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OTHER FORCES AFOOT

The day began much like many others for Roche. Having decided to stay clear of the Club the night before because even he found it difficult to sit down and have a quiet drink - or a noisy drink for that matter - with people he might be arresting the next day. He had bought whiskey and chips on his way home, and had even made it to his bed, rather than the armchair. He was, though, still in his yesterday’s clothes when he woke up, with chip paper and chips still sticking to the bedding and the 19-inch ancient television set, with its Heath Robinson contraption of aerial leads and coat hangers, still broadcasting something in the corner. The ‘something’ was mostly static and snow, since the reception, poor at the best of times without a proper outdoor aerial, was particularly useless when the weather was bad. In any case, it was a second - third - or fourth hand set, which only had the terrestrial channels and had it been broadcasting at all it would merely have been Cbeebies or CCTV - or some other of the children’s crack of dawn programmes designed to give beleaguered parents a bit of a lie in before the onslaught began in earnest. Despite himself, Roche found himself trying to see through the flickering screen resembling what one imagined the North of Sweden must look like in the winter, as though he was determined to crack the code. Looking really hard, his brain trying to reconstruct what his eyes could not focus on, he had to acknowledge that there was a faint outline of somebody - a man, but only just recognisable as such - waving his arms about in front of a map. Not that John Roche was interested, but en passant he registered that the poor sod was trying to tell the nation that the day was wet, cold and miserable. A look out of the window - dirty as it was - could tell him that. Roche had no idea just how cold and miserable the day was going to become before night fell again.

Roche showered and dressed efficiently - his home was to say the least ‘slovenly’ but he took a bit more trouble with his personal appearance. He paid a woman to come in and show a broom and a dishcloth to the place once a week, but since he was not particular, and she was not one who took great pride in her work, it made some, but not much, difference to the naked eye, but kept her in cigarette and bingo money and him the satisfaction of thinking he was making an effort at least by surrogacy.

He left the building, and stopped off en route for a cup of coffee and a McDonald’s breakfast. He was not one usually to have breakfast, but he had run out of instant coffee at home, and though he could do without food, he could not do without his early morning coffee - hot, black, sweet. Roche had only two addictions - alcohol and coffee…. Three if you counted sugar. Standing at the counter, he had decided on the spur of the moment, completely out of character, to order a breakfast. He had a craving this morning for something hot, greasy and indulgent. He knew he would get half way through it and regret it - the pattern had a habit of repeating itself infrequently, but inevitably. He gave in to the need nonetheless. He sat at an inconspicuous table and tried to give himself a sober moment to contemplate life, work, and next moves.

As he sat deciding whether to get another coffee there, or go on to the office and make do with the muck that came out of the vending machine, he saw a familiar form mooching its way along the road, shuffling and laden down with two carrier bags and a very ancient pull along basket weave shopping trolley. Ye gods, he hadn’t seen one of those for …. well for years! He could remember that one of the so-called cooks in one of the homes - they had long since become too blurred and blended together for him to identify dates, places and people without a conscious effort - had one of those. The wheel kept falling off and it made a screeching noise when it got pulled across the stone floor. He wished he could say “Ah, happy days!” but in all honesty, there were not many of those. He certainly did not think the sight of the trolley evoked any particularly good memories - but obviously not the particularly bad and horrific ones either or it would be indelibly printed and he would recall precisely the who, the when, the what. So that was something.

There was Jim Kelly shuffling along. He had kept his distance since their almost meeting at St. Margaret’s, and amazingly, despite apparently the whole of the uniform division scouring the streets of the city allegedly looking for him, he had remained absent and unlocated. Roche was not surprised. Most of the police in the city had their work cut out trying to find ‘a murderer’ and were only too glad to not find Jim, who was normally the bane of their lives. They were fed up with sharing the responsibility for his ‘welfare’ with the ambulance service, and both services would avoid being his taxi to and from A&E if they could. He was obnoxious and abusive, smelly and irritating, but he was harmless and they all knew that he might pretend to ‘know’ something, but the likelihood was that he was just craving company, or the price of a drink, or an opportunity to vent his spleen. They all knew that John Roche wanted to talk to him, but let somebody else find him. He would know nothing, and it would all be a waste of time, and cause them aggravation and work into the bargain. Their cars would smell for days, and it was not unheard of for him to spit at them, which was not only disgusting, but unhealthy too. No, better things to do.

