Martin was another victim of the Irish civil war: a war, which although short, left Irish people divided and embittered for generations.
After many years he moved to Broadfield. It was where the work was at the time. The ‘open-cast’ was hiring lots of men. But it was also a place where many people from Mayo had settled. The likelihood of meeting someone that knew his real name was high. Martin decided the time was right to use his own name again.
It wasn’t a problem. He lodged at ‘Mary’s’. It was a rough and ready but homely place. He was himself again. He enjoyed the craic. He enjoyed talking about home when he met people that came from places close to where he would always call home. Although it was never mentioned no one seemed to care about his past.
Martin was happy there, but it didn’t last. The job finished and there was no more work. He moved back to Birmingham, again calling himself Michael O’Malley, as he was previously known. There, he led a quiet seemingly contented life. Then, one day he is recognised.
Martin was not alone in having to leave his native land. Thousands of others, including many that had taken part in the struggle for independence found themselves in a similar position. Independence was achieved, but it did not end poverty or emigration. The small farmers in the West of Ireland where Martin came from still found it impossible to make a living on the land.
Forty years later the situation is little improved. Andy Horan, who grew up on a farm next to where Martin grew up, has to leave his family and girlfriend behind and go to England to find work. By chance he meets Martin. On discovering who Martin is Andy feels a kinship with Martin as only neighbours from where they both come from do. The feeling, however, does not appear to be reciprocated.
Andy writes and receives letters from home frequently. Martin, however, has long sense lost all contact with his family in Ireland, something Andy is determined to remedy, but is baffled as to why his attempts are rebuffed.
Andy Horan took a last look around the room. The painters should be satisfied with that, he thought, downstairs is now complete, better go upstairs and see how Jimmy is doing. Aware that his progress was probably faster than expected, Andy was tempted to linger a while, but immediately dismissed the thought: it was not a time to be caught slacking.
Andy looked out of the window. Driving rain against the pane reminded him how lucky he was to be inside, if only for a few hours. Like the rest of the navvies on the site, he had worked out in the cold all winter. It was the middle of February then, but there was still no sign of the weather warming up. In fact the previous week was the worst they had experienced all winter and the severe weather was still with them. That Monday morning there was still no let up of the harsh winds blowing across the site. Also squally showers added to the discomfort of anyone unlucky enough to be outside.
It was to be their last week on that site. Most of the men had already moved away. The work was almost done: just some footpaths and drains to complete and the last few houses to paint. The remaining men would be gone by the end of the week.
It was a bleak site on the side of Cribden hill. They wouldn’t be sorry to leave it; at least those who would still have a job wouldn’t. Andy was still waiting for the word that he would be required on the new site. It was an anxious time.
That morning Andy and Jimmy McCarthy were given the task of cleaning the last three houses in readiness for painting. Apparently the painters had complained that the plasterers, who had then moved away, had left an ‘awful mess, plaster all over the floors.’ In the first house, Andy did downstairs, while Jimmy went upstairs. They weren’t complaining. They were in out of the cold.
Martin Prendergast was not so lucky. Through the window Andy watched him climb out of a manhole. Was he coming in out of the rain?
Earlier Andy had heard the ganger tell Martin not to stay outside if the rain got any worse. Surely he would come in now. If so, Andy would risk staying a little longer. He badly needed to talk to Martin. But, Andy’s hopes were almost immediately dashed. Martin had got out of the manhole simply to get his shovel. Andy watched him disappear down the manhole, seemingly oblivious of the rain, leaving Andy as puzzled as ever.
Andy knew Martin was in trouble; even his life may be in danger. There was a look of real concern in Father Downey’s face when he ushered Andy to one side after Mass on Sunday. “Keep an eye on Martin. Don’t let him draw attention to himself” the priest whispered hurriedly, then quickly added “but don’t tell anyone” before they were interrupted. Andy had already guessed that Martin had a problem. His behavior recently had been strange to say the least. The priest had confirmed Andy’s suspicions but left him no closer to knowing what the problem was. He felt burdened with a responsibility he had no idea how to deal with.
Andy quickly collected his shovel and brush, also his donkey jacket, which he placed over his arm. Even on this cold February day the exercise and the relative warmth of the house had made Andy sufficiently warm to remove his donkey jacket.
Upstairs Jimmy McCarthy was in his favorite working position: leaning on a shovel and smoking a cigarette. “This job will do nicely for Monday morning” he thought as he gazed down at the floorboards. Several lumps of plaster were stuck to the floor-boards, but not nearly as bad as Mountain seemed to think: the painters had clearly exaggerated the task to avoid doing it themselves. Jimmy, however, was not complaining. He was in no state for anything more demanding.
Monday morning was always bad for Jimmy, but, he thought, his head never felt that bad before. It was the wedding at weekend. The craic was good and the Guinness was flowing freely, although it all seemed a bit hazy then.
“Andy! What are you creeping around up here for? You frightened me to death. I though it was Mountain.”
“I’ve finished downstairs. There wasn’t a lot to do.”
“A lot! We don’t want a lot. It’s bloody Monday morning. Let’s have an easy day today. Mountain doesn’t know how much there is to do.”
“No, and I don’t intend to if I can get away with it. It’s our last week on this site. Let’s make the most of it.”
“Des O’Malley, the complaining painter, and Michael O’Donnell the philosopher himself. Have you come to help us?”
“Will you stop bloody rushin’ us? You’re worse than Mountain.
“No, I’ve just come to visit. Mountain told me to get in out of the rain.”
“I, he was cleaning out that manhole, But I heard Mountain tell him go inside ‘til the rain eases off.” Michael looked through the window. “I can’t see him. He must have taken the advice. He’s looking very rough this morning. It must have been a great wedding all together. I believe they carried on all day yesterday as well. I never saw Martin looking that bad. But, I suppose he’s not the only one. You were there too Andy?”
“Will you wake up?’ Then Jimmy answered Michael’s question. “Oh! He was there, all right, but he won’t be rough. Orange Juice won’t make him rough.”
“I suppose you’d know,” said Des sarcastically. Then turning to Andy
“Don’t you drink at all Andy?”
“No, I don’t bother.”
“Or pissing it against the wall, like you do.”
“At least I enjoy it.”
“You know nothing about Dublin. You only passed through,” Then,
“I, that’s the man”.
“What’s the matter with him?”
“He was attacked and badly beaten on Friday evening. He was unconscious until yesterday. The family didn’t know if he would live or die”.
“Well he looked an awful mess, but he was conscious yesterday afternoon and knew everyone, or nearly everyone. He didn’t know Martin though”.
“Oh he did. I met him Saturday evening and as soon as I mentioned the name he seemed very concerned. He wanted to know the ward he was in and all that”.
Michael nodded. Andy remained silent, although far from satisfied with Des’s answer. How could Martin possibly know Michael O’Malley well enough to wish to visit him in hospital, and why did he keep it to himself?
“Well he could hardly see. One eye was totally closed and the other was barely open.
“That’s shocking” repeated Michael, clearly upset “and him such a quiet man. Any idea who did it?”
“No, he can’t remember a thing. The police talked to him yesterday.”
“Was he robbed?”
“No, that’s the strange thing. The police said the attacker might have been disturbed. They are looking for witnesses.”
“That’ll be Martin now” said Jimmy with a motion of his head. “We can ask him how he knew Michael O’Malley.”
“No” Michael raised his hand. “Don’t be upsetting him.” There was general agreement.
“You’re all from the West-of-Ireland except myself. I suppose you won’t have seen much of Dublin either Martin.”
“No, it was dark when I came over.”
“That’s a good few years ago now I bet?”
“Yes” Martin grunted.
“You must have some feelings for the place.”
“Shut your mouth.”
“I’m sociable. I stop and talk to people when they visit.”
“Well, I won’t be stopping you.”
“I must have upset him there, but I never meant it.”
“Ah” said Michael reassuringly, “It didn’t take much. It’s the way he is this morning. And, you weren’t to know, Ireland is a bit of a sore point with Martin at the best of times.” Then turning to Andy,
“He never did go back; did he?”
“No, he didn’t.”
“I was only having the crack.”
“Didn’t you have enough crack the weekend?”
“Will you look at the gemp of him? He’s a proper Kulshi. Is his cap on the Kiltimaugh side as well?”
Instead of answering Jimmy just laid into Des. “Don’t you Dublin Jackeen blaguard us decent West-of-Ireland men. I think it’s true Dublin men don’t like Irishmen.”
“Can’t you rest yourself while you have the chance? Mountain will have us out in the cold when he knows we’ve finished here.”
“Mountain knows there isn’t a lot to do.” Then, Andy stopped scraping and looking thoughtful turned to Jimmy.
“I wonder how Martin knew Michael O’Malley?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they had a drink together in the club, or something like that, answered Jimmy dismissively. Why? Does it matter?”
“No I suppose not.” Resisting the temptation to tell Jimmy about the Priest’s warning, Andy thought it better to leave it at that.
“What do you mean Interested?”
“You know. Asking what he looked like and all that.”
“Can you see Mountain out there.”
“No I …”
“What the hell have you seen, a ghost?’
“Not too close he might see us.”
But, ignoring Andy’s caution, Jimmy put his face right up to the glass.
“I can’t believe what I just saw. I just saw Martin kill that dog with his shovel.”
“I didn’t think he had it in him. What did the dog do to him?
“I don’t think so. Hi up, he’s looking round.”
“Well good on you Martin. That drain came in handy. I wonder if those drains have been inspected?”
“I, a man came on Friday.”
“That’s it then. The dog will be about four feet under. No one will be any the wiser.”
But Andy was not convinced.
“I don’t know what came over him. It’s not like Martin to do that. And he could get in serious trouble.”
“ I think not. He’s buried the evidence. I bet he’s never worked so hard back filling though: Monday morning and all.”
Jimmy was enjoying it all, but Andy was still worried.
“I, he was rough this morning, and you and Des upsetting him didn’t help.” But, killing a dog is still out of character. Do you think that, maybe, he didn’t mean to kill it?”
“He smashed its skull with the shovel, didn’t he?”
“I, but, maybe he expected the dog to dodge the blow. He just wanted to chase it away. It was probably getting on his nerves.”
“His nerves were bad last night alright. He got back the same time as myself. But, he couldn’t get his key in the door. I offered to do it for him but he refused. He said, No just keep the house steady.”
“Stop fibbing, this is serious.”
“I am serious. The craic will be good in the cabin at dinner time though.”
“No! No! You mustn’t mention it. Martin will be in serious trouble if it gets out about the dog.”
Regretting telling Jimmy about the incident Andy continued. “If he loses his job he might not be able to get another one.”
“ He’s a good pipe-layer. He’d always get a job.”
“I don’t know. It’s slack round here on the building. He’d have to travel and he’s getting a bit old for that.”
“You’re very concerned about him. He’s a towny of your.
Did you know him over there?”
“No, Martin left before I was born. It was said there was a disagreement between himself and his brother about who got the land. But, that’s a long time ago. All I know is that he never went back. He’s been all round this country though.”
“A long distance kiddy. I bet he can look after himself. I bet he’s done worse things than kill a dog in his time. Hi up. Look busy.” Footsteps are heard on the stairs again.
As they grabbed their shovels Andy gave Jimmy a stern look
“Don’t mention the dog.”
John Mountain entered: a rather thin wiry man. Nothing like what his name suggested. “You’re doing well. I see you’ve finished down stairs.”
Jimmy was eager to make the most of the praise
“We are. We need a rest now though. We’re tired.”
But Mountain knew him too well. “You’re what I’d call a tired man,” he said
“You don’t appreciate a good worker. A man can’t keep going for ever you know.”
“You might be going for ever on Friday. From this firm anyway.”
“Now you don’t mean that.”
Jimmy didn’t seem to care. Andy however was more worried. “Will there be work for us all at the new site?” he asked
“Oh there will be.” Then with a hint of a smile, John, looking at
Jimmy, who had turned away from him, added, “well, maybe with one or two exceptions. But,” he continued “don’t you worry Andy your job is safe.”
John then looked out of the window “I see Martin has got a sweat on. I suppose the beer is coming out. He seemed rough this morning.”
Interested again Jimmy chipped in.
“I, he was: dog rough. Wasn’t he Andy?”
“I suppose he was.” Wishing to quickly change the subject Andy turned to Mountain. “Is Martin staying in our gang now?”
“No this is his last day with us. Then he’s back with Eddy. He only came with us to do that pipe laying. I think he’d like to stay with us, though. He’s too much of a perfectionist for Eddy. But, Eddy needs him. He has no other pipe-layer. We’re not too badly off in that respect. Michael is a good pipe-layer, and yourself Andy; I saw how you shaped last week. I could see you you’d done a bit before.”
Jimmy chipped in dismissively. “Another one chancing his hand, just cause he worked with the donkey.”
The revelation, however interested John. “Delaney, a good man. How long have you worked with him Andy?”
“Only a few weeks, that job was coming to an end too when I got the start.”
Jimmy shook his head in almost disbelief at Andy’s belittling of his experience with Delaney. A golden opportunity might have been wasted.
He would have to give Andy a good talking to sometime. But John was positive.
“Never mind Andy the experience will do you good.”
Andy nodded. It was a time he wouldn’t forget.
Young and inexperienced, Andy was nervous and apprehensive that first day on the site. If it hadn’t been for Delaney its doubtful if he would have stuck it. The ganger that he first had to report to was far from welcoming. His greeting was more like a bark.
“Where were you at eight o’clock.”
“I had to go to the office with my insurance cards and P45”.
Big Jim Mcloughlin, a big brutish looking man, probably not untypical of navvy gangers in his attitude, glared at Andy as if Andy’s meek explanation was insolence. Then, in a lower but still hostile voice said,
“Go over to the Donkey. He’ll show you what to do”.
Unquestioning Andy quickly walked towards the middle aged man big Jim had pointed to, though doubtful that anyone called the donkey could show him much.
It was Andy’s second job since leaving Mayo. His first, in a factory, which rarely allowed him to see the light of day, was such a far cry from the open-air life he was used to. He was told that he looked pale. “Factory life wasn’t agreeing with him”. “He was more suited to working outside”. “Aren’t Irishmen born with picks and shovels in their hands”.
After his encounter with big Jim, Andy wasn’t so sure. Big Jim’s accent was familiar, like Andy might have heard back home, but far from reassuring. The tone of voice would have been more appropriate if directed at a misbehaving dog. Then, it seems, navvies, especially inexperienced ones, are thought of as little better than dogs. Maybe that’s why brutes like Big Jim are made navvy gangers.
Delaney was different. With a friendly smile he held out his hand.
“You’re w w welcome”.
Ignoring the stammer Andy took Delaney’s hand. It was such a relief to see a friendly face.
“I’m Andy Horan”.
“And I..I.. I’m Paddy Delaney”.
On hearing the name ‘Delaney’ Andy realized what gave the nickname it’s familiar ring, and probably caused it to stick. It was the comic song ‘Delaney’s donkey’ which was popular at the time.
Of course there was also the stammer. An impatient listener might at first get the impression that he deserved the nickname. But Andy was soon to discover that was totally wrong.
Pipe-laying, flag-laying, foundations, Delaney demonstrated his proficiency in all those and many other aspects of the work. Although only regarded as semi-skilled, those are jobs that few men master. That is probably because the men that practice them are very reluctant to impart any of the tricks of their trades. I suppose you can’t blame them. They don’t wish to loose the slight edge those abilities give them. Delaney however was different. Impressed by Andy’s hard work and willingness to learn, he not only showed him, but he also encouraged Andy to do jobs that others would be wary of him touching.
Andy was too new on the job to fully appreciate how lucky he was. Thinking back, his naiveté in other ways must have obvious too. He then realized that he was set up on the last dinnertime on that job.
They were all in the cabin except Delaney, who was late coming in that day, when Jimmy Flynn casually asked; “How are you going on with the donkey”.
“All right, but why do yon call him the donkey”.
“Ah it’s only the craic”.
“It’s not fair though, is it”? Andy’s voice betrayed his feelings. He had so much to learn. Navvys don’t have feelings, and fairness certainly doesn’t get in the way of the craic. Andy had broken those unspoken rules, which Jimmy Flynn was quick to exploit.
“You know Andy, I was just as concerned myself when I first heard big Jim call Delaney the donkey. So I asked him straight out. I said to Delaney why did big Jim call you the donkey and you such an intelligent man, and do you know what he said.
Andy shook his head, allowing Jimmy to get in his punch line.
“He aw…he aw. .He aw…. He always calls me that”.
Andy knew it wasn’t true. Even big Jim wouldn’t call Delaney the donkey to his face. Nevertheless Andy was annoyed and refused to join in the laughter. Grabbing his sandwiches he stormed out of the cabin, ignoring the pleas of, “come back Andy, its only the craic”.
The craic that day was too much for Andy. Delaney was heading toward him, but Andy turned the other way. He had no wish to speak to anyone, especially Delaney. Out of the building site Andy walked up a lonely country road. After walking for about ten minutes, Andy sat on a dilapidated stonewall and fed his sandwiches to the birds. In many ways the north of England was similar to the west of Ireland. It even had the same species of birds, as far as Andy could tell. He could have stayed there all day, but there was only half an hour for dinner.
Andy took his mother’s letter from his inside pocket and reread it. He almost knew the words by heart then. Nevertheless he studied the letter again.
I got your letter yesterday. I’m so pleased you’re doing so well. Thank you for the cheque. It was a Godsend. I paid off the grocery bill at Larry’s. The bill was mounting up. I was afraid he wouldn’t let me have any more.
I was able to get a good pair of strong boots for Johnny as well. He was all right in his bare feet all summer, but now the winter is coming.
Mr. Mac says he’s doing well at school, just like his older brother he says. The rest of us are all fine. They all sent their love.
We have the most of the praties dug now, thanks to the men of the village. We had a mahal last Tuesday. Every man from the village came. They worked hard all day, god spare them the health. Johnny and Teresa stayed home from school that day. Johnny worked in the field as good as any man and Teresa helped me make dinner for the men. Larry didn’t want to let her have that much bacon. He relented when she told him about the men, but she said he still had a sour face on him. That changed yesterday when I paid the bill. He was all smiles then.
