about ‘witnesses’. He was never sure that those ‘witnesses’ might not meet a sticky end.
“I cannot get involved, Tristan. It is no longer my case. I am deemed to be ‘related’ and therefore possibly either biased or a loose cannon – I am not sure which label they would choose to put on me.”
“Related how? To which of them are you related?”
Roche was quite sure that the man would have heard the jungle drums by now, and that this was a fishing expedition or an opening gambit to provoke a reaction, to start a conversation.
“I don’t claim a relationship with either of them – would you! Oh sorry! Of course you do. You must! I am perfectly happy to say that I despised both of them, probably in equal measure. Both of them, though, were turned into what they have become when they were almost children – so I try to not be too harsh. But I feel harsh enough to try to distance myself – though it seems I cannot. Not to be too poetic, but my very creation was their downfall. No wonder I drink!”
“And do you know why Dad killed her? Was it because of you?”
“As I see it, and it is not my case, so it is merely my opinion, you understand, James Kelly lashed out when she told him about me; she fell and hit her head, but was still alive. She went home and told your father that it was James, and that she had told him who his son was. He reacted badly, but also saw it as an opportunity that he could not overlook. He had got embroiled in a ‘relationship’ with Patsy Downing. She was pushing him to make a decision and to leave Bernadette. He did not approve of divorce, but equally importantly – perhaps even more so - Bernie would definitely have demanded, and got, one way or another, a hefty slice of the family fortune. You must know better than me, that your father may con himself that he runs the show - the family firm – but it is a smoke screen. Your mother has always run it. She has always run him. Ever since they met, I would hazard a guess. She would never let him leave her – it would embarrass her, and she did not take kindly to being embarrassed. They would never have been safe. He just did not give much for their chances. He had an opportunity and he took it. The cover of his father’s funeral - who would query that? Who would believe that anybody could use such an event to cover something as heinous as murdering his wife to live with another woman. Nobody would believe it. So he felt justified to put his haphazard plan into action. It was worth the risk – and in truth, I don’t think he ever saw it as a risk. Jim Kelly would take the hit. He was even saying that he did it.”
“And there is no doubt? You are sure, quite sure?”
“Positive. It will be cut and dried. Patsy will turn – it is a matter of time. She will do a deal and try and salvage what she can.”
“Thanks…… Bro!” With that, before Roche could react in any way, Tristan was gone. Roche was annoyed at what he saw as a jibe. Well, this would be interesting. If Tristan took over the
‘family firm’ then he would have a real battle on his hands – but then so would Tristan. Not quite Montagues versus Capulets, as Montagues versus half Montagues!
The community was still trying to come to terms with events, and so St. Margaret’s Church was packed when the body of Bernadette Rosario O’Dwyer, nee O’Rourke was received into the church as a forerunner to the full solemn requiem Mass. Outwardly there was much weeping, consoling and commiserating – and not a little voyeurism and ghoulish interest. People were there to see who else would be there – and whether they would let Gerard attend. He and Patsy were remanded in custody, and had said very little – except presumably to their lawyers – since their arrest.
The family had all arrived – including Gerard’s brothers, their wives, their children, and their wives and their children. It was unclear whether this show of strength was to support Gerard, or to distance themselves from him, by showing solidarity with Bernadette’s side. If the latter, they were to be disappointed, because Bernadette apparently had no relatives left of her own, the last of her aunts having died two years previously. All of the official mourners were members of their own extended family.
But nevertheless it sent a message out to the ‘spectators’ - the local people who had come to gawp and sneer.
Melinda and Craig were there, but had not brought their children. Tristan had now been joined by his wife, Sinaed, who had flown in from Chicago the day before, together with her own father, Seamus Keilly and her brother, Brandon, who had come to ensure the safety of Sinaed, and to look out for the future prospects of son in law, Tristan. They were looking forward to ensuring that hands across the seas was not only a greeting, but a business opportunity. Greetings from one Family to another.
Later that day, the funeral with honours of DS Robert Shillington was held with great ceremony and sadness. It was attended by his own force, and representatives of other neighbouring forces. The Chief Constable made a speech, lauding his achievements, and the dedication he had shown to his duty, his colleagues, and the force as a whole.
Roche standing with the main mourners, could almost feel the anger of Elizabeth at these words.
Jenkins went on to say that despite that he was a devoted family man, who adored his wife and his daughter, and that he would be sorely missed by all who knew him.