John followed him catching up with him despite Jim’s efforts to outrun him as soon as he knew he was on his tail. Hampered by the bags and baggage, however, he was never going to manage it. “Well, well, Jim. So here you are - and here was I thinking you must have gone to California for the winter months! You and I need to have a bit of a talk, don’t we? That can be here - I’ll even buy you breakfast, or down at the station …. the choice is yours!”

“I don’t know anything, Mr. Roche! I don’t know why you’s lot keep hounding me. Me a poor old man with nobody and nothing! You’s lot are like -. like the Gestapo! I’ll reports ye’s. I will. I will go to my MP. She will sort you’s all out! She’s a nice lady. I know her, I do!”

“Jim Kelly, this is me you are talking to. I know that you are not bog Irish - with your ye’s and your you’s. You are a fake, Jim, and it won’t get you anywhere with me, do you hear! I don’t fall for it. Now which is it. McDonald’s or the Station?”

“Ah ... Well, I can’t. I’m banned from over there (he pointed at the restaurant) and I am on my way to the bus …. I’m going home. I’m going back to Cork. I’ll miss the boat!”

“You’re an old chancer, Jim. Where would you get money for a ticket? You’re not even from Cork - is it daft you think I am? Pull the other one! Now, again, food, or the station - and I mean the police station, not the bus station - and definitely not the ferryboat though I can send you up the river, if you prefer, for … what shall we say, urinating in public, abusive language, drinking in an alcohol-free zone, or …. No better still, I know, how about murder!”

Far from being alarmed, Jim Kelly was suddenly quite wary and began to look shifty. His bumbling vagrant act was replaced by a far more street-wise and calculating persona. This did not surprise Roche. He had seen the many faces of James Kelly before. He knew drunks. He knew Irish drunks. He knew intimately the James Kelly’s of this world.

“You don’t have a shred of evidence, Mr. Roche, that I did anything. I was at home. I was …. I was asleep.”

“Oh you were, were you? And what time was that? What time is it that you were ‘at home’? What time were you

‘asleep’? Nine o’clock, was it? Eleven O’clock? One o’clock in the morning? …. What time, Jim? ……. What time were you out and about? What time did you make that phone call?”

“What phone call …. You can’t prove I made any phone call. I never did. And you cannot say I did. I just didn’t!”

“Jim - you voice was recorded at the time. Nobody else calls me ‘Mr. Roche’ constantly and persistently like that! It was you. I have listened to it, and it was definitely you. If I have to get a voice-recognition expert to confirm it, then I will. Do you hear me. You talk to me and tell me the truth, or I will see that you are locked away - for ever - for life - for the rest of your natural …. Do I make myself plain!”

“All right. You see that’s what comes of being a good citizen! If I had not telephoned, you would not be threatening me now. That’s gratitude for you! I do what’s right and you use it against me!”

“Nobody’s holding it against you, but you need to tell me what you know. It was good you rang, but there might be more you know that will help us find out who did it, isn’t that right?”

“Mr. Roche” he chuckled “I’d probably best stop calling you that now, seeing as it …. Well … anyway ….to be perfectly honest, I don’t care who did it! She was an awful old bitch, and you don’t know the half of what she was in to. They are all hypocrites and crooks! That bastard O’Dwyer - he was as bad as she was. The rest are no better. Some of them people - the feckin’ Board, or whatever they call themselves, are just thick and stupid and really don’t know what’s going on. Some of them, though, act stupid, but are just as bad! Problem is, after a while, it is too hard to tell them apart and to know who to trust! Somebody needs to do something!”