Jim Prendergast is a wonderful neighbor. He offered to dig the rest of the praties for us, but I couldn’t be troubling him any more. Johnny and myself will manage what’s left. Jim has been so good to us all year. He mowed that field of oats for us last month and never took a penny.
His daughter Mary has gone to the convent. I hope they can afford it. He didn’t go to England at all this year. His wife Mary isn’t in the best of health, but he doesn’t say much.
I told him you met his brother Martin. He’d love to hear from him, but martin never writes home. Maybe if you found out his address Jim would write to him. Jim says, he doesn’t think Martin stays long anywhere.
I hope you make it home for Christmas. We’d all love to see you.
God bless you
Your loving mother.
The last three years had been tough. Andy left school at fourteen, the year his father died, to work full time on the land. He had two brothers and a sister. They were all younger than Andy. It was a small farm and the land was poor. His mother struggled against impossible odds to make ends meet.
Andy’s headmaster recommended that he go to college. Aware that Andy’s mother couldn’t afford to pay he offered to enter Andy’s name for a scholarship. He said Andy stood a good chance in spite of his poor attendance in the last year because of his Father’s illness. Mr. Mac even offered extra tuition if Andy was willing to take the exam. It was, of course, never possible. Even if he got the scholarship, to leave his mother on her own was unthinkable.
Andy hoped his brother’s and sister’s education wouldn’t be too disrupted. Things he hoped would be better for them. He would keep sending whatever he could.
Mainly, however, Andy thought about young Mary Prendergast. He wished he could talk to her now. She would understand him. He puzzled a lot recently about their last evening together. Did he see a tear in her eye or was it just his imagination? Were her parting words “write to me” just words or did she really mean it. He decided then that she must have meant it. She wouldn’t say what she didn’t mean. He felt he knew her better than anyone. They grew up together, living on adjacent farms. They were like brother and sister. But since leaving he often wondered if they could have been more. Was it too late to write to her? Six months had gone by and he hadn’t been able to do it. Now, she is in the convent,
would a letter from him be just an embarrassment to her?
Andy was back on the job before Delaney. They worked mostly in silence that afternoon: their last afternoon together. There was no mention of what happened in the cabin.
“You learn a lot looking through that window”. “ Don’t you Andy?”
“W.. we’ve done well with these houses, haven’t we”?
“You think I care”.
“You did the other week, I heard: the night you changed digs”.
“I, the bastards locked me up and gave me a good hiding for nothing. They said I was trying to break into my own digs. Bloody Mary gave me the wrong key”.
“Well you have a reputation. They knew where you lived”.
“They knew where I used to live. I don’t have to tell them when I move”.
“What time did they let you out then?”
“I don’t know: four or five in the morning, without a word of an apology. The bastards”.
“Well you were drunk, and you have a reputation”.
“I’m paying for it now, even when I do nothing”.
“But, you were drunk”.
“A man’s entitled to a drink. You’ve forgotten what it’s like to have the craic: living like an Englishman in that posh part of the town”.
“Now, now, you know very well we can’t keep separate. We have to integrate. You’ll be doing plenty of that next week: at work anyway. There will be lots of Englishmen on that site”.
“I bet there will be no navvies”.
“What makes you say that’.
“It’s too much like hard work for them”.
“You’re wrong there. You’re only showing your prejudice”.
“I’m not prejudiced. It’s a fact. Only Irishmen can do this kind of work. Why do you think firms like McAlpine’s keep bringing us over: paying our fares and all”?
“Well yes, that’s how I got here myself. Englishmen were employed in other work. But, not all. I’ve worked with lots of Englishmen good workers an all. Of course I’ve heard the tales, like you had to gemp to get a job as a navvy, but they’re mostly not true. On one site where I worked, they all seemed to be mighty men, it was said a man had to be eighteen inches from tit to tit to get a job there. Well look at me and I got a job there. I’ve worked with men all shapes and sizes and nationalities, and I’ll tell you the biggest men aren’t always the best workers. And, about what you were saying, Englishmen around here mostly work in the factories.
“They won’t have the graft. They’d sooner go to Australia”.
“All this immigration”, sighed Andy “Irishmen having their fares paid to come over here and Englishmen being paid to go to Australia”.
“I Andy” said John “that’s the way it is. There’s nothing we can do about it”.
“It’s still wrong, so many being forced to immigrate”.
“We weren’t forced,” corrected Jimmy “We were invited”.
“Still, we had to leave. There was no work for us there”
“I didn’t come for the work. I came for the adventure”.
“Don’t I know that” said John as he moved towards the door.
“I’m going to see how Michael getting on”.
“Are you still worrying about that bloody dog? It’s dead and buried now”.
“Martin could be in serious trouble if it was one of those trained police dogs. It was big enough you know”.
“He’s gone up in my estimation if it was one of those dogs”.
“But, surely they wouldn’t allow one of those dogs to wander off Michael O’Donnell would know”.
“The philosopher. That bastard knows everything.”
“He’ll be in the cabin at dinner time. I wonder if we could ask him without giving away why we want to know”.
“He’ll bore us to death if we get him on about dogs”.
“Well, he does seem to know a great deal about them”.
“He’d like us to think he does”.
“That’s what I’ve been saying. It’s dead and buried now”.
“Suppose another dog sniffs out where that dog is buried”.
“Will you shut up about that bloody dog? No one knows it’s buried anywhere, so why should they bring snifter dogs round”.
“If they come looking for it, they might come with dogs and if they see that drain just filled in they might suspect something and the dogs might sniff something there”.
“I’m getting sick of this. Will you stop bloody worrying? It won’t happen and even if it does martin can handle it. I bet he’s not worried”.
“I wonder if I should have a word with him”.
“Are you a born worrier? Look, Martin knows about the dog. We don’t know if it is a police dog. If it is then maybe there’s to worry about. But, probably, it is not. Anyway it’s time we were going for dinner. I promise not to say a word. Looking at Martin’s face will be enough”.
“Two cops. The bastards”!
“What’s new there then?”
“Good” responded Jimmy “We won’t be poisoned this week then.”
“Now you shouldn’t say things like that.”
“Why not! You know well why not. You’d get a man hung. Saying
“You believe what you want. I know what I saw.”
“The cops have lost a dog. Any of you seen a brown Alsatian?”
“They didn’t say. They seemed very concerned about it though.”
“Oh! They would be.” Agreed Michael “If it was one of those trained police dogs the handler should never let it out of his sight. He’ll be in deep trouble if his superiors find out that he’s let it wander off.”
“Why is that?” Asks Andy.
“This gets better all the time.” Jimmy was suddenly amused “And if anything happens to the dog do they put the cop down? No wonder they were worried; the bastards.”
“Now you’re being silly again”
“Well, we’re all in a jolly mood this morning.” “You know a bit about training dogs then Michael?”
“Yes, I learned it from my father.” Savoring the fact that he had an audience Michael drew on his pipe again, then, ignoring Jimmy’s groans, continued, “My father was the best trainer for miles around. Of course we had a lot of land. We needed a well-trained dog to round up all the cattle in the evening.
“When I was a kid we had a great bitch. Shep, she was called. She always brought the cattle home in the evening and only once do I remember her ever missing any. It was a summer evening and she came home without one young calf. My father tried to send her back for the calf. But, she was stubborn that time she wouldn’t go. She just lay there whimpering, and watching my father doing the milking. When he finished milking the cow he said to me. “We’d better look for that calf before it gets dark.” But, when he put the bucket down, up jumps shep and stuck her tail in the milk, annoying my father all the more. He shouted at her again but she just ran off over the hill. “I don’t know what’s wrong with that bitch this evening.” He said. “She won’t do as she’s told, and now she’s ruined the milk.” But, I knew we had plenty milk and we could always give that milk to the pigs. Shep knew that as well.”
“You had a great dog there Michael.” Remarked John. But, Martin, who had been silently puffing at his pipe, his face glowing red, was less appreciative. “I wish you’d stop telling your flaming lies.”
Jimmy too couldn’t resist having a dig. “I suppose you read that in Ireland’s Own.”
“Sound as a bell Martin. Enjoy your pint”.
“You’ll go too far one of those days. I thought he was going to hit you then. Martin’s done very well this morning. I didn’t expect that drain to be finished yet.
“Well, that’s praise coming from you. You expect plenty. Did you get what you expected from us?”
“No, but I didn’t expect I would.”
“A bit of a Joker yourself now!”
“I have to be with the likes of you or I’d go stone mad. Is there much to do in that house? The painters are ready to start there.”
“And were you well looked after?”
“Well, we had our fare paid and accommodation found: such as it was. We lived in cabins right on the site; nice and handy for the work. We got good money, especially in summer. We could work all the daylight hours. But, we had to earn every penny.”
“McAalpine’s God was a well filled hod.” Jimmy quoted from the well-known song.
“That’s very true. He got his money’s worth out of us for sure.
“I don’t know. I don’t believe he ever softened, ‘til the day he died: and even then. There’s a tale about when he was dead and being carried out. The bearers heard a voice from the coffin, saying, “I’m sure two men could do this.”
“That was a well spoken man. I don’t think he’ll be after a job here.”
“He wouldn’t want this work anyway. He’ll be a clerk-of-works or something like that, from the town hall.”
“He’s not the one who came on Friday.”
“Planning, I, looking after their own jobs. And costing, making sure don’t get paid too much.
“Well yes” mused Michael “It’s only natural to look after your own job and it’s true the tendering system does tend to keep wages down. If our man paid us too much his tender would have to be too high and he wouldn’t get the work”.
“He wouldn’t be able to run his Jag, more like.”
“You might have something there. It’s said the tendering system is not all that competitive anyway. It’s generally believed that all the contractors get together beforehand and agree on who should put the lowest price in.”
“The bastards, they all piss in the same pot, I suppose they also agree on how much—or how little, more like—to pay us.”
“I, we get no say in it, tradesmen have their unions, but us navvies,”
“It’s Eddy. He’s excited again.”
“Here, that’ll be cold. I’ll make a fresh brew.” Michael moved to put the kettle back on the stove, but John waved him away.
“Never mind.” John had a sip of the cold tea. “I have to go out in a minute.” John put the cup down “Did ye hear the shouting?”
“Indeed we did. What’s upset Eddy?”
“He’s a silly man, arguing with the clerk-of-works.” John shook his head. “It won’t get him anywhere. Then he turned on me because I wouldn’t back him up. I had to walk away from him.”
“A wise thing to do.” Michael understood, but was curious. “What did the clerk want?”
“He wants to test some drains again.”
“I, the same ones, and some he did for Eddy last week. It seems they weren’t tested properly on Friday.” That clerk was inexperienced. He didn’t do the proper test. He just looked at the pipes.”
“Jesus, and will what he filled in this morning have to be dug out again.”
“I, it might come to that. But, Andy, don’t look so worried. It just means we will be here a bit longer than we thought.”
“It’s not Martins fault. It needn’t worry him.”
“I bet it will.”
“I. That’s right. He’s checking with the office now.”
“What about our office? The extra work for nothing won’t please them, I’d say.”
“Well, you’re right, and I’ll have to inform them. But, they like to keep well in with the clerk-of-works, so I don’t think there will be much fuss from them.”
“That’s right Andy. Let’s wait and see.”
“ What’s on the menu this evening?” asked Jimmy, jokingly, eyeing the table as he entered the room.
“I suppose you’re well used to that here,” whispered Jimmy, warily glancing at the closed door, which Martin had drawn his attention to, behind which was the kitchen and probably Mary.
“Will I get my steak well done?”
“Oh; you will, if that’s how you like it and will you look what’s over there.” With his thumb, Martin indicated towards the far side of the room. “That only came last week. Just in time for you.”
“Will you look at them,” sneered Martin, “like zombies, not a word out of them.”
“Aren’t you the dreamer? I’m going for a wash.”
“I’m not putting up with it. Are you listening? Are you listening?
“The Paddies must hit a rough seam today.”
“I, and one in there”. Paddy pointed to Jimmy’s almost empty glass.
“No, no, I have to go.” Jimmy placed his hand over his glass
“Go! Where would you be going? Have a drink and tell me how you are settling in.”
“That’s the reason I have to go, but we’ll have a drink soon.”
“Not working today Paddy?” asked Jimmy as he moved to leave.
“Oh, I was. But I was back and changed.” Then, as Jimmy walked away, Paddy grabbed his arm. “You won’t be telling Mary you’ve seen me here, will you?”
“Don’t worry” Jimmy gave him a knowing wink.
“I just called in to have a word with Martin.”
“I’ll leave you to it then.” Jimmy started to move towards the other side of the room, where, in any case, the fire was beckoning.
“No, no, stay here.” Joe pulled a chair closer to himself, which he indicated was for Jimmy. “Aren’t you on the same Job as Martin? I was wondering if there were any jobs going out there. Martin was telling me that job is nearly finished, but the firm has a new job starting in a few weeks over near Burnley.”
“I, they should be starting men then all right. But, didn’t you get the start with Casey? You seemed to be getting on well last night.”
“Don’t talk to me to me about that man. Didn’t I think I was in last night and me buying him drinks, whiskeys and all? But, when I went out this morning you’d think he didn’t know me, the way he looked at me. He just said he was full up. The owl bastard wasn’t full up last night.”
“I’m a laughing stock now am I?”
“No one’s laughing at you Joe.” Martin stood up and placed a hand on Joe’s shoulder. But, Joe angrily turned away and rushed out of the house, followed by Martin who prevented him slamming the door.
“The man’s out of work,” added Mick “He’s upset.”
“A man didn’t value the bacon and cabbage when he had it every day” pronounced Henry checking that Mary was out of earshot.
“You’re right there,” said Mick weighing up the plate of beans poured on top of a slice of toast. “She’s gone proper vegetarian now.”
“Ah it’ll do us no harm,” said Jimmy, cutting into his toast.
“Oh, I did. I told him to come out with me in the morning. I’ll put in a word for him with John. If he doesn’t get the start then He’ll probably get his name taken to start in a few weeks at the Burnley job. He’s a good worker, but I don’t think he ever worked with John. Although John will know who he is.”
“Don’t everyone know who he is, the pipe-layer Joe. I hope you don’t tell John he’s a pipe-layer.”
“No. That ploy worked once. But, I don’t think he’ll try it again. He won’t even talk about it now.”
“He didn’t mind at the time. He enjoyed talking about it then; every night in “Nora’s”. Nora knew the tale as well as anyone.”
“That job might suit you Joe,” said Nora
“Wimpey are after pipe-layers at their new site.”
“How do you know?”
“Jimmy Cassidy went out there for the start, but he was told they only wanted pipe-layers.”
“I’ll give it a try in the morning.” Joe was interested at last.
“How are you fixed for the start?”
“Come out with me in the morning.”
Now many people attribute Joe’s nickname to how he got that job: in other words that he gave it to himself in order to boost his chances. But, those who have known him for longer know that he had the name already. However he certainly used it to his advantage that day.
When the ganger, which he approached for the start, asked his name, Joe replied, “I’m best known around here as “The pipe-layer Joe”
“Well good on you Joe. And you didn’t tell a word of a lie”
“And as a pipe-layer I’m on a tanner an hour more than the others.”
“Well fair play to you. How are you getting on with the pipe-laying though?”
“Ah there’s none of that yet. There’s a lot to do before we are ready for any pipe laying. The ganger told me to muck in navvying with the others for the time being”.
“Well that’s no trouble to you”.
“He was here earlier,” replied Mary. “He’s gone to try on his new suit.”
“He’ll be an awful smart man at the wedding.”
“I, he will.” Mary sounded less than convinced.
“Are you putting any on, or are you just wiping the knife on the bread?”
“You would anyway, and butter did you say? You’re getting like the woman on the television that can’t tell the difference.”
“That bitch,” chipped in Mick “must never have butter in her lif…”
“Don’t worry” reassured Martin, who was sat opposite the kitchen door and was obviously amused at Mick’s unease “She only opened the door and closed it again.”
“Do you know? I think the grub has deteriorated since we got the television.”
“Maybe you’re right and all. But I suppose the telly has to be paid for somehow,” said Henry.
“Our bellies are paying for the telly”
“That’s poetry Martin,” said Henry “You know, it reminds me of Pa. Forkin in Kelly’s bar once.”
“Pa was a great man for giving the advice” he continued “whether it was called for or not. Although that time he only said what wanted saying. But, no one else would say it; not to the man’s face anyway. There was a great deal of concern about how Micky Durkan was treating his donkey. The poor animal was left to graze on top of Crockan hill, where there was hardly a blade of grass.”
“It was the fair day, and Pa called in to Kelly’s bar for a drink. When Pa got in Micky was already at the bar. In fact, Micky spent a great deal of his time there, which is why it was not just the donkey, but all of his farming that was being neglected. Pa didn’t get along very well with Michy anyway, and wouldn’t waste an opportunity to publicly put Micky down. Everyone in the pub could see that Pa meant business as soon as he spotted Micky.
“There’s no grass for your ass on that hill.”
“It’s someone for you Mary.”
“Who is it.”
“I don’t know. It’s a stranger.”
Mary went to the door. Then Martin, true to form, commented, “It might be the butcher.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourselves.” Mary looked puzzled. But, to the relief of the men she didn’t pursue it. It wasn’t the laughter that puzzled her. “That was strange.” She said. “A man was at the door looking for Michael O’Malley. He was sure he lived here. He tried to give me a letter for him. I told him that I knew a Michael O’Malley, but that he doesn’t live here. I don’t think he believed me.”
“No. I didn’t give ‘em the chance. I shut the door on him. I didn’t like the look of him.”
“Good on you.” Henry agreed. “Tell ‘em nothing.”
“A youngster, maybe twenty, but not from round here. Could be a Birmingham accent.”
“There should be a news on now,” said Mick twiddling the knobs. With only one channel, the BBC, there would be no arguments about what to watch. Interruptions, however, rarely allowed much continuous viewing. Before they even got the news summary Paddy entered.
“Good evening all.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with Martin,” said Paddy “He’s upstairs looking out the front window with a long face on him. I waved to him, but he looked straight past me, like I wasn’t there.
“Ah well, I suppose he’s dreaming about Ireland again.” Then, changing the subject, Paddy asked, “Any tea left. I could eat a donkey.”
“I, I saved you some in the kitchen. You can have it in there.” Then Mary noticed the envelope in Paddy’s hand. “What’s the letter?”