“You’re right, Jim. Somebody needs to do something about the whole shower of them, but at the moment I just need to find whoever killed Bernie, before there is a bloodbath in the city.”

“Why …. I don’t understand. She’s gone. Good

riddance. Surely that’s the end of the story, no?”

“Jim you yourself said, that Gerard is just as bad. So supposing somebody decides that he deserves the same. Supposing it is another rival gang who murdered her - do you want it to be like fucking Chicago, with rival crooks killing one another willy nilly around the place!”

“Maybe. could be the best solution!”

“No, no, no … for Christ’s sake, Jim, think clearly. Put your sober head on! It won’t be just the villains that will get hurt - it the place turns into a rifle range, anything might happen. It’s bad enough with the young thugs knifing each other with nauseating regularity, if the O’Dwyers are targeted by A.N.Other gang - or gangs - then nobody will be safe. Use your head!”

“I hear what you say, but you can take it from me that that’s probably the end of it …… well that’s what I think anyway …. I think it was probably all in a good cause …. Yes, probably that was an end to it. You’re just looking on the black side! I don’t blame you - you’ve had an awful cross to bear but at least there is an end to it … justice done, justice seen to be done! …. Anyway, ignore me rambling …. As for the rest of them - Ger O’Dwyer and his boyos - well if they get smathered twill be too good for them! Ol nick will be waiting down below licking his lips and heating his poker! Anyway … Mr. Roche …. Whatever

… that’s all I’m going to say! In any case, I really I don’t care. I don’t owe them anything. I have nothing anyway, and a bit of ‘spring cleaning’ is good for the soul. …….”

“Now, James Kelly, I am arresting you ….”

“Who! Whoa!…… for fuck’s sake man! You cannot do that! I’ve done nothing …… You needed to warn about me rights, and all that! You’re having me on… You must be!”

“Well, Jim. I have it from your own lips that you met up with Mrs. Bernadette O’Dwyer the very night of her murder ……I have witnesses that heard you say as much. You have told me that you think that she had it coming, and that you’re glad she’s dead …”

“I did and said no such thing …. You are a bloody liar, Mr. Roche …. I never said I seen her! When did I say that?”

“Well, Jim, the other day, when you did a runner from St. Margaret’s because I wanted to talk to you …. You remember that, now don’t you … well you said to Mrs. Donovan - Eileen - that Mrs. O’Dwyer had spoken to you the night before and said you should be nice and warm inside St. Margaret’s and not freezing your bollocks off out in the cold and rain …. Now did you, or did you not say that! Before you answer that, I should remind you that there is such a thing - all around the city now - nobody is alone any more - as CCTV. So DO NOT LIE TO ME …. I WARN YOU …. AND THAT I REALLY AM WARNING YOU ABOUT!”

“Well - I was maybe exaggerating what she said. But you’re right I did bump into her, but she did not say anything about the weather or St. Margaret’s. She said “If you show your face inside the Club any more I will have you castrated! She said they were having to have the reception chairs recovered because I sat on them and that I was barred. I told her that I had every right to go in there since it was the Irish Club - not her own property and that I would tell the Embassy that she was banning me from me own national facility that they pay for and me with an Irish passport and born in the Republic! I said that I knew all about her …. And she well knew it! We went back a long way me and the she-devil! She was not always like she is now - I know more than anybody! I told her that she can pretend I don’t matter now, and probably to her I don’t, but there is plenty I could tell, if I put my mind to it and that she would be very sorry. But she just laughed and asked who did I think would be believed and in any case, all she had to do was say the word and I would be history. You can take it from me, John, she does not deserve your consideration - she had no consideration for you - nor me - nor any bugger, come to that. But there you go, the next thing I know it was not me that was history, but fancy Nancy herself! Life’s a bitch, is it not, Johnnie boy!”

“So what do you remember after that? Was anybody around? Was she on her own? …..”

“I’m feeling a bit woozy, John, I don’t remember anything else…… I might if I had a bit of a drink to wet me whistle?”

“I am not buying you drink at 8 o’clock in the morning - you can have a coffee - I already said you could and breakfast.”

“Well if you give me the price of the breakfast, I can buy it later - I’m not a breakfast person, don’t you know!” With that he laughed loudly and minced around pretending to bow, flutter his hand and dab his mouth with an imaginary handkerchief. People around him stared, and then hurried by in case he should see them and accost them like he was doing to that other poor man.

“No money - well not now anyway - later maybe if I see you, but right now this is important, so stop feckin’ about and tell me what happened the other night!”

“I’ll hold you to the money - you’s owes me - I’m helping you with your enquiries!”

“Well, be careful what you wish for, Jim, because usually when us coppers say that we mean something quite different! You might find yourself locked up, and standing trial for murder!”

“I never murdered her - I never murdered nobody! Like I said, I left her after she lambasted me about the bloody seats, and I went off to see if and I could sneak into St. Margaret’s Reception area and doss on one of the chairs there - but they were locked - and though I did once know the bloody code, I can never remember it. That bloody Peadar Flynn was on duty - I saw him inside the office through the window - and he saw me - but he would not let me in. Bloody shyster! So I went back the way I had come.

“I found her, and thought about it for a while - it was a shock - she was not always like she is - like she was - she had been lovely years ago. Anyway, I went to the box, next to the Club, and I made the telephone call. I did not know what else to do. …...

“Anyway, Mr. Roche, it was very nice chatting to you, but I must be on my way. I need to be about my business. Things to do, people to see, don’t you know!”

“You can go, Jim, but I warn you don’t leave town, as they say because I will personally drag you back by the bollocks and see that you are locked up and the key thrown away. Do you hear me? I am letting you off without ringing for the paddy wagon to take you to the station, because you have, I hope, told me the truth - or a version of the truth, as you see it. And I will check with Peadar! Do not make me regret it - do you hear me!”

Jim scuttled off, more quickly now, in case Mr. Roche changed his mind. It would have been as well for Jim if John Roche had telephoned for somebody to escort him under lock and key to the police station. But it was easy to be wise after the event and in the short term, Jim was thanking his lucky stars that he seemed to have got away with it.

Roche had decided not to stop him. James Kelly wasn’t going anywhere. He was a creature of habit, and it was perfectly clear that despite what he said at the beginning there was no way he could conjure up the wherewithal to skedaddle back home. He would keep on the move, but it was always only a matter of time before somebody rang to have him evicted from somewhere - a doorway, a hostelry, the lift of a block of Council flats, almost anywhere out of the wind and rain where he could squeeze in. It was the same pattern every time. After a few days, he would forget why he was running, and would return to his housing association ‘flat’ which had once been a cosy, well-furnished haven, but which had quickly degenerated into a dirty, sparsely furnished hovel, with most of the contents having either been sold or burned for firewood. John Roche, whilst musing on this likely order of events, had to acknowledge that he, for one, could not really criticise the state of Jim Kelly’s ‘hovel’ since, though he, Roche, had not actually sold anything, or burned anything, he took about as much pride and care with his surroundings as did the old man.

Unseen by either of them this time, and apparently causing no disturbance to anybody else around, a young woman stood watching the pair conversing. There was a rueful smile on her face, but she made no move to make herself more visible to them. She was just glad to see the pair together and hoping that it would be a portent of better times to come for both, though it was, perhaps, unlikely. It was also difficult to fully understand what might constitute ‘better times’ since - anything might be better than nothing! Neither of the men had fared well in fortune up to now. She watched them separate shaking her head and smiling to herself more in pathos than amusement. Neither of them cut a particularly dashing sight as they went their very opposite ways geographically. In lifestyle and psychology, however, there were, perhaps, more similarities than differences. That was only to be expected, given their backgrounds and their sad histories.