“Oh, it’s for Michael O’Malley.” Paddy placed the letter on the table while he removed his coat. It just had the name on it but no address.
“You’re a postman now, are you?”
“Well, a man gave it to me outside, just now. He thought he lived here.”
“I knew that man didn’t believe me.” Mary was not too pleased. You should have let him deliver his own letter.”
“Sure he doesn’t know where he lives.”
“Do you know where he lives?”
“No, not exactly. But, he’s usually in the club on a Friday night. I’ll give him the letter then.
“Aren’t you the obliging man?” said Mary sarcastically…
Chapter 4. The wedding.
“Paddy will never settle down.” “He’s too fond of the drink.” Such opinions on Paddy were freely given. But, there was no telling Mary.
Some of their remarks, which were far from complimentary to the bride and groom to be, were causing Henry Kelly much concern. Henry was to be best man next day and had the responsibility of looking after Paddy. Mary had made him promise to keep Paddy out of trouble as well as making sure he got home safely. Henry took his responsibilities very seriously. While Paddy was totally oblivious to any disparaging voices, Henry was, maybe a little over sensitive to some of the comments coming from Jimmy’s table. When the accordion player started on the tune of Mary The Rose of Tralee, a fine song, but one that, at that time, was heard so often, many were weary of it, Jimmy was heard to groan, “They’re putting Mary through it again.” On hearing the mention of “Mary” Henry rushed over and delivered a firm warning to Jimmy. Under Henry’s wary eye there was no more trouble from that table for the rest of the evening.
“We’re lucky he wasn’t killed stone dead then,” screamed Henry at his tormentors, who he blamed for distracting him.
“I’ll deal with you tomorrow,” Henry, angrily shook his fist at Jimmy, and then quickly turned back to Paddy who was hugging a lamppost.
“Sure he’s nothing to loose. Has he?”
“You can say that again.”
“I. You’re right.” Jimmy nodded in sorrowful agreement. “I was very stupid.”
“Not bad. I’m just stopping one going flat.”
“And why wouldn’t you? Sure I’ll be doing the same myself. Just the
“You’re a daysent man.”
“You’ll never miss the beer ‘til the barrel’s dry.” Pronounced Paddo, as he refilled his glass.
“It’s a cold job Andy”
“Its not that time yet is it?”
“Never mind the time. You’ve been in the cold too long.”
“Did any of ye go to Paddy’s do last night?” Asked John as they sat down in the cabin.
“I thought it would be too crowded. That’s why I didn’t go myself,” continued John. I might go tonight for an hour. Take the wife.”
“Did ye have a good do last night?”
“Maybe I’ll go tonight,” said Michael. Then turned to John, “Aren’t the painters working today?”
“Kevin is finishing off the top house. Des should be working too, but the sent word with Kevin that he can’t make it. It seems his uncle was taken bad during the night.”
“Would that be Michael O’Malley?” asked Michael.
“I think so. He has no other uncle around here as far as I know.”
“I don’t know any more.”
“Ah, he’s often like that.” Michael was dismissive.
“I’ll be going out now.”
“No rush Andy,” said John.
“Don’t worry Andy,” said John reassuringly, “you’re doing a good job.”
“Were you waiting for me to catch up?” asked Andy. The question was meant as a joke, but it got no reply from Martin. Instead, without a word Martin continued laying the pipes, leaving Andy feeling totally snubbed. Andy picked up his bucket and walked away to mix some more mortar. Pondering on martin’s unsociable behaviour, he realised it was not just him. Everyone that came in contact with Martin was aware of it. But, he was getting the brunt of it and could think of no reason why. Martin was so uncommunicative. Whatever it was that was troubling him, he was keeping to himself.
“I think he’s gone for a quick pint.”
“He’s a strange man.”
“Another hour and we should be finished here.”
“I wonder what he’ll have us doing then.”
“The drains I laid yesterday need back filling. He might have us doing that.”
“Ye’re doing very well. When ye’ve finished here I think we’ll call it a
“I won’t be long after you,” said Kevin “as soon as I’ve finished
“Aren’t you lonely here all on your own all day?”
“Oh I get an odd visitor. Martin came to see me earlier.”
“Oh yes. He was keen to know about Des’s uncle. He seemed
“Strange. I didn’t know that he even knew him.”
“Oh, he did. But, I’m afraid I couldn’t tell him much at the time. I had better news for him later; after I talked to Des’s wife on the
“He came to see you again?”
“No I saw him in the pub.”
“Oh, he likes his dinner time pint.”
“He does. But, he didn’t seem to be enjoying it very much today.”
“No. He seemed a troubled man today all right. Did you say you had
“Oh I did. It seems Kevin’s uncle will pull through after all.”
“That’s good news. Well, I’ll leave you to it.”
“Hello again Martin,” greeted Kevin as he walked to the bar. The greeting was acknowledged with just a nod from Martin.
“I bet the sweat was rolling off you this morning.”
“No, I didn’t ask.”
It was about two 0 clock when Andy returned to Maggie’s that Sunday afternoon. He let himself in. He had his own key. He was well trusted. When he opened the door the strong smell of boiling bacon and cabbage made him realize how hungry he was—he hadn’t eaten all day—and temporary put to one side the priests words which were still going round in his head. Maggie heard him close the door.
“Is that you Andy?”
“Sit down. The dinner will be ready soon”.
“It smells good”.
“I hope you’re hungry”.
“You’ll get used to it,” she was told. She didn’t. Yet she stuck with it for a whole year—she had little choice—before she got a job in the hospital as a trainee nurse.
“It was always too big for us,” Tim commented later. “I don’t know why they ever bought such a big house.” They had no other children. Tim was an only child. Maybe they expected to have more children. Maggie didn’t know.
“It’s the ideal house for a big family,” Maggie and Tim were told on their wedding day and although they shrugged off such comments it was what they really wanted, especially Maggie.
“I’m fine. Stay as long as you want,” he told her. She returned to find the house as neat and tidy as she left it.
“I saw you talking to the priest”.
“He said I was a hard man not wearing a coat this cold day.”
“He should have said you’re a silly man. You should have put on your
“Where did you go after Mass?”
“I had a walk round to Mary’s. I thought I might see Martin
“Don’t you see enough of him at work?”
“Well, it was about work that I wanted to see him.”
“Help yourself to the praties.”
As Andy peeled a potato with his knife, wishing to continue on the subject of Martin, he reminded Maggie of what she previously told him.
“You said you knew Martin?”
“Oh, I did, a long time ago. At least I knew of him. I lived a long way away from Martin. But, at one time he was a bit of a hero was Martin. He was talked about for miles around.”
“Now you’re telling me something. I never knew that. What did he
“Well, the story was that Martin was the only one from around there
“No, that’s news to me. How did he do it?”
“Well.” Maggie hesitated. “We didn’t see much of the tans in that part of the country. Just sometimes they’d drive past in their wagons, but when we saw them coming we usually kept well clear. They had such a fearsome reputation. Sometimes they’d fire shots in the air to frighten us. But, I never heard of anyone being shot, not like in other places. But, that Sunday afternoon it came near to it.”
“ Martin and a few of his pals -they were little more than schoolboys
“Martin was a brave man.”
“He was a fool. He could have got them all killed.”
“It’s strange that I never heard that story, and Martin would have been my next door neighbour if we were both still there.”
“Not that strange. It was what happened in the years after that stopped the people talking about it.”
“You mean the civil war?”
“I, but that’s another story. Eat your dinner.”
“Was Martin involved in the civil war?”
“I don’t know.”
wanted to forget about it.”
“Was it that bad?”
“Oh, it was terrible. Neighbour turned against neighbour. Sometimes
“It must have been awful.” Andy shook his head. “And as you said, the tans didn’t bother you much around there.”
“No. It was after the treaty was signed and the tans left that the real
Before Andy could brood, Maggie rose from the table. “You’ll have a mug of tay,” she asked, jolting Andy into the present. “And a piece of cake.”
“Just a mug of tay please Maggie.
“Ah. Go on. Have a piece of cake.”
“No, I’m full up.” Andy patted his midriff. “I’d love a mug of Tay though.”
As Maggie made the tea Andy’s thoughts returned to Martin.
“Was Martin a spalpeen?”
“No. He cleared out soon after that. But, never did return, as far as I know.”
“I mean as soon as he could.”
“You’re first in this evening,” remarked Nora in her usual friendly voice, as she pulled him a pint of stout.
“Thank you mam” replied Martin
But, as the wagon drove off he was still shaking. His pals, hearing the wagon go, started to rise, but Martin still unable to speak walked out of the alley. He took deep breaths as he watched the wagon disappear over the hill.
“Have they gone now?”
“You’ll be a hero when we tell people what you did,” added John.
“You’re right,” she agreed. “But, I’ve heard the prices are very poor lately and you know what those jobbers are like at the fair. They’d try to take advantage of you. We’d better wait ‘til your father gets home.” Martin, though feeling aggrieved that his mother did not trust him to haggle with the jobbers, decided to leave it at that.
“We will,” said Martin reassuringly,” don’t worry.
“It will be a lovely surprise for him. Last year he had the most of them
“I was at school then. You wouldn’t let me stay off.”
“Your education was important. You should go back to school again.
“Maybe I will.”
“No. I just came to see if you’re all right, and I have a message from John.”
“I could be worse.”
“John asked me to tell you that there’s a job for you in his gang, at the new site next week, if you want it.”
“Well think about it anyway,” insisted Andy. “John said you have ‘til
“You should have a word with John anyway,” urged Andy. “Sure you’ve nothing to loose.” With no response from Martin Andy continued, “There isn’t much other work around here.”
“Maybe I won’t be staying round here.”
“Where would you go?” Andy was surprised.
“I don’t know.”
“I thought you were happy here.”
“Clearly annoyed, Martin turned to Andy. “Yes, I’m all right,” he replied angrily. “Just stop interfering in my life.” Martin rose and left the room, slamming the door after him, leaving Andy more puzzled than ever.
“I, Mary made me a cup of tea,” explained Andy. “I came to see
“I saw you talking to John. But, what have you done to Martin? He
“He’s very upset. He says he’s all right, but I know he isn’t.”
“It’s Eddy. That bastard will get what’s coming to him on of these days.”
“I, Eddy upset him badly all right. But, I think it’s more than that.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Maybe he’s got a health problem he’s not telling us about.”
“Maybe, but I think it’s something else. He talked about clearing
“He’s getting a bit old for all that roving round. Is it the work? It’s
“Well that’s what I came to see him about. John offered him a job in
“I don’t think he’ll listen to me. He just ignored me on the stairs when
“Well, try anyway.”
“But, we can’t do nothing,” protested Martin, still struggling to get away. Turning round he recognised the men restraining him: Ted Foley and Michael Keane, I R A men he hadn’t seen for a year.
“Don’t worry,” said Ted. “Come with us if you want to do something.” Ted released his grip on Martin, as did Michael. Then free, Martin hesitated as they both walked away. The man who he had attempted to aid was struggling while being dragged away. Martin feared for the man’s fate, but realised then that intervention would be futile. Still angry, he decided to follow Ted and Michael.
“Where are we going,” asked Martin when he caught up.
“We’re going to visit the barracks,” replied Ted. “But, first, we must pick something up.”
“The barracks will be empty now,” added Michael, “they’re all here.”
“You’ll see,” was the only answer he got. They continued up a steep hill, then down into a valley, stopping eventually at a bridge over a fairly large stream. “You wait here Martin,” ordered Ted “Keep your eyes peeled. If you see anyone coming give us a shout.” The road there was raised high above the land. Martin watched the two men descend down a grassy slope to the stream below. They quickly removed their shoes and socks and rolled up their trouser legs, before wading into the water. It was a high bridge for such a shallow stream. The water was barely knee deep, yet Ted, who must have been close on six feet tall, only slightly lowered his head as he went under the bridge. As they disappeared under the bridge, Martin sat on the wall above them wondering what he had let himself in for. He was a lookout. What for? He was not sure. But, nevertheless, a more important role than he had previously been allowed to play.
“Come on Martin. Don’t waste time.” Ted sounded impatient. But, Martin didn’t move. Ted returned to where Martin was stood. “What’s wrong with you?” he demanded angrily, “I thought you wanted to be involved.”
“I do,” said Martin resolutely. “I just want to know what I’m involved in.”
“The barracks will be empty if we hurry. We’re going to blow it up.”
Martin just nodded. As they set off again, he thought, I’m all for that, let’s blow up the barracks. He was still angry at how the army had behaved that afternoon. However, unlike previously, when the fight was against the black-and-tans, he had no wish to kill, or even injure anyone. Blowing up an empty barracks seemed an appropriate response.
Within minutes Ted returned. “Come on let’s go,” he urged. “It’s all clear.” He took one of the bags, which Michael had fetched. Ted and Michael walked briskly following the route that Ted had just taken, with Martin following behind. At the back, part of the wall had fallen down and at that point appeared to be easily scalable. Michael picked a stone off the damaged wall. “That should do nicely,” he said. Ted nodded approvingly, then turned to Martin. “Go to the front and look out for the wagons.” Ted seemed to have everything in control.
On reaching the road Martin stopped abruptly, startled by the sound of a creaking gate. The gate was being opened. Panic-stricken, Martin carefully stepped back out of sight behind the wall, and peered round the corner. It was a soldier who was opening the gates. The soldier had his back to Martin and was unaware that he was being observed. The sound of the gates had drowned out Martin’s footsteps.
“Oh my God.”
“Jesus,” exclaimed Michael, “there’s someone in there. What’ll we do?”
“There’s nothing we can do.” Ted glared at him. “Leave that bag.” Then seeing Martin asked, “is it clear at the front?”
“No. There’s a soldier, Seamus Cox.”
“The traitor! Let’s have a look.” Ted seemed unruffled. “Lets go. Follow me,” he urged. He climbed over the wall followed by Michael.
Martin hesitated. He was still feeling resentful. Any loyalty that remained was overridden by the desire to help Seamus.
It was the sight of the wagon in the distance that decided him. Help was on the way. Relieved, he dashed across the road with the others
“O K I’m not stopping you. But, let’s have a little talk first.”
“I don’t want to talk.” Martin angrily freed his arm.
“Just a few things to clear up.”
“You said you saw Seamus Cox?”
“Did he see you?
“Did he recognise you?”
“Yes. He must have.”
“Jesus! You ejit.” Ted flew into a rage. With his face like thunder, just inches from Martin’s, he hissed, “do you know what you have done?”
“What’s up?” asked Michael
“What’s up? What’s up? He’s only got himself seen by Seamus.”
“I’m going this way.” Resolutely Martin set off again. “I’m going home.”
“I’m going home,” insisted Martin, struggling to free himself from Ted’s grip.
“All right,” agreed Ted. “But, the way we’re going is shorter.”
“Come on. We’ll show you the best way.” Urged Ted.
Ted and Michael turned to face Martin, both gravely shaking their heads. Martin could see that what they were about to say was more serious than information on the road. Looking him in the eye, Ted informed him solemnly. “Martin you can’t go home tonight.” He could have added, Martin thought later, or any other night. But, Ted left it at that, watching for Martin’s reaction.
“Don’t worry about that. We know where you can stay.” Clearly, it was something Ted and Michael had already discussed. But, Martin was having none of it.
“I’m going home and that’s that.”
“Martin, if you go home, the soldiers will be waiting for you. They’ll pick you up long before you reach your house.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
“Martin, they know you. You were seen.”
“Seamus might not tell.”
“Of course he’ll tell: he can’t not tell.”
“But, I have to go home.”
“Martin, you’re putting all our lives at risk.”
“I wouldn’t tell on you.”
“Martin, you don’t know those soldiers. They’d make you.”
“You just need to lie low for a few days,” was what Ted said. “Until we get news that it is safe for you to go home.
“Lie low! Where can I do that?”
“You can stay at Michael’s house. It’s not far away.”
“Your Mother. What will she say?”
“Indeed we do. When we can get one. There’s too much work on the farm for the two of us. We had a man up to last week, but he’s gone to England. He said he he’ll get more money there than we can afford to pay him.”
“There you are,” says Ted. “a job and all.”
“Sure, we know that. We’re only trying to keep you safe, and there’s no where safer than Michael’s farm. Hardly anyone ever comes near it.”
“What about the army?”
“No one knows Michael’s involved. You’ll be dead safe there.”
“It will be best,” said Michael, as they approached the house that evening, “if I tell my mother that you’ve come to work for us. That‘ll stop her asking awkward questions.” Martin just nodded. He was past arguing. He was in Michael’s hands then. He had, eventually, to the relief of the others, agreed to stay, “for a day or two,” at Michael’s farm.
“I think we’ll give you a new name as well,” said Michael. “When my mother goes into the town, She might be telling people about the new man she has working for her. What about Jim? Jim Cassidy.
“And how old are you?”
“She’s in the house making dinner.”
“It’s best if she don’t see me,” Ted was clearly worried. Michael was puzzled. His mother didn’t trust Ted and had previously made it clear that he was not welcome on the farm, but that wouldn’t normally bother Ted.
“I’m afraid I’ve brought bad news. Jimmy Casey is dead.” Ted looked for reaction from one face to the other. They were both simply stunned. No elaboration was necessary. Nevertheless, to clear any lingering doubts, Ted continued. “The man who was in the barracks.”
“Don’t worry Martin. We’ll look after you.”
“We must keep calm,” continued Ted. Clearly, in that respect, it was Martin that mainly concerned him. It was vital that no one panicked. All of their fates depended on it. And it was Martin who was the least predictable.
“There are couple pairs of boots there as well. What size do you take?”
“There’s a pair of nines and a pair of tens there.”
“Thank you,” Martin replied, without much enthusiasm. He felt weary, more tired than hungry. He looked at his pillow. To lay his head down and sleep was the more inviting option. Nevertheless he resisted the urge, but decided to wait another few minutes. If the food were already on the table the pressure to make conversation would be reduced
“That bloody cat,” exclaimed Mary. “That’s it now. Henry’s will have to get rid of it. I don’t know why he brought it here in the first place.”
“It was a stray. I think it just wandered in.”
“I, and Henry took to it, buying it cat meat and all that. No wonder it
“Just bloody get rid of it,” screamed Mary. The kitchen door slammed. Martin quietly climbed the stairs.
“Today is Tuesday,” said Mary. “He can’t use that excuse this time.”
“Martin, I’m surprised at you.” Mary looked shocked. “You’re as bad as the rest of them. That’s blasphemy you know. I’ve a good mind to tell the priest about the lot o’ you”.
“Martin, I’m glad you’re still here. I thought I’d missed you.” Father Downey had entered the church by the rear door. He looked relieved to see Martin. It was because he’d spotted Martin in the pew, that he’d hurried to get to the door in time to shake the hands of the people as they left the church. He didn’t manage it every morning. But, when Martin was not amongst them, he feared he’d missed him: that Martin had left before the end of Mass. Sometimes, he knew, strangers, not wishing to talk to people, did that.
“All right father.” Martin sounded irritated, barely glancing at the priest. Sympathy was not doing it for Martin and the priest soon came to realise that. In a more everyday voice he informed him. “I have a bit of news for you.” Martin looked more interested as the priest continued. “I was in the hospital to see Michael O’Malley yesterday afternoon. He was much better.”
“That’s good father.”
“Do you still feel responsible?” Martin made no reply as the priest continued. “You know, you shouldn’t blame your self in any way. It’s the person, or persons, that did the deed that’s responsible: not you”.
“Yes father I had my breakfast.”
“Ah well. I was going to ask you to join me. But anyway come round to the presbytery and have a cup of tea.
“No bother. No bother at all. I have a bit of spare time this morning, unless, of course, you have something more pressing to do”.
“No thanks father. Just a cup of tea.”
“Ok then. I wont be long. Have a smoke if you wish.”
“Strong with one sugar.” The priest remembered how Martin liked his tea. He placed the tea on a little table, which he pulled to the side of Martin’s chair: also a plate of biscuits. “Have a biscuit at least while I have my breakfast,” he said. “And how are the happy couple?”
“That’s good.” The priest then went straight to what was really on his mind. “I don’t suppose you took my advice about going to the police?” he asked
“Well, never mind. I didn’t think you would.”
“Yes, I agree, of course. But, you seemed very sure when you talked to me on Saturday. Has something happened to make you change your mind?”
“No Father. Not recently anyway. But I’ve been going over it a lot in my mind. There is something else that I haven’t told you about: something that happened one evening not long before I left Birmingham. Something that makes me think that I could be blaming the wrong people. Or maybe they’re not as much to blame as I always thought they were”.
“Would you like to talk about it?”
“Well I have the time if you have.” The priest left the table and sat on the settee next to Martin, as Martin commenced his story.
When the two youths entered with their leaflets he just wished they’d keep away from him. He had come across them, or their mates, previously: he recognised the badges. Stop immigration the badges said. He had seen them on the street corner handing out their leaflets, trying to stir up anti- immigrant feelings. They called themselves the angry whites, one of a number of anti-immigration groups that had, worryingly, grown in popularity among working class Brummies in recent years.
Trying not to show his anger, Martin looked at the leaflet. Stop Immigration was the headline. They’re winding me up he thought, but I won’t react. I wont give them that satisfaction. Looking disinterested, rather than angry, annoyingly for the man opposite, he threw the leaflet on the table without reading any more.
“I, and take your rubbish with you.” Brendan, the landlord spoke from behind the bar. Taken aback, the leafleters stopped briefly. It was the first time they’d seen the landlord. Then they recommenced walking towards the door, ignoring the instruction.
“Good on you Michael. You smoked him out.” Martin hadn’t noticed Brendan approach from the side. He was again deep in thought and didn’t immediately respond. The name ‘Michael’ didn’t always register as being his, although it was the name he was known as for a number of years. “You gave him your answer without saying a word,” continued the landlord.
“I don’t think so. I feel sorry for them in a way. They’re being led astray. Sure they’re only kids. I think I know one of them. I couldn’t be sure, but I think he’s one of the Caseys. You didn’t recognise him yourself? I thought he was looking at you as if he knew you.”
“No. Not that I took much notice.”
“Did you read the leaflet?”
“I read enough.”
“I don’t think they realised the significance of giving it to you. They have a lot to learn.”
“I thought they were winding me up.”
“I. Stop immigration. Sure weren’t you in this country before they were born?”
“Indeed I was. And yourself.”
“It was early evening; about this time. It seemed like they just came in for a drink. They had no leaflets with them or anything like that. But, I think they were sounding me out. It’s just blacks they are against they said. They want to send them all back. They got a bit annoyed when I didn’t agree with them. The Irish are white, so they are all right. They gave me the usual shite, you know, some of their best friends are Irish. When I mentioned their involvement in anti-Irish demonstrations, they said it was just the I R A they are against. They hate the I R A. That probably comes from their connections with the ‘Orange’ groups in the north.
“Did you say he’s called Casey?”
“I, if I’m on the right one, and I’m fairly sure I am, because they all look alike. He’s the youngest of a big family. A couple of the older brothers come in here sometimes: nice lads. I’ll have a word with one of them when I get the chance: warn him about the crowd his brother is getting mixed up with. I know the Father well, Dom. I worked with him a few years ago for Murphy’s: a decent hard-working man. I hardly ever see him now. He moved up to Shirley. But, the sons are living around here.
“Will you have another cup of tea Martin?”
“Yes Father I’d love one.” Martin was fond of his tea.
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, something happened a couple weeks earlier that makes me wonder.”
“Go on.” The priest settled down again with his tea, as Martin told of that embarrassing incident. So embarrassing was it that he had tried to put it out of his mind; to pretend it never happened.
“You must remember me,” said the man. “Michael Ruane.” Martin still shook his head. But, he was never going to get away with it. The man was not giving up. “The open cast job,” he prompted.
“I’m fine. And you’re looking well yourself. Sure I needn’t ask how you are.”
“Well; did you get the paper,” asked Tommy excitedly, as he followed Alan into the train.
“Yes.” Alan turned and hissed angrily, “Just keep your voice down.” He then proceeded quickly along the corridor, followed by a rather apprehensive Tommy.
No more was said until they entered a compartment. Then, after closing the door, Tommy ventured, “What’s the matter? Is it not in?”
“Oh; it’s in alright.” Alan handed the folded newspaper to Tommy, before throwing himself on the seat. Tommy sat opposite him. They were the only occupants of the compartment. The rush period was over.
“What’s wrong with it?” Tommy unfolded the newspaper on his lap.
By way of answering, Alan indicated that Tommy turn over the page. “Middle of the page,” he said
Spotting the relevant news item Tommy smiled. “Hurrah,” he cheered after reading it, further irritating Alan.
“Shush; I’m warning you. Keep your voice down.
“No one can hear us. What’s wrong with you? You’re in a terrible mood. Was the journey bad?”
“I’ll say. Three hours on crowded busses, just to get a newspaper.” It was Friday, the day the local weekly first appears in the newsagents. Alan had travelled back almost to the scene of the crime. Not that they saw it as a crime. On the contrary: it was long overdue justice. However, after reading the news report, Alan was less sure.
“Well; you can relax now. I like these corridor trains. This is civilised travelling.”
The compartment door opening interrupted them. An Asian man entered. Passing the newspaper to Alan, Tommy jumped to his feet. “Excuse me,” he said. “This compartment is occupied.” The man looked at the empty seats, then at Tommy. For a moment it seemed he was about to argue. Then, seemingly rising above it, he shrugged. “Sorry,” he said and left.
“Well I’m not sharing a carriage with a Paki, We’d stink of garlic all day. Like I was saying, this is civilised travelling. Let’s keep it that way. Here, I got you a ‘sannie.’ You must be starving”
“Thank you.” Alan took the sandwich but didn’t unwrap it, puzzling Tommy. Then, studying Alan’s worried face, Tommy said, “there’s something you’re not telling me.”
“The man might die.”
“No he won’t. He wasn’t hurt that bad.”
“ Have you read what it says in the paper.”
“Yes. Here; pass me the paper. Let’s have another look. Tommy reread the report
“Elderly Irishman, Michael O’Malley, was taken to
“Serious it says. That doesn’t mean he’ll die.”
“He might though. It’s a good job I pulled you off when I did, or it would definitely be murder.”
“Stop worrying. This is exactly what we need. Big Dave said bring back proof. Well there it is; all the proof we need. I bet he never thought we’d do it.”
“You just went too far.”
“I had to. Anything less wouldn’t be in the paper. Look how small that piece is.” Alan made no reply and Tommy continued. “Anyway, if he does die, no one will suspect us. We got clean away.”
“Yes, luck was on our side.”
“Yes. It was lucky that the party was on in that club that night. No one took any notice of us. It was too crowded and they were too busy singing their Paddy songs. It was a stroke of luck him leaving early too. We were on the bus and probably well on the way back to Manchester when he was found.”
“Luck or not, we did the job. We’ve earned our money. When do we collect the rest of it?”
“I’ll see big Dave tonight.”
“Did he say he’d have the money for you tonight?”
“No, but you have to be careful about what you say on the phone. Don’t worry. We’ll get it.”
“Where do you think the money comes from?”
“I don’t know. I was told not to ask that question. It’s best left like that.”
“I was told it comes from Ireland.”
“Like the envelope we had to deliver. Do you think he ever got that letter?
“Yes, I trusted that man, and he was right about him being in the club that Friday evening. That was another stroke of luck we had.”
“Why do you think he pretended not to know what we were talking about when we asked him about it?”
“I don’t know. But, the important thing is that he answered to the name Michael O’Malley. There was no doubt then that we got the right man.”
“There never was any doubt. Was there?”
“No, But, we had to be doubly sure, especially with him not being at the address we were given.”
“That sour faced woman that came to the door wouldn’t tell you anything. I could have smashed her ugly face. But then that nice man came along and told us everything we needed to know.”
“And the absolute proof is here.” Tommy folded the newspaper and handed it back to Alan.
“Hello Michael. You’re welcome back.” Brendan was clearly pleasantly surprised. He held out a welcoming hand. “Are you back to stay with us?”
“No.” Martin took the hand. “Just for the weekend. I have a bit of business to do.”
“Well, it’s good to see you. The usual is it?” Brendan took a pint glass to the Guinness pump.
“Yes please.” Before settling on the bar stool, Martin took a pound note out of his pocket.
“Yes. I’m staying up in Sparkhill, where I stayed before.” Martin had a drink of his Guinness. He needed it. “Brendan,” he said. “I have something to ask you.”
“Yes,” said Brendan attentively
“I need an address; Dom Casey’s.”
“Is something wrong?”
“No. No. I’m not bringing bad news or anything like that. I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t.”
“All right. Don’t worry about it.” Brendan seemed to understand. “Our problem is,” he went on. “Paddy usually sits at the bar, roundabout where you are yourself. But if you don’t want to meet him, I’ll tell you what to do. You go and sit in the singing room before he comes in and I’ll see if I can get the address off Paddy.”
“Thank you Brendan.” Martin took his drink into the singing room. Alone in the room, he chose to sit by the wall furthest from the bar and nervously got out his pipe and lit it. He was in a position where he could see Brendan moving about behind the bar.
“Yes, thank you.” Martin could have done with another drink. But, what had to be done that evening required him to be as sober as possible. His next move, however very much depended on Brendan getting him the required address. He had almost given up hope when Brendan handed him the note.
“Oh; ah, hello.” Martin was not expecting a lady. He always felt awkward in front of women. “Is, is Dom in,” he asked
“Yes.” She looked him up and down. “Who are you?” Her tone was less than welcoming.
“I’m, I’m Michael O Malley.” Martin had decided to use the name that he was known by in Birmingham; at least initially.
“Oh,” she said as though, Martin thought, the name had slightly startled her, but if so she immediately regained her composure as Martin continued. “I used to know him some time ago.” Martin did know Dom. But he wasn’t sure if Dom knew him. They never had any close dealings. Martin had made sure of that, without, he hoped, Dom’s knowledge. “I’d like a word with him.” The lady’s continued scrutiny was making him more and more uneasy. Then a man shouted from inside the house, “Who is it Peggy?”
“He says he’s called Michael O Malley. He wants a word with you.”
“Well don’t leave him stood there. Tell him to come in.”
“You’d better come in.”
“Thank you mam.” Martin followed her into the small but cosy living room.
“Come in. You must be famished.” Dom had got to his feet, albeit with some difficulty. Whether he recognised him or not, unlike Peggy, clearly Dom had no qualms about admitting Martin to his house. He held out his hand: a friendly welcoming hand.
“I do, but it’s a good few years since I saw you. Take off your coat and sit down.” Dom indicated an empty chair.
“Here, let me take your coat.” Peggy’s voice had softened. Apparently satisfied that the men knew each other., her attitude towards Martin had clearly changed. On returning from putting the coat away, she asked, “Will you have a cup of tea Michael.”
“Thank you mam. Just one sugar.”
“Have you been away,” asked Dom. “I haven’t seen you for a long time. Not that I get out much these days.”
“I, I was working up in the north of England for the last year.” Martin appreciated not being rushed into telling the reason for his visit. Although, the question must be uppermost on Dom’s mind.
“Thank you mam.” Martin cleared his throat before continuing. “I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here.”
“I,” responded Dom. “You must have something important to tell us for you to make this journey.”
“Yes; it’s important to me that I tell it. I just hope it won’t be too upsetting for you.”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t be upsetting us deliberately. I’ve always thought of you as a decent man.”
“Well you might change your mind about that when you hear what I have to say.”
“Come on. Let’s hear it. I’m sure it’s not that bad.”
“First of all, let me tell you my name is not Michael O Malley.” Martin watched their faces. They both just nodded. Then he braced himself as he continued. “My real name is Martin Prendergast.” It was the name Dom must have hated for such a long time: the name, he felt, the mere mention of in this house would be the cause of horror and outrage. Instead, nothing: the couple, again just nodded their heads. Thinking that they must not have heard him properly, Martin repeated the name, “Martin Prendergast.” Still there was no reaction. Not even a raised eyebrow. Martin paused, puzzled by the calm dispassionate acceptance of his revelation. “Dom,” he asked. “I’ve got this right; haven’t I? It was your brother that was killed at the barracks in Ballaghaderreen many years ago?”
“I, our Jimmy God rest him. It was a terrible time.”
“And you know who was blamed for it?”
“Indeed I do. And for a long time we did blame him, and if we caught him: my brothers and me, God help us, we might have killed him. There was so much hatred then. But, over the years, I came to realise that he couldn’t have done it on his own. Others, older than him, must have been involved. To tell the truth, at his young age, it wasn’t fair to put any of the blame on him. But, we did, because we had to blame someone, and he was the only one we knew was involved. It was easy to get a bad name then.”
“We got news lately that he had nothing to do with it. He was at the front of the building at the time, well away from where it happened.
“Well, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, it came as no surprise that your mane is Martin Prendergast. You might remember you were called that outside the church over a year ago.”
“Well,” Dom continued, “I wasn’t there, but my son John was: not in your company, but close enough to hear. The name rang a bell, but at the time he couldn’t remember why.
“It came back to him later and when we met a few days after, he told me about it. It was the name I had talked about to my family many years ago in connection with,.”. Dom paused. “I think you know what I mean.”
“Yes I believe you.”
“Thank you Dom. You’ll never know how much that means to me.”
“The next Sunday afternoon, as many of us as could make it, met at my daughter Theresa’s house. There is a big family of us: four boys and two girls. I think they were all there except young Joe. They asked me to remind them again about that terrible day, especially about your involvement. I told them what I knew, which was, briefly: Seamus Cox and our Jimmy were the only ones in the barracks that day. Seamus who survived reported that he saw you running away.”
“It was Theresa who asked some awkward questions of me. She asked if I knew for certain that that was what Seamus reported. I had to admit that I didn’t know for certain, but it was what was widely believed at the time.”
“She gave me a rough time over that. ‘It was no more than a rumour that Martin was there; let alone done anything,’ she said. ‘Yet you might have killed him.’
“She made me feel ashamed. But, that was how it was, I told her. Justice was rough. It was revenge; not justice. We wanted revenge that much we didn’t stop to think. We had someone to blame and we didn’t give much thought to what evidence there was of his guilt.”
“Well, it’s not like that now” she said. She’s a bossy bugger, our Teresa. She made us all listen. She pointed out that the time for revenge was over; if ever there was such a time. So telling my brothers, at that time was a bad idea.”
“We talked about whether we should approach you, as it only you and Seamus Cox, as far as we knew, that witnessed what happened that day.
“That just left Seamus Cox. He was the only other person who could help us, and I’d heard nothing of him for over forty years. I knew he cleared off to America soon after that day, but I had no idea where he was then, or even if he was still alive. I thought his brother Tom was still living on the farm in Ireland, but I wasn’t even sure of that.”
“Hearing that Theresa said, ‘leave it to me.’ She wasted no time. The next day she sent a letter off to Tom, asking if he knew where his brother was and if it would be possible for her to write to him. We didn’t have much hope, but within a week we got an answer back from Tom, giving the address of his brother in Boston. ‘It’s a long time since I heard from him,’ wrote Tom, ‘But as far as I know he’s still there. Write to him if you wish. You might do better at getting a reply than I do.’
“It seemed that he gave her the address without even getting permission from his brother. So, again, we didn’t think there was much chance of a reply, but she wrote anyway.”
“About a month later, when we’d almost given up hope, this letter arrived. Peggy,” asked Dom “Will you pass that letter to Martin: the one behind the clock.” Peggy handed Martin the letter. “Take your time now and read it for yourself.”
“Don’t thank us. It’s not Just Seamus Cox who owes you an apology. We all do. We should never have jumped to conclusions the way we did.”
“Well,” said Martin pulling himself together, “that’s the way it was. But, I’m grateful for the trouble you took to find out the truth, especially your daughter Theresa: she’s a great girl.”
“Oh, indeed she is. When she sets her mind on something there’s no stopping her. But, she hasn’t finished yet. She wants to meet you herself. It’s a pity, herself and her husband, they’re both teachers, are away this weekend at some kind of conference.”
“Yes, I’d like to meet her and thank her myself.”
“Aren’t you staying down here now?”
“No. I just came down for the weekend.”
“Are you going back to Broadfield then? Yes we know where you were living.” Dom was responding to Martin’s surprised look. “Although it’s only lately we found out.”