Roche was also anxious to escape from Jim Kelly because he very much needed time to mull over what he had just heard. There was something that was niggling away in his subconscious. It was difficult to isolate an important fact from the normal ramblings of Jim Kelly, but Roche was struck by the fact that, more than ever before, he got the impression that a lot of that ‘sodden lush’ behaviour was sometimes a ‘front’ that Jim put on. There was no doubt that he was almost always a smelly, white-rot swigging apology for a man, but he had just provided Roche with an unfamiliar and thought-provoking insight into quite a different persona. Yes, much of what he always said needed to be taken with a drum of salt and not on an empty stomach but

... there was just that doubt that started to creep into Roche’s mind - a doubt that he was - they all were - to some extent being ‘played’!

Though Roche did possess a car, it rarely left the kerbside outside his home. He did not use a car around the city - except for work - and mostly then he was a passenger and seldom the driver. This meant that he saw things - things that people would rather not be seen, or people who would rather not be seen. He was a kind of superior beat-bobby who used his walks also as thinking time and time to formulate strategies and clear his head: Sometimes from the drink the night before; but sometimes, just because it afforded him space and isolation to escape into his own head. It had made him a more efficient and innovative copper. It was almost true that he only kept his badge because he got results and he got results because of his idiosyncrasies rather than despite them.

On this occasion, the half hour walk from his breakfast-site to the police station was very beneficial. Despite his inward satisfaction, he nonetheless took the opportunity, when he arrived, to tell everybody within earshot that they were all useless, and that if a man wanted something doing, he had to do it himself. They could all stop looking for James Kelly because he had found him. They could all return to their hideaways and worry no more. There was no longer a sodding man with important effing information out there on the effing streets, much less an effing vital witness dead as an effing dodo in a doorway, under an effing rock, or in the bloody canal! Nobody took any of it seriously. It would not have been the same place without an expletive-laden tirade from John Roche at least once a week - sometimes once a day.

“Come on, come on …. What’s the news, what’s the news my bold Shalmalier …! What have you found out for me today? What’s the news about Gerard O’Dwyer and the rest of the renegades! ….. Are they alive, dead, hibernating, emigrated …. What . ?”

“Well, boss, it has not proved as easy as all that! They are not at home - that is the local lot are not at home - but neither are the Leeds lot! The business up there is being taken care of by the local managers and they have been gone since the weekend…….”

This information - or really lack of - was being reluctantly passed to Roche by one of the junior staff, Amanda Richardson - a relatively raw recruit recently promoted from uniform, and who was terrified out of her life of John Roche, but who was ambitious enough to know that she needed to at least not sit there dumb. Roche withered her with a look, but just before he made one of his usual caustic comments, Steve Reynolds spoke. He had set Richardson up nicely to give the bad news, so that he could jump in at the last moment and ‘save the day’!

“Wait, boss - that’s not quite the latest! I have been on to Leeds and they have sent people around to ask around. Apparently, they have all gone off to a funeral - somebody died - in some place called Tobermorey? Not sure where it is, but I will find out.”

“Well, they are not having a good time, now are they! But do they know about Bernadette - and did they just bugger off anyway? Did they go before she was found? Why did she not go with them? …. Lots of things for you to get your nose into, Steven, now isn’t there! Off you go! …. And I don’t mean to bloody Tobermorey. You cost us enough as it is! See what you can find out without gallivanting off places and getting me into trouble with them upstairs!”

Sharon looked puzzled and said “Isn’t Tobermorey something out of Children’s Television? I’m sure Laura used to watch something about Tobermorey? ….. “

“Now you’ve spoiled the surprise, Sharon, you old spoilsport!” Laughed Roche. “I was just enjoying the little joke and there you go spoiling it! There is a Tobermorey though - but I really don’t see them all buggering off to the Isle of Mull - unless they have bought the island and are going to declare it a republic! They could abolish any laws, so they would never have to flout any!”

“Well what’s funny? I’m sure they said Tobermorey!”

“If they did, they were probably having you on. Or the people working for the O’Dwyers in Leeds were having the uniforms on up there …. I bet they were Irish …… to save time, I will let you into a little secret, Stevo, try Tubbercurry instead …. You’ll find it is in the West of Ireland - Sligo - they’ll have flown into Knock airport. See what you can find out. And …... quick quick quick …. We’ve wasted enough time already!”

Roche went and sat down - not a thing he did very often at work except late at night or when he was alone. He was very quiet and the team kept looking at one another surreptitiously and grimacing, finding his presence intimidating and certainly not conducive to the normal banter which was an everyday part of their lives. He did not even notice, or if he did he said nothing, and cared less. He had too much thinking to do.

It was very odd! Surely even if Bernie’s death was taken at face value - and the ‘most likely’ scenario accepted - it being in 9 cases out of 10 the person closest to the victim who is responsible for the murder - that would explain why Ger O’Dwyer would take it on the lam. But for god’s sake, why the whole bloody clan! Ger might be on the run, having got fed up with Bernie and bumped her off - but the entire family: brothers, sisters, daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren …… every single one of close family as far as they could ascertain - the entire tribe! That was extreme, particularly for them!

An alternative was, though, that some rival gang had knocked off Bernadette and the rest of them had fled? But was that possible? Likely? Ger O’Dwyer had lived a hard and well-challenged life. He was now 69 years old now, but still looked half that age. He still gave every impression, though the smile was normally fixed disarmingly on the face of the affable tiger, that he could most certainly take care of himself - and if he couldn’t he would always ‘know a man who could’! No. He would never have run away from a fight - and most definitely, even if he had had some kind of fit of the heebee jeebies, the whole bloody family would not have accompanied him!

They had, over the years, proved themselves arrogant, vicious, resourceful and, in a dog eat dog world, ballsy and efficient. They had built up a huge - if distasteful - empire. They obviously had time to formulate a plan to skedaddle en masse to place or places unknown so why had they not come up with a different solution!

Certainly it made sense for Ger to go into hiding, but surely one of the brothers, or the son-in-law, or one of the nephews - even Melinda, she was no shrinking violet - could take the reins for the time being. Surely they would never walk away entirely from their empire. Despite his hatred for the O’Dwyers, Roche was cut from the same cloth and it had always been a matter of heads or tails as to which side of the crime divide he would end up - some of his colleagues were still not certain, it had to be acknowledged. Whilst he did not know why he could understand or ‘read’ them so well, he nonetheless had always been able to see the pattern, discern the sequence of their rise and rise. He had just never been able - within the law - to bring them down. But he was usually right when it came to second guessing their devilry and their shady business. This time Roche was certain - or as certain as it was possible to be in the middle of a conundrum - that the mass defection out of cowardice would never have been an option - certainly within the clan that John Roche had come to know and to loathe.

So, in reality, Roche had never seriously entertained the possibility that they had all done a runner. There had never been any indication that such a reaction was in character in the past. There had to be some other kind of explanation - or it was just as Steve had been told, they had gone to a funeral back home and were unaware that the Queen Bee had been swatted.

Eventually, he leapt to his feet and said “Come on, come on Bobby … we can’t sit here all day!” With that he strode out of the room, with Bobby hastily trying to locate his jacket, his car keys and not keep his master waiting. He could not help but look across in triumph at Sharon as much as to say “There you go; this is the way it should be!”

Sharon was relieved and settled down to help Steve and Amanda with the telephone enquiries. They needed to track down the entire O’Dwyer family - in Scotland, or Ireland, of Timbuktu … wherever they had taken themselves off to because it was entirely possible that they did not even know that Bernadette was dead. It was possible - but was it likely? Not everybody was sure of that! They had eyes and ears everywhere. In any case, everybody was convinced that it was too much of a coincidence the family suffering two deaths within a couple of days. But it was necessary to keep an open mind - even if it was the family from hell.

“Where are we going” puffed Bobby after Roche as he tore along the corridors and down the three flights of stairs to the main car park.

“Where’s your car keys? Give them here …… no on second

thoughts, you drive, I need to think.”