“A couple of things caused people to be concerned about you. Your real name not being what people thought it was and then you disappeared. Neither of those was very unusual. Lots of Irishmen use false names, avoiding tax or for some other reason. And, of course Irishmen are always moving to where the work is. But, the two things happening together got people talking. Brendan though allayed their fears somewhat. He said you were always a loner and you wouldn’t want anyone to know your business..”
“One man, though, kept asking about you. You know the man: Michael Ruane, the man who shouted your name outside the church.” Martin nodded as Dom continued. “He’s a bit of a loud mouth, as you know. I don’t think he started coming in ‘the antelope’ until after you left. He doesn’t come in very often. He lives out in Aston, but he comes in the odd weekend because he likes the Irish music and the craic.”
“The reason he kept asking was because it turned out that his landlady knows you and after he mentioned meeting you she kept asking if he heard any more about you. Then one Saturday night about a month ago he announced at the bar that he knew where you were. It seemed that week his landlady Ellie had a visit from her sister Maggie. Maggie lives up in Broadfield near Manchester. Well, Michael heard the sisters talking: by accident he said, but you know what he’s like. Anyway he was in the next room when he heard the conversation. It seems an awful lot of people are interested in your whereabouts. Maggie said Martin Prendergast was living in Mary’s lodging house in Broadfield. I think the lodging house is well known around there.”
“Oh, Indeed it is.” Martin stood up. “Well thank you for your hospitality and everything else. But I’m afraid I can’t stay. I have a few other things to do.”
“Thank you Martin.” Dom struggled to his feet. “I hope we’ll see you again soon.”
“You will.” With no more ado Martin left.
“Dave Campbell,” answered the landlord, without turning round.
“Thank you.” At least, Martin thought, he had one name; maybe even the name of the ringleader. “He’s a generous man, I’ll have to thank him,” continued Martin, hoping to engage the landlord further. But there was no reply. He’s certainly a man of few words, thought Martin, or is it me? Then Martin tried a direct question. He had nothing to lose.
“And who are the two young fellows,” he asked, keeping his voice as calm as possible, although he could feel his anger rising again.
“You’re asking a lot of questions.”
“If you want to thank Dave, he’s in there.” The landlord pointed to the door leading to the other room.
“I know what you’ve done,” screamed Martin
“You can’t…” The young man was stopped dead by Dave’s glare. Dave tried to intervene with, “Martin calm down please.” But Martin, picking upon the attempted protest, would not be put off. Turning on the young man he raged.
“What do you mean, I can’t?”
“And you Dave Campbell, I know you’re part of it.”
“Paddy, please, you’ve got this all wrong.”
“Don’t call me Paddy, and you know I’m not wrong. I’m going to the police.”
“Don’t go. Let’s talk about his,” pleaded Dave who had followed Martin in a desperate attempt to stop him leaving.
“Oh, let him go,” urged the landlord, pulling himself up from his sprawled position, “I’m glad he’s gone. He’s a madman.”
“What was all that about,” asked the still bewildered landlord as Dave impatiently helped him to his feet. “I thought he was a very quiet man.”
“Oh Jesus,” cried the landlord. “We’ll have more trouble when he comes back for it.”
“Don’t worry,” said Dave “He won’t be coming back.” “Get the coat,” he ordered one of the young men. “Come on. We’re going after him.” “You too” he urged the other one impatiently, and all three rushed out.
“Oh no,” cried Dave, “it’s the police”. He was in the wrong lane. Alan could see that he wasn’t concentrating on his driving. In a panic, Dave swung the Ford Transit into the inside lane, while Alan and Tommy held their breaths in terror. The vehicle whose lights were flashing then sped past. It was not the police, just an impatient motorist. They could breath again. Dave wiped the sweat from his brow with his sleeve.
“Why have we stopped?” cried Alan fearfully looking around. “We can’t stop here.” He was getting desperate. “Let’s get off the road.” In the lay-by, he knew that they were in a more vulnerable position than when they were moving. If the police came along they would almost certainly be checked upon: the consequences of which didn’t bear thinking about.
“Just shut up,” screamed Dave. “I’m trying to think.” He banged his head on the steering wheel, terrifying his passengers all the more. Then, with both clenched fists on his ears he pressed his face on the wheel.
“Hush. Keep your voice down.” Dave had no time for explanations. “Come on, quick, let’s get him in the van.” He was a big man. It took all three of them to lift him in the van.
“Quick. Back in the van.” Dave replaced the starting handle under his seat. It was a quiet, mostly industrial, area. As far as Alan could tell no one witnessed the incident, which, in all only took a few minutes.
“The job is no longer a challenge,” Dave continued. “You’re good at it now. You picked it up fast.”
“First, let me ask you a few question,” continued Dave. “You’ve heard of the IRA?”
“What do you think of them?”
“Do you think that they should be allowed to go around murdering people?”
“Of course not.”
“What do you think should be done with them?”
“They should be locked up; maybe hanged.”
“Yes. That’s what I think. In fact I’d hang the lot of them. But, did you know there are IRA murderers in this country that cannot be touched?”
“It’s hard to believe, I know, but they are among us. They are not even denying it. In fact some of them brag about it, knowing that the law cannot touch them.”
“Why.” Alan was still dubious. “If they are murderers, surely they can be arrested.”
“Not when the murders were committed in Ireland. There they are not recognised as murders. But, often it was our solders that they murdered, and now they are living here and enjoying our hospitality. The law can’t touch them and in their own communities they are treated like heroes. Life for them couldn’t be better. It makes me mad: we are so soft in this country.”
“You remember young Joe Casey,” Dave continued. “He used to work for us, but he left about a year ago. Well, his uncle, his father’s brother, who, I believe, was a policeman over there, was murdered by the IRA. The man who did it used to live round here. He was well known.”
“What did Joe’s family think about that?”
“Of course they were angry when they discovered who the man was, especially as they had known him for many years and for most of that time they had no idea that he was the man who had murdered their father’s brother. You see, he had changed his name. They do that when it’s one of their own they murder, in case they meet friends or family of the victim. The family had never met him in Ireland. They only knew his name. It was chance meeting with someone who knew him in the past that gave him away.”
“That put the family in an awkward position. The man that, with good cause, they hated for so long was then known to them. In fact he was someone they frequently saw around. Joe has two brothers older than him. Neither of them are violent men. But, even if they were, they couldn’t touch the man. The law is on his side. IRA men are protected. It’s all wrong.”
“So, what happened?”
“Leave it to us, we told Joe. We have ways of dealing with such men.”
“He’s anti British. That’s the important thing. The IRA is against everything we stand for. Most Irishmen are against then too, especially Ulstermen: Loyalists. They are loyal to us and feel strongly that those men should be brought to justice.”
“So. What did you do?”
“We ran him out of town. It didn’t take much. Just a letter letting him know that he was caught up with: that his identity was known and that he hadn’t got away with what he did.”
“But we still haven’t finished with him. Recently we discovered where he now lives and have reason to believe that he is up to no good. This is where you come in. You wanted some excitement. Well here’s your chance.”
“Oh no. Not me.” Alan resolutely shook his head.
“Just hear me out,” Dave persisted. “You wouldn’t have to commit a murder or anything like that. Just listen to what I have to say and then you can decide one way or the other.”
“You could consider it a public service: a much needed public service. The police can’t do anything, but that’s where we can step in. These are dangerous men; loose. We have to watch them, or who knows what they will get up to. They have been known to kill a lot of people in this country too. But we can stop them simply by letting them know that we are on to them.”
“There is a fund; a special fund, set up by people who care and want justice. They are prepared to put their money where their mouths are. It’s secret. I don’t know who’s in it and I don’t care. I just know that the money is there. So here is a chance to do something useful for society. Something exciting, and also make yourself some money.”
“I still don’t like the sound of it. What would I have to do anyway?”
“The job couldn’t be easier. The man who killed Joe’s uncle; we now know where he lives. It’s up in the North of England. We now know his address. In the first instance, all you would have to do is to deliver a letter to him.”
“Couldn’t it just be posted to him?”
“No. We can’t risk the letter going astray. Enquires would need to be made to verify that he still lives there: he moves around a lot. And, after he’s read the letter, maybe a few days later, he will have to be confronted, to leave him in no doubt that we mean business. The man is a loner, so you would have no trouble getting him on his own.”
“Good.” At least something was happening, thought Alan. “Let’s get out of here,” he urged,” he urged. Much as he hated Dave, he was still his only hope.
“Not yet. Get out of the van,” ordered Dave, switching the interior light on. “And come to the back.”
“Come on, one either side,” he urged. “But, hang on a minute.” Dave went through the man’s pockets. Some of the contents, probably money, thought Alan, although the light was too poor to see, he stuffed in his own pocket. Something else he pushed between a paint can and the side of the van.
“Right, come on now.” Alan and Tommy got hold of a shoulder each. “Where are we putting him?” asked Alan.
“On the road.” Dave was resolute.
“Right. Back in the van,” ordered Dave. “Quick”
“Just come on,” barked Dave, opening the driver’s door
“Oh. Come on,” urged Tommy. “We can’t hang about.”
“Shit,” muttered Dave. He could see the headlight in the distance. “O K,” he said changing into reverse gear again, and swinging the van around “Let’s go.”
“Alan, Alan wait.” Alan started to run but Dave was not giving up. Eventually he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Alan, why are you running away? We must talk, and I have some money for you.”
“The money you took from the dead man? I don’t want it.”
“No Alan. Not that. It’s your money: what you’ve earned.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want it.” Alan turned away from Dave and moved towards a low brick wall.
“Is he O K?” The lady sounded concerned.
“Yes. He’s fine,” Dave assured her.
“Alan, get up, ”urged Dave. “We can’t stay here. Clearly Dave wished to avoid a repeat of the interest the lady had shown.
“Ger off me. Leave me alone.” Alan no longer saw Dave as his boss. He no longer worked for him and never would again. “Go away. Leave me alone.”
“Alan, why are you like this?”
“You know why.”
“I know bad things have happened. But, we’re in the clear now. No one suspects us.
“Now Alan, stop there,” Dave interrupted getting annoyed. “It wasn’t in cold blood as you well know. It was in the heat of the moment.”
“Whatever. You killed a man and then you robbed him. I saw you do it.”
“Alan, keep your voice down.” Dave looked around him before continuing. “You don’t understand. I emptied his pockets so he wouldn’t be identified. That was all. In any case I did it for you, to save you from being done for that job that you bungled up north. Remember, you killed a man too.”
“I didn’t kill anyone.”
“So, you’re blaming Tommy. Are you? Well, you were there too. You’re just as much to blame as he is; more so, I’d say, in the eyes of the law. Tommy is a bit of a nutter. You’re the one that will be held responsible for it. If you’re caught, your prison stretch will be much longer than his. You’ll get life. But, don’t worry. I’ll keep you safe. Ow! This wall’s cold.”
“How will you keep me safe?” he asked angrily. “By killing someone else?”
“Alan, why are you like this? You know that if we let that man go to the police you were in deep shit.”
“I don’t care. I wouldn’t have done what you did.”
“You want to give yourself up then?” Dave threw his hands in the air. “Is that what you want?”
“Maybe it is.”
“You’re annoying me now. I’m not staying here in the freezing cold any longer. Come on. Let’s walk to the van.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.” Alan turned away again.
“You’ll do as your fucking well told.” Dave had lost all patients with him then. “I’m still your boss.”
“No, you’re not. I’ll never work for you again.”
“Alan, for the last time.” The time for smooth talk was over. “You can’t do this to me. I’ll not allow it.”
On Monday morning John Mountain’s gang was assembled at Burton’s corner. “Well, that’s it now. I think all that are coming are here,” said John as Jimmy McCarthy hurried towards them. “No sign of Martin Prendergast?” asked John, when Jimmy reached them. John knew Jimmy shared digs with Martin.
“No. He hasn’t been seen in the digs all weekend.”
John was disappointed. Martin would have completed a good gang. On the previous Friday evening John had personally called round at Martin’s digs. Unable to see Martin, he left a message with Mary, Martin’s landlady, telling him, as he’d told all the others, to be outside Burton’s at seven o’clock on Monday morning, if he wanted the start on the new site.
“Martin, however, wasn’t John’s only concern that Monday morning. “Ah well,” he said. “At least the rest of us are here.” John counted the men. He had eight men travelling from Broadfield, including three new starters. It was a big job. There would be a lot of navvying to do. He hadn’t been convinced that they would all turn up, and he wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t; the way they were being treated by the company.
John was still annoyed about how his complaint about the mode of transport was dealt with. The bus was being repaired and would be out of use for at least a couple of weeks. They were informed that the men would have to travel to work and back –nearly twenty miles each way- on the back of an open wagon. When Jim Butler, the company owner, visited the site, on the previous week, John complained bitterly to him, but with little success.
Jim was totally unsympathetic. “What are you complaining about?” he asked. “You’ll be travelling in the cab.”
“It’s the men. It will be bitterly cold on the back of that wagon. And what if it rains?”
“All right. All right. We have a canopy in the yard. I’ll have that fitted on the wagon. Some seats as well. How’s that?”
“If it’s the one I’m thinking of it’s badly ripped.”
“I don’t think so. But, if so, I’ll have it repaired.”
“That might keep the rain off. Might? But it’ll still be bitterly cold. It’ll be a bad start of the day for the men. Can’t you hire a bus or something?”
“”No way. No way. Have you any idea what that would cost?”
John knew money wasn’t a problem. In recent years the company had gone from strength to strength. He didn’t answer the question. Instead he said angrily, “It might cost you the men if you don’t.”
But Jim knew that wouldn’t happen. Jobs for navvies were scarce at the time, and he was not a man to waste an opportunity to save himself some money. “John,” he said. “Don’t threaten me. I’ve agreed to fit a canopy. If the men are not happy with that they know what they can do.”
“In better times John would have told Jim what he could do with his job. However, in the circumstances, annoyed as he was, he held his tongue. He had a dependant family and needed the work, as apparently did all of his gang.
John didn’t tell the men the whole story of his encounter with Jim Butler. There was no need to upset them all the more. He just said he’d failed to get a replacement bus, but the company would get the old one back on the road as quickly as possible.
“I, when it’s summer and we’re not bothered,” was Jimmy’s angry reply.
John nodded in agreement. None of the men were happy about it. Nevertheless they all promised to be there. However John knew he couldn’t rely on those promises. If any of the men got a better offer over the weekend, he would, no doubt, take it. But, at that time, such offers were few.
John looked at his watch. It was almost seven. He hoped the wagon would be on time. Although, thankfully, the weather was much improved, it was still too cold to stand around for long. All the men were wearing donkey jackets or some other form of heavy coat. Some were sheltering in doorways from the cold wind. Michael O’Donnell in Burton’s doorway holding a handkerchief to his nose didn’t look at all well to John “Just a bit of a cold,” he said brushing off John’s enquiry.
John watched anxiously as the dirty grey tipper wagon approached. When it got closer, he was relieved to see the canopy on the back; it’s canvas flapping in the wind. At least Jim Butler had arranged that. John had doubts about whether even that small concession would be granted.
Standing on the edge of the pavement, holding his hand up John called. “Come on men,” as the wagon stopped. As he watched the men climbing on to the back of the wagon, some shivering, he felt slightly guilty about himself travelling in the relative warmth of the cab.
Michael was last. He was finding it difficult pulling himself on to the wagon. John moved to help him. Then he made a decision. Placing his hand on Michael’s shoulder he said, “Michael, get down. Get in the cab. It’s easier.”
“No,” Michael protested. But John insisted. Himself joining the others in the back as Michael reluctantly got in the cab.
“Come in out of the cold,” joked Jimmy, rubbing his hands together as John entered the canopy. “And shut the door after you. You’re last in.”
John examined the back of the canopy. “Looks like the back end is missing; if there ever was one,” he observed, much to the amusement of the others.
The men were sat on two low benches facing each other. Jimmy moved up a little to allow John to sit next to him on the end of the bench.
The wagon juddered and moved forward, causing the men to sway on the bench. Caught unawares, John fell off the end on to the floor. The men moved up to give him more room on the bench as he scrambled to get back on the seat. The bouncing of the wagon was not helping.
Although a familiar mode of transport with navvies, tipper wagons were never made for that. Designed for carrying several tons in weight the wagons have extremely strong rear springs, which are totally ineffective when empty. Therefore, when in motion, the back of the wagon is constantly bouncing, which doesn’t bode well for passenger comfort.
“You get used to this luxury travel in time,” remarked Jimmy, as John with difficulty got back on his seat. “But you have to hold on to your seat.” Jimmy watched with amusement as John gripped his seat with both hands.
John made no reply as Jimmy continued, “aren’t you the ‘daysent’ man, giving up your nice warm seat in the cab.”
“Well, it’s Michael. It was too much to expect him to climb up here. He’s getting a bit old for this game”
“Sure aren’t you as old yourself.”
“I suppose. But, Michael seemed very stiff this morning.”
“You’re a kind man.”
Not allowing Jimmy’s sarcasm to get to him. John changed the subject. “You seem in a good mood for a Monday morning. No hangover? Have you stopped drinking again?”
“Not a drop all weekend.”
“Well. I’m proud of you.” John would have clapped Jimmy’s back. But he dare not take his hand off his seat.
John looked across at Andy, who was sat opposite, looking sad: his thoughts apparently miles away. “Andy.” John had to shout to be heard over the noise. “Have you heard anything of Martin?”
Andy, looking momentarily startled seemed to take a while to gather his thoughts before shaking his head. “No,” he said. “He’s been away for a few days.”
“Do you think he’s gone for good?”
“No,” Jimmy intervened, “He’ll be back. Mary said the most of his clothes are still there.”
“John,” asked Andy. “If he comes tomorrow will he still get the start?”
“I wish I could say yes Andy. But if Ginger Burke turns up I’m afraid there will be no job for Martin. Ginger lives in Burnley. He’s going straight to the job.”
“Ah,” said Jimmy. “Put him off. Tell him you’re full up.”
“If I was sure of Martin. I’d do that. But we don’t know where he is, or when he’s coming back, if at all. And we don’t know that he wants the job anyway.”
“Oh, he wants the job all right. Sure there’s no other work round here.”