“Right, but where am I driving to?”

“Leeds - head for the M1 …”

“Leeds! But I have an appointment with the dentist at half four!” “Your teeth will just have to stay as they are …… Make your bloody appointments not in working hours and that would save your worries!”

“But I am off this aft! I booked it ages ago …… It’s been in the book for weeks …! I am going to the dentist and then Liz and I are going away for the weekend - it’s our anniversary on Sunday! She’ll divorce me - or kill me!”

There not being anything that Roche could say, nor wanted to say, he said nothing, merely continuing to walk towards Bobby’s car and standing waiting for him to reluctantly use the automatic door-lock before climbing into the front passenger’s seat as though the discussion had never taken place.

Bobby was on the horns of a dilemma. The two people who could make his life hell - and constantly proved that they could - were John Roche and Liz Shillington - his childhood sweetheart and wife for 7 years. To make matters worse, Elizabeth Mary Shillington had only met John Patrick Roche on one occasion which had felt like the gunfight at the OK Corral! Roche never really felt anything to any degree about anybody, so it would be wrong to say he took an instant dislike to Liz. The same could not be said, unfortunately, the other way around. Liz took agin Roche on the spot. A feeling that had only grown with time with each and every slight, dig, chastisement that the too-loose tongued Bobby had come home and moaned about! To Liz, Bobby might be a coward, but he was her coward. Roche was a bully, and she was not afraid of bullies! To Roche, Liz was a domineering and nagging woman who Bobby should keep in her place. He was not really one of the barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen brigade as Sharon and many another copper of the female variety could attest, his only exception being Elizabeth feckin’ Shillington, who led ’that poor misguided sod Bobby around like a puppy dog on a lead!”

Roche sat waiting to be driven. He said nothing. It could have been because he simply had nothing to say, and did not realise that there was actually a problem. Or it could be that he was simply giving Bobby enough rope to hang himself, or hang his bloody wife! The choice was Bobby’s. Even Roche was not quite sure. It was just as easy to do nothing and see what happened. He knew that Bobby had moaned when Sharon had been ‘preferred’ apparently. He thought he was being side-lined - well now was his chance to make an important decision. A decision which could affect his entire future. Or at least his entire future in John Roche’s team. Roche did not really care either way, but he did appreciate that it was a watershed in his relationship with Robert Shillington, though it remained to be seen whether Robert Shillington understood its significance. To Roche, it was merely heads or tails. He did not really care either way.

Bobby made his decision. He had to work with Roche, but he had to live with Liz. He was a policeman by accident, but a husband by decision. As he stood with one hand on the car door handle, he rubbed the other down the side of his trouser leg to mop up the sweat, and said “John, I can’t go buggering off to Leeds, I won’t be back in time.”

Roche slowly got out of the car again. He did not look at Bobby. He did not say anything. He walked towards the building again, but half way across the car park he got out his mobile phone. Bobby stood watching him, afraid to move. He knew that he was surprisingly comfortable with his decision now that it was made, but still wary of the consequences. And he knew there would be consequences.

Roche walked towards the front office of the police station, and spoke to the desk sergeant. He then went around the back of the building and collected a set of car keys from the maintenance manager, Sid Petrie, and collected a car from the car pool. He drove around into the car park again, pulling up in front of the main entrance. He left the engine running, but got out and went around and sat in the passenger seat. After a very short time, Sharon appeared at the door and without saying anything, she got into the front seat of the car, and they drove away. She either did not see Bobby or she decided not to see him. Either way, Sharon had made her decision, as Bobby had also made his.

Bobby was still standing by his car and watched them leave. He returned into the building, but having got half way up the stairs, he found himself unable to go on. After a quick word with the desk sergeant, he went back out to his car and drove away.