John thought about it for a couple of minutes. Then, turning to Jimmy said, “Maybe you’re right. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll take a chance. I might be loosing a good man. Ginger is a good man, and I don’t think he’ll like being messed about, but it’s all I can do. I’ll tell him there is no job for him this week, but if he comes back next Monday morning there’s a good chance. That will give Martin a week to sort himself out.”
“Andy; are you o k?”
“Yes. I’m all right. But…”
“Come in. Come in,” urged the priest before Andy could say any more.
“Thank you father.”
“It’s about Martin, Martin Prendergast,” began Andy when they were both sat down.
“Yes Andy?” The priest was concerned.
“I just called at Mary’s. He hasn’t been seen for over a week. He told Mary that he was going away, but he said only for a few days.”
“He was out of work. Maybe he got a job somewhere else.”
“ Mary said the most of his clothes are still there. She’s worried about him. She thought you might know something. She said he had a talk with you before he left.”
“Yes. We had a chat. But, he didn’t say where he was going. He didn’t even say he was going away.”
“How could that happen father?”
“Well, for a time, when he worked in the Birmingham area I believe, Martin was known by that name, Michael O’Malley. The person, or persons, who carried out the attack on him thought that Michael O’Malley was he. Martin felt guilty, like it was his fault, and he wouldn’t be told otherwise. He seemed very depressed to me. He might have got it all wrong. When someone is feeling low his mind can play tricks on him.”
“He wasn’t himself for the last few weeks.”
“In what way Andy?”
“Well, he was quieter. He didn’t say much. And it didn’t take much to upset him.”
“Did you say anything to him?”
“I tried, but he got annoyed when I asked him if he was all right.”
“Yes. I don’t think he’d let anyone get too close to him. Have you known him for long Andy?”
“Only for about a year. But his brother Jim was our next-door neighbour. He had the next farm to ours in Ireland.”
“Do you know if they keep in touch at all?”
“No. They don’t. I heard that Martin never writes home. His brother didn’t know where he was, even if he was alive or dead, until about a month ago when I told my mother in a letter that I met him. But, it annoyed Martin. He went mad when I mentioned it to him.” I don’t know if I did the right thing when I gave my mother his address. She passed it on to his brother. He wrote to Martin, but Martin never answered him.
“ Well, what’s done is done. No point in worrying about it. You can’t do anything about it now.”
“No. Not that I can remember. I heard there was some disagreement about who got the land. But, I’m not sure. It might have been about something else. It was before I was born. All I can say is that Jim was a very good neighbour. He was very helpful to us when my father was sick. But, when I mentioned it to Martin he just didn’t want to know.”
“Andy, you’re a very caring young fellow. That’s very commendable, but right now there is nothing you can do.”
“Hello Father. Sorry to bother you at this time. I wonder if you can help me. My name is Teresa Kelly. I’m trying to trace someone who I believe is one of your parishioners. His name is Martin Prendergast. Do you know him?”
“Yes. I know someone of that name. Has something happened to him?”
“No father. It’s nothing like that. I just need to meet him. Do you know where he lives?”
“No. I’m afraid not.” He didn’t actually know Martin’s address. But, even if he did he would have been wary of giving such information to a stranger: especially in the light of what Martin had recently told him. “Are you a relative?” he asked.
“No father. It’s a long story. I’m going up there tomorrow. I thought if it’s convenient I would call on you.”
“Where do you live?”
“I live in Birmingham. But I have business up there tomorrow.” That wasn’t true. She had no other business.
“OK. But, if it’s Martin you wished to see it would be a wasted journey. Martin has not been seen around here for over a week. I had a man call on me just before you rang enquiring if I knew anything of his whereabouts. But, I’m afraid I couldn’t help.”
“That’s a pity. But, I’d like to talk to you anyway if it’s all right. Would you have a spare half an hour sometime tomorrow? About lunch time maybe.”
“OK. About half past twelve would be a good time for me.”
“That’s great. See you tomorrow then father.”
“Thank you Andy,” said Mary. “Sit down for a minute. It’s good of you to come round to let us know.” Mary thought highly of Andy, often remarking, much to his embarrassment on his good manners and smart appearance. She also praised his regular Mass attendance and avoidance of drink as an example to all.
“There’s tea in the taypot Andy,” she said. “Will you have a cup?”
“No thank you Mary, I’ve just had one.” Andy was too polite to laugh of even show that he noticed the slip in her refinement of language.
“Did he say what Martin went to see him about?”
“He said they had a chat, but Martin never told him that he was going away.”
“Ah; sure that’s Martin,” said Paddy suddenly becoming alive and letting them know that he was aware of the conversation. “Martin never tells anyone his business.”
“Well he must have something to tell,” said Mary, cutting him short. “He went to see the priest. Didn’t he?”
“If he doesn’t come back this weekend he won’t have a job,” said Andy “John told me he couldn’t keep it any longer for him.”
“I know. Jimmy told me. It’s good of John to keep it this long for him.”
“Do you think he’ll come back?”
“Well, nearly all his clothes are still there. He’ll need to come back for them anyway.”
“Didn’t he take a change of clothes with him?”
“I didn’t see him go. He might have taken a few things. But, his suitcase is still in the room.”
“Do you think something might have happened to him?”
“Do you think we should tell the police?” Andy was thinking of what happened to Michael O’Malley and what the priest had told him about Martin believing that he was the intended victim. But, he didn’t feel he could tell Mary that.
“Ah, what good would that do?” she said. “They haven’t caught whoever nearly killed poor Michael O’Malley, have they?”
“Well, he’s not around here any more,” she replied. She was fairly sure of that. She had her brothers looking for him all week. On the previous afternoon she visited the Antelope. Brendan was as puzzled as she was. Martin had promised to return there, but failed to do so.
“No. Not that I know of. It’s just that I’d like to see him.”
“And you are?”
“I’m sorry. I’m very busy. It’s tea-time you know.”
“Yes, I understand. Could you just tell me if he’s staying here?”
“Well; he booked a room last Friday, a week today, but he’s never been back to it. I hope nothing happened to him.”
“You knew him previously then?”
“Yes. He was my lodger for many years. But, I can’t say I knew him. Nobody did; he kept himself to himself. I’m sorry I have to go.”
“Not so good. She’s shocked. She thought he was getting better.”
“Have you got an undertaker yet?” asked the priest.
“Connolly’s, but we don’t know what’s happening yet. The police are involved.”
“Yes, of course. It’s a murder case now. I’ll announce the death at tomorrow’s Masses. But, no arrangements can be made yet. Connolly’s will be in touch, and together with the family we’ll make the arrangements when we can. I’ll call on Catherine this afternoon. Will she be in the house?”
“She will. Thank you father.”
“I’m sorry about that.” The priest walked back to where Teresa was stood. Holding out his hand he said “I take it you’re the young lady I talked to on the phone last night. Teresa is it?”
“Yes Father, that was me.” Teresa took his hand. “It’s OK. I think you had urgent business there. I couldn’t help hearing a little of the conversation.”
“Yes. It’s bad news. Well come in the house. You’ve come a long way. I’ll tell you about it then.”
“Yes. He died last night. It’s tragic. He was assaulted and badly beaten up about a week ago. He has been in hospital since then. On Saturday I gave him the last rites. But, since then we thought he was getting better. That was his nephew.”
“You’ll have a cup of tea?” Moving towards the kitchen he asked, “milk, sugar?”
“Just milk, but tell me father?” the question couldn’t wait any longer. “Was Michael O’Malley connected in any way to Martin Prendergast?”
“It’s just something I’ve heard. Could they be the same person?”
“No they are not the same person.” The priest hesitated. “Let me make the tea.”
“Bold as brass,” commented Nora from behind the bar, as Brian left. “You’d think it had nothing to do with him.”
“Sure Brian is no worse than any other ‘subbie’.”
“Don’t we all take that chance when we work on the lump.”
“Ah, indeed we do. A man couldn’t be wasting time fitting safety-bars, securing ladders or anything like that.”
“He wouldn’t last long if he did. It was an unfortunate accident. No one was to blame.”
“Won’t that put a lot of us out of work.”
“Not at all,” replied Michael. “The work will still need doing. But it will have to be done safely. The main contractor will not be able to pass the responsibility down to a sub-contractor, like he does now.
“Is martin being investigated for something?” Asked the priest as he placed a tray with two cups of tea and a plate of biscuits on the little table.
“No,” replied Teresa, turning from browsing the titles of the many books on the bookshelf. “Not in the way you’re probably thinking. I’m not an investigator of any kind. It’s just a personal thing. I would like to meet him and talk with him.”
“Michael O’Malley; yes Father. I think I’d better start at the beginning and tell you all I know.”
“So; Martin was in Birmingham last weekend,” mused the priest. “I should have guessed after what he told me. The question is where is he now and on that I’m afraid I can’t help you.”
“You said Father, that you had a talk with him.”
“Yes: just a day or two before he went away. But he never mentioned that he planned to leave. He did tell his landlady, though. He said he was going away for a few days. She expects him back. Most of his clothed are still there. But, now it’s been over a week. People are getting concerned.”
“Why are they? I get the impression that he’s not a man who tells his business to everyone.”
“Yes. You’re right. He’s quite a secretive man. But’ he’s also a truthful man. When he told Mary, his landlady, that he would be away for a few days she believed he meant just that. Also, there is a job waiting for him that can’t be held any longer. But, there is something else that he told me: Something more worrying.” The priest hesitated as if considering whether to go on.
“Yes Father.” Teresa was eager to hear it.
“OK. Martin never said that what he was telling me was confidential. Nevertheless, I would not normally repeat such things. However, in the light of recent developments, it might not be right to keep this information to myself any longer. I’m seriously thinking of going to the police with it. You’ve come a long way and I think you deserve to know the truth. I trust you will treat this information sensitively.”
“Of course father.”
“You know about Martin’s other identity?”
“Yes; Michael O’Malley.”
“Well,” continued the priest. “Nobody knew him by that name around here. Here, he always used his real name, Martin Prendergast. However, by coincidence, a man by the name of Michael O’Malley lived nearby. That man, as you heard, has just died, after being assaulted a couple of weeks ago. Martin was convinced that that assault was a case of mistaken identity: that he was the intended victim.”
“Do you think he disappeared because he was frightened?”
“Frightened! No. I don’t think he was frightened. Bur, he did feel responsible for what happened to Michael O’Malley. He was blaming himself for it.”
“That seems illogical. Was his mind a bit…?”
“No. He seemed normal to me. Although, the young fellow that I spoke to yesterday evening, said he thought Martin had been acting a bit strange recently. Oh; and there was something else. There was a letter: a threatening letter. It was left at Martin’s digs, I think about a week before the assault on Michael O’Malley. It was addressed to Michael O’Malley, but Martin was sure it was meant for him. A similar letter was sent to him when he lived in Birmingham. He recognised the handwriting. The letter was left on a shelf, waiting for someone to take it to Michael O’Malley. Then, one time, when he was alone in the house, Martin carefully opened the letter.”
“His fears were confirmed. I don’t know the exact words, but Martin said they were identical to the ones in the letter he received when he lived in Birmingham. He knew he should have taken the letter to the police. I think that was the main reason he felt guilty. But, Martin’s life experiences had made him wary of the police, or, for that matter, of any one in authority. Instead, he removed the letter and resealed the empty envelope: to save frightening Michael O’Malley, he said.”
“Who did he think was threatening him Father? Did he think it was my family?”
“Yes. I believe he did. Although he was not totally convinced, that was mainly what he suspected. That terrible civil war: people have still got the scars over forty years later. Some, God help them! will take those hatreds to their graves.
“My father sees the folly of it all now, and, after meeting Martin, he regrets the ill feelings he had for so many years. But, I can’t bear to think what would happen if any of my uncles met Martin: even now. However, I can’t see any of them being involved in the assault on Michael O’Malley.
“There is another possibility. Martin told me he had a bit of a run-in with a racist group when he lived in Birmingham. They don’t normally target Irish people. But, they are very anti IRA. Martin fears that they may be aware of his past connections.”
“How could they be?”
“Well. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but could you have a younger brother who is somehow involved with that group?”
“And he gave you no clue as to where he was going?”
“Not a clue. I didn’t see him on the day he left. I was out at the time. But he left me a note saying he had to go away, but he’d be back in a cupla days.”
“Thank you,” replied Mary. “I would normally say no. He’s a private man and I like to respect that. But, in the circumstances, maybe taking a look can do no harm. I don’t like the idea of looking through his stuff. But, I’m thinking of going to the police and if I do, that’s probably just what they’ll do. Maybe if the two of us had a look first. There might be something there that he wouldn’t want the police to see. Like a lot of Irishmen, he probably hasn’t paid all his taxes.”
“I haven’t offered you a cup of tea. Would you like one?”
“No thank you.” Teresa didn’t wish to waste any time. “I’m fine.” She followed Mary up the stairs.
“No. That’s how he left it. He’s a tidy man. I only go in the rooms about once a week to change the sheets, but I ever touch anything else. This room is always tidy.” “Unlike some others,” she added.
“I heard that.”
“Jimmy! You sneaked up on us. Well if the cap fits.”
“Sure wouldn’t you make it fit.”
“Go on with you. Have you just finished work?”
“I. It’s a short day on Saturday. Have you heard anything of Martin?”
“Well, best of luck,” said Jimmy. “I’d give it the weekend first though. He might turn up this weekend. You never know. He has a job waiting for him on Monday. Well nice meting you Teresa. I’m going for a wash.”
“He’s a nice polite young fellow,” remarked Teresa after they both entered the room and closed the door.
“Oh. He’s the charmer all right.”
“I, and all his working clothes. I had a look yesterday when I started to get worried about him. He got a pile back from the laundry the week before he left. They are all neatly folded and in his drawers.” Mary pointed to the chest of drawers.
“The wardrobe too is full of his clothes. Nothing is left lying around, except those boots.” There was a pair of heavy working boots by the wall.
“He’s a reader. Is he?” A book on the chest of drawers caught Teresa’s eye.
“I. He likes to visit the library when he can.”
“Oh God! I’ve lost his page.” What was probably his bookmark fluttered to the floor. Teresa picked it up. It was a hand written note.
“A Michael O’Malley died this morning. Father Downey was informed while I was there. You knew him then?”
“Oh God rest him.” The news upset Mary. “Yes; I knew him well: a lovely man.”
“Oh my God!” Exclaimed Mary. “This is a threat,” as if it just dawned on her. “And to Michael O’Malley. Why would Martin write such a thing?”
“Maybe he didn’t write it. It’s not signed.”
“He’s a murderer!” she exclaimed almost hysterically. “That’s why he’s gone away.”
“Calm down Mary, said Teresa firmly. “I think you’re reading two much into this note. We don’t even know that Martin wrote it. And if he did, he didn’t give it to Michael O’Malley.”
“What’s he doing with it then?”
“I don’t know. But, there might be a perfectly reasonable explanation.”
“No. I haven’t seen his hand writing.”
“Didn’t you say he left a note, saying he was going away?”
“ Yes; of course. I forgot about that. I believe it’s still in the kitchen. I’ll have a look. Stay there. I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Dare I open and read them,” she thought. “Mary might not approve.”
“That’s the puzzle.” Although part of the puzzle was already solved in Teresa’s head, she couldn’t reveal that to Mary.
“There was a letter for Michael O’Malley,” Mary remembered. “It was lying around the house for a long time. Paddy was supposed to give it to him, but he kept forgetting.”
“He’s my husband. You met him downstairs, but he’s useless in some ways.”
“Aren’t they all,” Teresa smiled. “In some ways. But, how did the letter get here?”
“A young man called a few weeks ago, thinking Michael O’Malley lived here. I just sent him away saying I didn’t know where Michael O’Malley lived. I didn’t exactly. But, then he met Paddy. Paddy took the letter off him, saying he’d pass it in to Michael. Maybe he did, eventually. It’s not here any more”
“A young man, you say, gave you the letter.” Her brother Joe, Teresa was thinking, could it have been him?
“What did he look like?” she asked
“I didn’t take much notice.” Mary thought. “I suppose about twenty, dark hair I think, average height. Why? Do you think you might know him?”
“No. No. Just trying to build a picture. Did he sound like he was a local lad?”
“No. Could have been a Birmingham accent. I had a man from Birmingham stayed with me once. He sounded like him.”
“And that note,” Mary continued. “I’ll have to give them that as well.”
“That will implicate Martin. It will look bad for him, especially now that he’s gone missing.” What am I saying, Teresa thought. Mary must tell all to the police. But, maybe she could be stalled a little.
“Maybe if you took that young mans advice and waited until after the weekend,” said Teresa hopefully. “Martin might yet come back.”
“Even if he does, I’ll still have to tell the police all that I know.”
“Yes. Yes, of course. It just might be interesting to hear Martins explanation before the police start crawling all over the place.”
“You think that’s what will happen?”
“Yes. I’m afraid so; now it’s a murder case. And when they see that note they’ll have no choice.”
“Oh; God help us! It was getting too much for Mary. “Maybe I shouldn’t show them the note. I could just put it back in the book.”
“You could. But, then you’d be withholding evidence. We both would.
“Suppose you sleep on it. Leave it until Monday. If Martin hasn’t shown up by then, go to the police station and tell them everything.”
“You’ve checked all the drawers.” Teresa was thinking of the wardrobe drawer.
“Not that bottom one.” Mary indicated the drawer Teresa had in mind.
“Should we have a quick look?” Without waiting for an answer Teresa bent down and opened the drawer.
“Not clothes.” Teresa feigned surprise. “Books, his passport, some letters.” Teresa picked up the envelopes. “Dare we read them?”
“Sad,” said Teresa, after reading the letter. Brothers not seeing each other for over forty years; not since they were kids.”
“I think Andy Horan once mentioned that he knew Martin’s brother in Ireland. They come from the same part. But, Martin never talked about family.”
“Yes. My Uncle Jim,” she said as they swapped letters.
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, when Andy called round to see him one evening, Martin was very annoyed with him. Now I know why. Stop interfering in my life, he said. Andy was upset about it.”
“It seems he wants nothing to do with his brother or his family,” said Mary. “I wonder what happened to make him like that.” Mary gave Teresa a questioning look.
“Did you know Martin in Birmingham?” The question was more demanding.
“No. Like I said, we’re a strange family,” repeated Teresa. Then, seeing Mary’s bemused look, she added, “I never met Martin. “I didn’t even know that he existed until after he left Birmingham.”