He now had a couple of hours to kill before the dentist, and he was aware that in their concentration on the murder, they had not really thought too much about the attack on Sharon. If it was the murderer, well the two were the same enquiry, but if it was, in fact, one of the O’Dwyer thugs looking out for the gang’s better interests, that was a different matter. The O’Dwyers would certainly believe that they could find Bernie’s killer themselves, so they would not be that bothered about interrupting or disrupting the police enquiries into her murder. They would, though, definitely want to put them off digging too much into her comings and goings. That was their Achilles heel. The worst part of the murder from their perspective was the fact that it shone a light on Bernie and her activities. That was why Bobby was of the opinion that looking for them was a mistake and a waste of time. Ger O’Dwyer nor any of his crew had killed his wife. They had too much to lose.

So …… who were their main rivals? Who were the up and coming would-be O’Dwyers? There were a few crews around who were getting a name for themselves. The old order was in any case having to make way. There were many street gangs now - not least within the Eastern European communities, as well as the Black and Asian gangs who were constantly battling one another for superiority and for dominance in inner city parts of the area. The Chinese gangs were ruthless, but the city did not have a particularly prominent or well-established Chinese community, so these were less rooted. They were just interlopers trying to muscle in. All this was making the scene less predictable and stable. And much more violent. Bobby was sure that that was the answer to the Bernadette O’Dwyer murder. It was a message of intent. But from which? From whom? He drove off, initially not sure where he was driving to. He would just see where his nose took him.

His nose merely took him into trouble because the body of Robert Shillington was discovered some eight hours later caught in the sluice gates of the canal which sliced its way through the city. He had missed the dentist. He missed his seventh anniversary, just as he would miss any future ones. Elizabeth never really knew the sacrifice he had made when he chose her over John Roche. Roche and Sharon returned from Leeds - ironically before the time of Bobby’s dental appointment - unscathed and better informed. Roche - nor indeed Sharon - gave a second thought to their colleague and were buoyed up by the information they had got during their afternoon.

Roche returned to the office, whilst Sharon said goodbye and went off for a check-up appointment with the police doctor who had been understanding of Sharon, but decidedly miffed with Roche, that he should encourage her to continue working following the attack. He might as well have saved his breath, because such criticism did not even register with Roche, let alone have any kind of salutary effect upon him.

Sharon would only learn of Robert Shillington’s misfortune the next morning. Roche, however, being still at his desk in a now deserted CID office, was alerted to the fact that there might be a problem by 7 o’clock that evening. He received a call from Liz Shillington, lambasting him for keeping Bobby at work late when they were supposed to be going out to celebrate their anniversary. She had also had a telephone call from the dentist’s receptionist to say he had missed his appointment. Liz was beside herself with rage and angrily said that to add insult to injury, he had also cost them money! Because he, apparently, had not had the courtesy to ring and cancel, they would be charging him for the appointment.

John Roche was not at all affected by Liz’s tirade, however, but he was certainly concerned about its connotations. He hung up the phone with Liz in full flow, which she took as another example of his rudeness and disregard for anybody else. Whilst he immediately went off in order to try to instigate an enquiry into the whereabouts, and safety, of Bobby, she was trying to track down a home telephone number for the Superintendent, or the Chief Constable, or anybody senior to ‘that bloody man,’ in order to vent her spleen about Roche’s cavalier attitude.

It was, though, as the result of a telephone call from a passer-by walking along the tow-path of the canal, that they were able to discover what had become of Bobby, much to the horror of Roche, his team, the force, and people at large. Even in a city awash with crime - both organised and opportunistic - it was still very unusual to read of a police death. Since it was not commonplace, most law-abiding members of the general public were still shocked and affected by such news.

Despite his untidy and chaotic lifestyle, Roche was still a stickler for checking the minutiae of everything related to a crime. He insisted therefore, on listening in to the telephone call that reported the find. He was disappointed to recognise no similarities between it and the call reporting Bernie’s body because that would have made life far less complicated. But though he was disappointed, he was not surprised - and in a way, glad. He was sure he knew who had made the other call, but would not have been able to get his head around why that person should be also reporting this grisly find also, and what they might have to do with such an inexplicable event.

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