“No. Me and him often had a chat, but he never mentioned any relatives of any kind.”
“Well, there’s certainly no evidence of family here.” Teresa looked round the room. “It’s sad,” she said. “No photos or anything like that.”
“We might as well have a quick look.” Mary slid the suitcase from under the bed. “It feels empty,” she said. She picked it up. “It’s light there’s nothing in it.” She placed it on the floor. “It’s locked. I wonder why he locked an empty suitcase.”
“Yes. As far as I know they were next-door neighbours, or nearly next- door neighbours at least: Andy and Martin’s brother, that is.”
“I haven’t much time, but if I could I’d like to meet him.”
“He wouldn’t be able to tell you much about Martin. Martin would have left before he was born.”
“It’s a bit out of town. He lives with Maggie. She used to keep a lodging house like me. But, now Andy’s her only lodger, if that’s what he is. I think he’s more like a son to her. She’s his aunt.”
“Just tell me where he lives. I’ll pay him a quick visit.”
“I don’t know if he’ll be in now.” Mary was clearly being evasive. Seeing that Teresa was not satisfied, however, she continued. “Jimmy might know. He works with him. I heard him go down stairs. Come on.”
“Paddy. Paddy Foley. Maggie was surprised to see him. “Come in.” Paddy followed her into the living room.
“Have you some news?”
“No: not exactly. Is Andy in?”
“I think he’s having a wash. Take your coat off and sit down.” Mary left the room.
“No. I’m all right. I’m not stopping long.”
“Have a cup of tea at least.”
“Well, if you insist.”
“I do. But, don’t worry. It’s nothing bad. In fact you’ll like what I have to tell you.” Paddy smiled. “There’s a gorgeous young girl in our house,” he continued. “She’s Martin’s niece. Mary told me to tell you she’s there.”
“I didn’t catch her name.”
“Did she sound American?” asked Andy.
“No. No definitely not American.”
“Will you have one Andy?” she asked.
“No thank you.” Not waiting for Maggie to fully enter the room, Andy rushed past her, almost spilling the tea. “I’m going for a wash and change he said. Startled, Maggie watched him take the stairs two at a time.
“What’s up with him?” asked Maggie. “He’s just had a wash and changed his clothes.”
“Leave him be,” said Paddy. “I think he’s in love.”
“Oh, he will. We both came home on the wagon together.”
“I would like to see him,” said Teresa.
“Wait here. I’ll go and get him.” Jimmy stood up.
“Good on you,” said Mary. She turned the television off. Then she turned to Teresa. “Sit down. I’ll make you a drink while you wait, and something to eat. You must be starving.”
“No. That’s too much trouble,” insisted Teresa. “I need to be getting going anyway. I’ll get the car. Just tell me where he lives. I’ll pay him a quick visit on my way.”
“Ah, sure it’s no trouble. No trouble at all.” Jimmy was resolute. “Sit down. Have something to eat. I’ll be back with Andy before you know it.”
“You’d have a job to find the house anyway,” added Mary. “It’s a bit off the road.”
“I left the car at the church,” Teresa informed Jimmy as he closed the door.
“I wondered where it was,” replied Jimmy, as they set off walking at a fast pace. “I thought I’d have noticed it when I came in if it was on the street. We don’t get many cars on this street.”
“Well, the children are safer for that.” Many children, Teresa observed, were playing on the street.
“I suppose. It’s just as well. There’s no where else for them to play.”
“Isn’t there a park?”
“There is. But it’s a long way off. Sure the mothers don’t have time to take them there. Most of them are working full time in the cotton mill down the road.”
“How do they manage that, with such small children?”
“I think it’s a matter of having to. Mostly, I think, they’re working different shifts and taking turns looking after each others kids.”
“Your very knowledgeable on the social arrangements.”
“I wouldn’t say that. Just certain things you couldn’t but know.”
“Your accent is like my father’s,” said Teresa, changing the subject. “Are you from Mayo too?”
“Oh, I am, but a long way from where Martin and Andy comes from. It’s a big county; Mayo.”
“Is there anyone left there now? They seem to be all over here.”
“I, there’s a lot of Mayo people here all right. But there’s still plenty there. There’s a lot going back and over, as they say. They come to this country to make a bit of money and then go back. Their homes are still over there.”
“Do you still think of over there as home?”
“I suppose I do. But it might be a good while before I see the place again.”
“Do you thing Martin still thinks of over there as home.”
“Martin is a moody man then?”
“Only lately. I don’t know what’s come over him. I’m told he’s normally a jovial kind of man. I thought that myself when I first came here. I’ve only been at Mary’s for about a month. Martin was very friendly at first. But, then he changed. I thought it was me at first: that I’d done something to upset him. But he’s been the same with everyone.”
“And now he’s gone away. You’ve no idea where he is?”
“No. No idea. Mary says she’s going to the police, but I don’t thing that they’ll be much help. They won’t care about a missing man, especially an Irishman. They might only use it as an excuse to harass us all.”
“Yes. I’m afraid you’d better be prepared for your place being the centre of a police investigation.”
“What?” Jimmy gave Teresa an incredulous look. “Over Martin going missing?”
“Yes, That, and have you heard about Michael O’Malley?”
“He was assaulted last week. But, what has that got to do with us?”
“I’m afraid it’s worse than that. The man’s dead.”
The curious look on Jimmy’s face was saying, how can you, a stranger to the area know that? Teresa explained. “I called on Father Downey earlier. He was informed of the death while I was there.
“That’s bad news, but I still don’t see what it’s got to do with us”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what I think.”
“There’s Paddy. Paddy Foley, and I think its Andy, the man you want to see, that’s with him.
“Did she have an Irish accent,” asked Andy as he and Paddy hurried along at a fast pace.
“Yes. I think she did.” Paddy wasn’t sure. He’d hardly heard her say anything. “Anyway, you’ll soon find out. That’s her coming towards us. I recognise the red coat. I think it’s young Jimmy that’s with her. Come on. Don’t lag behind.”
“This is Andy Horan,” said Paddy. Then, turning to Teresa, “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.”
“I’m Teresa,” she said with a smile, holding out her hand, which Andy dutifully but reluctantly took, the disappointment still showing on his face.
“I was in the area,” said Teresa. “So I thought I’d look him up. It was bad timing.”
“You say you’re Martin’s niece?”
“You grew up close to Martin’s brother and his family (Teresa didn’t say my uncle. It would be less to correct later) I thought we could have a chat. I’m sure there’s so much you can tell me.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’m sure.”
“Well in that case Andy,” said Paddy. “You did the right thing not talking to her. Good on you.” Paddy slapped Andy on the back, which Andy obviously didn’t appreciate. “Sure she could be anyone, pretending to be Martin’s niece; you never know what you’d be telling her. Mary must have suspected her. That’ll be why she asked me to get you. There’s no flies on Mary, I’ll tell you.”
As Teresa hurried away without a backward glance, Jimmy remarked, “I think she realised her game was up, whatever her game was. I was starting to have some doubts myself, but I put them out of my head again. For a stranger she knows an awful lot about what’s going on. She told me Michael O’Malley had died. Now, why would she be interested in that?”
“Oh, God rest him.” It was clearly the first time Paddy had heard of Michael’s death.
“What makes you think that,” asked Paddy.
“Well, for one thing, she said our house would be the centre of a police investigation.”
“Oh, Jesus! That’s just what we need. But why?”
“That’s the strange thing. Mary told her that she was going to report Martin going missing to the police. But, when I said that I didn’t think the police would be interested in a missing Irishman she said it would also be about Michael O’Malley’s death.”
“That’s what I asked her, but she didn’t give me straight answer. Maybe she realized that she said too much. When I asked her if she thought that Martin disappearing had something to do with the death of Michael O’Malley she said she didn’t know what she thought. But, it was her that made the connection.”
“Sounds like she has something to do with the police.” Paddy was worried. “We’d better get back and warn the others in case she’s right about that investigation.”
“Ah, don’t mind that,” said Jimmy. “Sure we’ve nothing to worry about.”
“I don’t know. You never know what they’d find. Andy you must be freezing with no coat on. Come back with us for a warm.”
“No. I’ll be going back to my own place now.”
“You have a nice car Teresa.” On his way from the church to the presbytery, Father Downey had stopped to make the friendly comment.
Teresa however was in no mood for a conversation about the car or anything else. “Thanks Father,” was all she could manage.
She found the keys. Then, from a shaking hand she dropped them on the tarmac.
“Are you Ok?” Father Downey sounded concerned. Seeing Teresa stumble retrieving her keys it must have been obvious to him that she was not OK.
“Yes Father. I’m OK.” Unsteadily Teresa put the key I the door lock. “I just need to sit down.”
“Come in the house. I’ll make you a drink.”
“No Father. I meant in the car.” Teresa opened the door and collapsed into the driver’s seat. She didn’t wind the window down or look at the priest again. After a few seconds she composed herself, started the engine and drove off, ignoring the Priest’s protests.
“You’d tell me”
“If I knew where you lived. Give me your address then.”
“Don’t be giving this to anyone else, especially Teresa,” Joe stressed.
“Don’t worry,” Paddy laughed. “It’s just in case of an emergency.
“Drive.” Alan sounded Panic stricken. “Hurry, Hurry,” he screamed, before Joe had even got back into the driver’s seat.
“Anywhere. Just go.”
“No. No.” Alan panicked. “The other way.”
“If we make it.”
“We have to.”
“We’re in luck,” said Joe “There’s a petrol station.” They had just turned on to the Coventry Road. Alan’s only reaction was a brief nod.
“Alan,” he shouted. He had to shout to be heard over the rattling of the rear doors. “Where do you want to go?” It was no good. He wasn’t heard, or if he was Alan gave no indication of it. In his interior rear view mirror Joe could just see the back of Alan’s head, which obscured his view from that mirror. It didn’t matter. He could use his wing mirror, in which he saw that a car was about to overtake. He pulled in to allow it to pass. It was not the car that was at the petrol station. There was no sign of that car. It must have gone the other way.
“Alan,” he demanded. “It’s time you told me what all this is about.”
“I’m sorry.” Alan shuffled himself round to face Joe. “You deserve an explanation.” Alan paused while he tried to make himself more comfortable.
“Why don’t you come back in the front seat? We can have a proper talk then.” Alan looked slightly dubious, but didn’t dismiss the idea. “Don’t worry,” continued Joe. “There’s no one about. I’ll open a back door. It’s easier that way.” Joe jumped out and had the door open before Alan could disagree.
“Thank you.” Alan eagerly drank from the bottle. Joe wasn’t rushing him. Alan handed the bottle back and cleared his throat. “It’s bad, what I’ve got to say.”
“Go on. Let’s hear it.” Joe wasn’t expecting it to be very bad.
“I was involved in a murder; maybe two murders.”
“What I thought would be no more than a bit of an adventure has turned into a nightmare.” Alan told of what happened in Broadfield, ending with, “I should never have done it. I was so stupid.”
“Yes, you were. We all do stupid things. But, it’s so unlike you. What came over you?”
“I don’t know.” Alan just shook his head.
“It’s that bastard Dave Campbell. He got you and Tommy to do his dirty work while he kept well out of it. He’s in the clear while the Police are after you. I take it that’s what’s frightening you?”
“No. Not the police. Not yet, I don’t think.” Alan hesitated. “I haven’t told you the worst yet.”
“Go on.” The gravity of Alan’s situation was at last dawning on Joe. Alan told of the events of the previous evening and night. About the man telling them that he knew what they’d done and that they’d got the wrong man. He told how Dave had killed the man with the starting handle and how they’d left the body on the road.
“You’re sure he was dead?”
“Yes. There was certainly no sign of life. Dave wanted to make it look like a road accident. He was going to run the van over the body. But he changed his mind when he saw a car coming.”
“Yes,” Joe agreed. “It’s bad all right. Dave; he’s a ruthless bastard. But I don’t understand. What is it you’re running away from? You say it’s not the police?”
“It’s Dave. I think he wants to kill me.”
“He thinks I will tell the police about what he did.”
“Is that what you plan to do?”
“Maybe… I don’t know…. I might.”
“What did you say to him?”
“I told him I might tell the police.”
“ Oh! Jesus. That was suicidal. You are stupid.” It was as bad as Joe imagined it could be. He knew Dave. He knew what he capable of. Alan was not exaggerating. Dave would be desperate. He would stop at nothing, including murder –another murder- to prevent Alan going to the police. Why was Alan so stupid? If he was going to report Dave to the police, surely Dave was the one person that shouldn’t be told about it.
“Let me get my head round this,” said Joe. “You’ve just been talking to Dave?”
“I was trying to get away from him. He followed me up that street.”
“And when he caught you, you told him that you were going to report him to the police?”
“Yes. Sort of. We were arguing. He dared me to go to the police and I said I might.”
“I just saw Dave heading for Acocks Green just before I saw you.”
“He was going for his van. He warned not to move until he came back for me.”
“I have a flat, just off the Warwick road. But, I can’t go there. Dave knows where I live.”
“I’m very grateful,” was Alan’s only reply.
“No. None at all.” Alan closed his eyes again.
“No. I just needed to close my eyes.” Alan seemed barely awake even then.
“It’s nice and warm,” remarked Alan as they entered the living room, which was also a dinning room and kitchen.
“Yes. I left the heat on. It costs no more.”
“I wasn’t expecting visitors. I’ll be taking a trip to the launderette soon, said Joe, picking some clothes of the floor and tossing then towards a corner of the room where there was a bag full of dirty clothes.
“No. I couldn’t take your only bed.”
“You must.” Joe had given the matter some thought. If anyone came to the door, he didn’t wish him to see Alan. “Believe it or not, I changed the sheets this morning. That’s what’s in that bag, waiting to go to the launderette.”
“I didn’t mean about the sheets. I just can’t take your only bed.”
“It’s not my only bed. That settee makes a comfortable bed. But, first lets have something to eat. When did you last eat?”
“Not today, but I’m not hungry.”
“Well, I’m making a bacon sanni for myself. I’m sure you’ll manage one too.”
“What do you mean, “sorted?” Joe asked.
“We ran the man out of town. He won’t bother your family any more.”
“How did you do it?”
“Don’t worry. We have our ways. We can’t tell you. You’re not one of us any more.”
“No. I’m not, and I never asked you to do whatever it was that you did.”
“I bet your family is glad that we did.”
“The man seems to have disappeared,” Paddy told him.
“Oh! That’s good. Isn’t it? Joe felt slightly uneasy, knowing what he did.
“I’m not sure if it is,” replied Paddy. “The old man is now thinking that he might have got it all wrong, And Teresa has got very interested in what happened. She’s writing letters to everyone that might know anything.”
“Don’t mention this to anyone.” Paddy added, giving Joe a stern look. “Lets keep it in the family for now.”
“Oh!” Joe was taken aback. What had he done to an innocent man? “Do you know where he lives now?” he asked
“Yes. We discovered that too. He is, apparently, living happily in the north of England, where he used to live previously.”
“Do you know why he left here? Was it because his true identity was discovered?”
“Well, I talked to Brendan, in the Antelope, about that. Brendan knows everything. He thinks it was because his Job had finished. A man comes in to Brendan’s pub occasionally that seems to know all about Martin. His landlady is Martin’s landlady’s sister or something like that. He says Martin just moved back to where he had lived previously. He has lots of friends there. Although he’s a secretive man and tells no one his business, Brendan thinks that his moving there had little or nothing to do with his identity being discovered. He moved to where he’s happiest: to where most of his friends are.”
“Joe Casey. Remember me?”
“You never told us why you left us.” There was no mistaking the hostility in the comment.
“Did I have to?”
“Yes. I think you owed us that courtesy.”
“What about the big favour we did for you?”
“Yes. Remember, the man who murdered your uncle: the man we drove out of town for you.”
“I never asked you to do that.”
“Come on. You came crying to us. You and your brothers were too frightened to do anything. The man that killed your uncle was there laughing at you and there was nothing you could do about it.”
“Oh! Wasn’t it? How was it then?”
“For one thing, you didn’t drive him away. He was going anyway. His job had finished.”
“You know that do you?” Brian smirked
“Yes. I do.”
“So. Where is he now then?”
“He’s back in the north of England, in a place called Broadfield, where he lived before, where he’s got lots of friends. But his going there had nothing at all to do with you, or your stupid friends.”
“What’s come over me? I grew up. That’s what’s come over me. Now piss off. I’ve got work to do.”
“Yes. Father Downey here.”
“Father. It’s Teresa.”
“Teresa. How are you? I was worried about you.”
“ I’m fine now Father. Thank you. I want to apologise for my behaviour yesterday. I was very rude to you. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, that’s all right. Just, you didn’t seem at all well, and you had a long drive ahead of you. You got home all right then?”
“Yes father. Once I got going I was O K. But, when I saw you I was very upset. I’m sorry. I must have seemed very rude to you.”
“Oh, don’t worry about me. But, would you like to tell me about what it was that upset you?”
“If you’ve got a few minutes Father.”
“I have. Take all the time you want.” Teresa could hear the Priest pulling up a chair.
“Well, it was my fault really father,” Teresa continued. “I didn’t feel I could tell Mary my real reason for wishing to see Martin, so I pretended to be Martin’s niece. Mary was fine with that and was very helpful. You’re right. She is a lovely friendly woman. She told me all she knew about Martin. She even showed me his room. She seemed genuinely concerned about him too.”
“Of course, as far as I know, she is not aware of Martin’s past, at least not the part that concerned my family. But, she told me about Andy Horan, who grew up on the farm adjacent to the one that Martin grew up on. I expressed a wish to meet him and arrangements were made for that to happen. That, I’m afraid, was a disaster; the worst part of my visit.”
“I understand, totally. What I don’t understand, though, is Andy Horan. His behaviour seems to have been totally out of character. I know him. At least I’ve met him a few times. I got the impression that he was a very placid type of young man.”
“Of course, he must have seen immediately that I was not Martin’s niece. I was half expecting that, but I couldn’t explain in the presence of the other men. It was the degree of hostility that totally knocked me back. Andy totally lost it.”
“Oh God. How did the other two react?”
“They were surprised at Andy too. They were on my side. But I doubt that would have continued when Andy told them that I was not who they thought I was.”
“Andy is the one that I can’t understand. I might see him this evening. I’ll have a word with him. We have evening Mass now. I didn’t notice him at Mass this morning. He might have been working. In which case I’ll probably see him this evening.”
“Thank you father. But, don’t bother on my behalf. I don’t think I could face him again and I’m certain he wouldn’t want to meet me. It’s a pity because Andy will know more about Martin’s past than anyone else in this country.”
“You might be right. But, I got the impression that that civil war was something they very rarely talked about. That’s the time you had in mind I think?”
“Well, I had a talk with Andy and when that subject came up I didn’t think Andy knew anything about Martin’s involvement. Now, his landlady, Maggie Murphy, she knows all about it, although she grew up quite a distance from Martin.”
“Maybe she’s the one that I should have talked with.”
“I’ve been to the police and told them about Martin’s suspicions. I know you weren’t keen on me doing that But I couldn’t put it off any longer. I don’t know how seriously they took me. But, they did say that they would be speaking to Martin. When I told them that he was no longer around, their interest seemed to increase. I fear Mary, and maybe all the lodgers, will be questioned.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that Father. She was planning on going to the police herself in any case, to report Martin missing. We found what was probably the threatening letter you talked about in Martin’s room. It got Mary really worried.”
“That’s interesting. Did you find anything else that might throw light on Martin’s whereabouts?”
“Maybe. We found a couple of letters, which we took the liberty of reading. I know that was cheeky. But, we felt that, once the police got involved, nothing would be private any more. At least that’s how we justified it.”
“I suppose it’s a possibility. Although, Andy said the brothers didn’t keep in contact at all. Recently, however, Andy gave Martin’s address to his mother who passed it on to Martin’s brother, although Martin wasn’t too happy about that.”
“Yes. Mary said the same thing.”
“Have you seen your young brother yet?”
“No Father. But I’ve got his address. I’ll try to see him this afternoon. After talking to my other brother, though, I’m fairly sure that he’s no longer involved with that racist group.”
“That’s a great relief.”
“I enjoyed that.” Joe patted his stomach as he rose from the little makeshift table that was set up in the kitchen area of the room. “A proper Sunday lunch. I could get used to this.” Joe started to clear the table. “Let me wash up. It’s time I did a bit of housework.”
“No. No.” Alan insisted. “Leave it to me. You’ve had a hard week.”
“O K. But, next week it will be different. You’re all set for tomorrow?”
“Good.” Joe was pleased, for as far as he knew Alan had not ventured out of the flat all week. But, to Joe’s surprise he’d agreed to come and work with Joe the following week.
“No. Nothing’s wrong. At least I hope not. Aren’t you going to invite me in? You don’t seem too pleased to see me.”
“Come in.” Joe forced a smile. His sister followed him into the living room.
“How long have you been here?” she asked, while having a good look round.
“Only about a month.”
“It’s really tidy.” She sounded surprised. “I’m impressed. Are you going to show me round?”
“No. But, take your coat off and sit down. Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Who have you got hidden in the bedroom?”
“Is there a girlfriend somewhere?”
“Maybe.” He could play this game.
“She’s called Sylvia.”
“What’s wrong with Sylvia?”
“Never mind. Just milk. No sugar. Tell me what you’ve been doing with yourself and why you haven’t visited your parents. They worry about you, you know.”
“I’ve been very busy. I planned to go last weekend, but something came up.” Joe brought two mugs of tea and placed them on the little table that was in front of the settee. Then he walked to the window. “Is that your Ford?” Teresa’s car was parked next to his van. He parked his van where he could see it from his window.
“Yes. Never mind that. Come and sit down and tell me what you’ve been up to.”
“I’m impressed. But, now that you’ve got transport, you’ve no excuse for not visiting.”
“O K Very soon.”
“I’m also impressed with how clean and tidy your flat is: what I can see of it. Sure you’ve not got Sylvia hidden in your bedroom?”
“Yes I’m sure.”
“Charming. Can’t I visit my brother without having an ulterior motive?”
“Yes. But, I have a feeling there’s something you’ve not told me yet: something important.”
“O K. Teresa smiled as if to say there’s no fooling you. “You’ll never guess where I was yesterday.” Joe shook his head as she continued. “I was in a place called Broadfield in Lancashire, where I believed Martin Prendergast was living. Do you remember that name? He is the man, who we always believed was involved in murdering your uncle.”
“Yes. I remember. Paddy told me you’ve been writing letters about him.”
“Yes. I was trying to discover all I could about his involvement in that terrible event. Did Paddy tell you that we now believe that Martin is totally innocent?”
“Yes. He did. Did you meet the man?”
“No. I’m afraid not. But I learned a lot in the short time I was there. Did you know that while he was living down here he was known as Michael; Michael O’Malley?”
“Yes. I did know that. Joe was wondering where he came in to all this.”
“Well, a man called Michael O’Malley was murdered recently. He lived in Broadfield. Martin told the priest that he believed that it was a case of mistaken identity; that it was he who was the intended victim.”
“But, you didn’t see Martin?”
“No. He’s vanished. He hasn’t been seen around there for over a week. I talked to his landlady. She’s worried about him. She thinks something’s happened to him. All his clothes are still there and there’s a job waiting for him that he hasn’t showed up for. She’s going to report him missing to the police.”
“No,” she replied. “I don’t think so. The police, though, will want to speak to him. His disappearing after the murder will look suspicious to them. Also there was a note; a threatening note, addressed to Michael O’Malley, the man who was murdered, which we found in his room.”
“You were in Martin’s room!”
“Yes. I didn’t tell you. Mary, his landlady was kind enough to show me his room.”
“Yes. I thought it best not to tell my real reason for wishing to see Martin. I didn’t know how much, if anything, she knew about his past: a past he might not wish people to know about.”
“So, you found this threatening note?”
“Yes. If he doesn’t return by tomorrow Mary will report him missing to the Police and show them the note. That, as well as him going missing, will probably make him a suspect. But, it can’t be helped. Not to do so would be concealing, what might be regarded as vital evidence.”
“You’re confident that he’s innocent. How can you be so sure?”
“Well, he didn’t leave immediately after the assault. He hung around for the most of a week. Then we know where he went; at least at first. He came to see my father. You know about that?”
“Yes. Paddy told me.”
“Also, he was in The Antelope that same Friday. The mystery for me is why didn’t he return to Broadfield as he told my father he would.”
“That’s true, and certainly Martin moved around a lot following the work. But, this time it was different. I had a talk with Brendan. Martin wasn’t looking for work, he said. In any case it was early evening when Martin called. No subcontractors were in then. Also he’d booked a room, in a lodging house where he had stayed previously, but he never came back to it. I talked to the lady. She seemed worried about him too.”
“You have been busy.”
“To get back to the murder. There was a young man with a Birmingham accent seen lurking in that area some time before the assault. It’s thought he was involved in some way.” Teresa gave Joe a hard questioning look.
“But, why?” Joe had a drink of his tea to avoid Teresa’s gaze.
“Martin believes it was he who delivered the note and as you know, Martin used to live down here. Someone with a grudge against him could have followed him up there to do him harm.”
“But, he got the wrong man. Surely someone with a grudge against him would have known him.”
“Yes. I’ve been thinking about that. Our family had a grudge against him, but not all of us knew what he looked like. Did you know what he looked like?”
“No. I never met him. You’re not thinking it was one of us, are you?”
“No. That was just an example. But, are you sure you never met him. Martin told the priest he thought it was you that he had a brief altercation with on evening in “The Antelope.”
“I don’t know. After, someone could have told him it was you. Don’t get annoyed. I’m just concerned for you.”
“Well don’t be. There’s no need.”
“O K. You’re a big boy now. Just tell me though, were you ever involved with a racial group: the white something or other?”
“Good. I’m glad to hear it.” Teresa seemed pleased. “From your experience then,” she went on. “If Martin upset them, do you think they would go to such lengths to punish him?”
“And the young man with the Birmingham accent; you’ve no idea who he was?”
“How could I?” You don’t think it was me? You do. Don’t you? That’s why you’re here.”
“Don’t panic. I’m not accusing you. Better me asking these questions than the police.”
“Yes.” They may wish to speak to you. As I told you, I talked with the priest in Broadfield yesterday. Well, a couple of hours ago we talked again on the phone. He told me he had been to the police and told them about Martin’s suspicions.”
“Did he actually say my name?”
“The young Casey lad was, I think, how Martin put it to him. I told him yesterday that I wasn’t happy about him reporting that. But, he didn’t feel he could hold anything back.”
“That’s all I need in my first week self-employed: being questioned by the police when I’m trying to create a good impression.”
“It might not come to that. I’m just preparing you in case it does. But don’t worry about it. It will be a while before they get to you. I think finding Martin will be priority for the police down here.”
“You’ve no idea where he is?”
“No. He seems to have vanished after he left our parents house that Friday evening. I fear something happened to him then. Brendan said he promised to return to “The Antelope” but he failed to do so. He didn’t go back to the room he’d booked either. The puzzle is where did he go? It was still quite early; not much after nine o’clock, I’m told. He liked a drink. “The Antelope” at that time on a Friday would be crowded, maybe too crowded for Martin. Brendan said that he normally came in earlier when it was quieter. Maybe he went to quieter pub.”
“You should leave it to the police now,” he advised wishfully.
“You know how slow they can be. In the meantime I can’t give up on finding Martin, and can’t you see how intriguing it’s become?”
“I’ve got a few irons in the fire. Father Downey in Broadfield, a nice man, promised to let me know if Martin turns up there. Brendan will tell me if he hears anything. Also, I plan to visit a few other pubs that Martin may have called in that Friday night.”
“On your own!”
“If need be. But I might manage to twist Tom’s arm and get him to accompany me one evening.”
“Make sure you do. Some of the pubs round there are rough. Asking questions in them could be putting you in real danger.”
“Don’t worry. I’m a big girl now.” Teresa stood up. “I’d better get going. You’re not on the phone here, are you?” Teresa looked around for a telephone.
“No. But I will be very soon. I’m just waiting for it to be installed.”
“Good. Let me know your number as soon as it is.”
“You were very good,” commented Joe. “I didn’t hear a sound.”
“How much did you hear?”
“All of it. I couldn’t help it.”
“And, what do you think?” Joe studied Alan, who was pacing the small kitchen area of the room.
“Well, now I know for sure.” Alan shook his head. “ We got the wrong man, and he’s dead.”
“Not you,” he said, trying to be reassuring. “You didn’t kill him.”
“I might as well have.”
“Don’t talk like that. It’s Dave and Tommy that are the guilty ones. You were just an innocent onlooker in both cases.”
“I doubt a court would see it like that.”
“I don’t see why not. It’s the truth.” Joe sounded more positive than he felt. “A good lawyer would convince a court of your innocence.”
“Maybe.” Alan was not convinced. “I keep thinking of that man we carried on to the road. He was still alive and I didn’t know it.”
“You weren’t to know. Dave bullied you. Anyway, we don’t know for sure that he wasn’t dead. That little piece in the paper might not have been about him.”
“I wonder why there was no follow up.”
“Yes. That’s strange. If there was, we could hardly have missed it. We both checked the paper every evening.”
“Have you heard anything else about Alan?” Tommy was trying to sound casual. He hoped the slight quiver in his voice didn’t betray his nervousness as he braced himself for Dave’s response. All week Dave had been in such a foul mood it was almost impossible to talk to him about anything, and Alan, Tommy knew, was a particularly touchy subject.
“But, you thought he would?”
“I thought it was a possibility; that’s all. It was best to be prepared. Of course, it’s still possible that the police will question you. If that happens just remember what I said. Deny everything. You’re shown in my books as working for me all the time you were away.”
“O K,” replied Joe, “I’ll run you there.” It was just the opportunity that Joe wanted. He was still not totally convinced that Alan would leave the flat next day, to come and work with him. However, if he got him to go out then, Joe would be more confident that he would do so next morning.
“Never mind that. Get your coat. Let’s go,” urged Joe, not wishing to give Alan any time to change his mind. “The roads should be quiet now. It won’t take long.”
“That’s the least of your problems,” he said. “Working with me, you won’t need them for a long time, and when you do. There are ways of getting them without going anywhere near Dave.”
“I don’t know exactly, but I know people who do. Believe me it won’t be a problem.” That seemed to satisfy Alan. He appeared relieved. Maybe, thought Joe, it had been preying on his mind. But, would the good mood last?
“Maybe we shouldn’t park so close.” Alan seemed jittery
“Don’t worry. There’s no one about. Come on.” Joe jumped out.
“I’ll wait in the van.” He offered Joe the key.
At the Bar of The Queen’s Tommy was not enjoying his pint. He had a lot on his mind. Work next day was a daunting prospect. He didn’t know how long he could stick it. Neither did he know how he could leave the job. He needed Alan. But where was Alan?
“It’s the light. He knows someone’s in.” But, they remained motionless.
“Alan, are you in.” called a voice through the letterbox.
“It’s Tommy,” whispered Alan. He’d crept up behind Joe.
“Are you on your own?” asked Joe.
“Yes. It’s only me.”
“Joe looked back at Alan who nodded. Joe opened the door, only inches, keeping his shoulder behind it; until he was satisfied that Tommy was alone. He then opened it fully.
“Tommy. Tommy Parsons. How are you?”
“Not too bad. Is Alan in?”
“Come in Tommy,” called Alan.
“Terrible.” Tommy removed his coat and threw it over a chair, on which he sat.
“In what way?”
“It’s Dave, isn’t it? He’s giving you a rough time?”
“You could say that.”
“What are you going to do?”
“What can I do?” Tommy shook his head.
“You could leave,” suggested Joe.
“He wouldn’t like that.”
“Sod him. You do what’s best for yourself. He’d soon get rid of you if he didn’t have work for you. How many men does he have now?”
“Just two others on another site, but I never see them.”
“So, he leaves you on your own.”
“Since Alan left, yes, except when he’s with me himself, which isn’t very much.”
“Are you on full pay now?”
“No. Not yet. I will be soon, he says. I can’t leave until I get my apprenticeship papers.”
“You should have them now of you’re working on your own, and you should be on full pay. Ask him next time you see him.”
“It’s hard to ask him anything these days, and if he thinks I’m going to leave….”
“ Yes. I know. He’s a bastard.” Joe had a think. “It might be better if you don’t mention the papers, he said. “Just say that you should be on full pay, now that you’re working on your own. Then, next time you’re in the office, ask Joan- she’s a nice lady- for your papers. This is where being in a union would be useful. But, that bastard Dave bullied us into not joining, saying it was a waste of time and money.”
“What’s he saying about me leaving?” asked Alan.
“Not nice things, I’m afraid. That’s why I’m here: to warn you. You best keep out of his way. He’s making all sorts of threats. You too.” Tommy turned to Joe.
“Oh! What’s he saying about me?”
“He thinks that you’ve been talking about him. You’ll regret it, he said.”
“Did he now? Well he doesn’t frighten me. What’s he think I said about him anyway?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say.”
“Who’s he been talking to? I don’t suppose he told you that either.” Tommy shook his head. Joe, however, knew the answer. It had to be Brian king. “Does he say anything about that Friday night.”
“It’s all right Tommy,” said Alan. “Joe knows all about it.”
“Don’t worry,” added Joe “I’ve not told anyone else.”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“Maybe he will be soon. Does he know that the man’s not dead?”
“Not dead!” Tommy looked puzzled.
“Yes. The man he smashed over the head with the starting handle. The man he thought he killed. Well he’s wrong. The man’s in hospital, but he’s still alive.”
“No, No. He doesn’t know that.” Tommy was bewildered. “But how do you know?”
“It was in the paper: the next evening.”
“He didn’t see it. I didn’t see it.”
“It was only a small piece; in a middle page. You say he was worried about Alan reporting him Well he should be more worried about what that man does, if he hasn’t already done it.” That should make him sweat thought Joe, gleefully expecting the information to reach Dave.
“Have you got another Job?” asked Tommy
“Yes. I start tomorrow.” Alan paused. Fearing the information would get back to Dave, to Tommy’s disappointment, he didn’t elaborate. Although he knew Tommy was trustworthy in that respect, he also knew how persuasive Dave could be. Instead, Alan asked, “Are you going to tell Dave that you’ve seen me?”
“It’s up to you. I don’t care. I just know that I never want to see him again.”
“It’s all right for you. You don’t have to.”
“Do you think that I’ve abandoned you?”
“He said he did it for us: to stop the man reporting us to the police.”
“I know. That’s what he told us. But, I don’t think he cares about anyone but himself. He did it for himself. If we go down he knows he will go down too.”
“Only if we tell on him.”
“How could we not tell? We only did what we did because he talked us into it. He made it sound like it was almost our duty to do it: a patriotic thing. Something we should be proud of and we fell for it stupid us. Also, of course there was the money. I wonder how much he got. Probably a lot more than he offered us,”
“But, what we did, we did to a bad man: a man who did murder and things.”
“You’re forgetting that we got the wrong man.” Alan thought Tommy had no concept of the gravity of the situation they were in. “The man that you, we, attacked had done nothing. And the man we were meant to confront was not as guilty as we were led to believe.”
“How do you know?”
“Joe told me. His sister has done some research into it.”
“She knows about us?”
“No. Don’t worry. The research she did started a long time before we got involved. It’s a family thing. Remember, it was Joe’s uncle that that man was supposed to have murdered. Well, she has discovered that although he was there he had nothing to do with the murder.”
“It gets worse and worse.”
“Yes. It’s a mess all right.”
“ What do you think will happen now?”
“I don’t know. Lets just keep our fingers crossed.”
“If that man talks….. He said he knew what we did. How could he know that?”
“Dave said you threatened to tell the police?”
“Yes. I threatened.”
“But, you didn’t do it.”
“What made you change your mind?”
“Oh, I don’t know. It was just a threat that I didn’t carry out. Although at the time I didn’t much care whether the police knew about us or not.”
“But, you feel different now?”
“A little bit.”
“Do you think that man could identify us?”
“Yes. He probably could. Although, I think, the only name he knew was Dave’s; he actually said Dave Campbell. Maybe, that’s what got to Dave so much. Yes. I’m sure of it. It wouldn’t have bothered him if one of our names that was said.”
“So what would you advise me to do?” Tommy stood up.
“I don’t know. It must be hard, but probably it would be best to carry on until you get your papers. Then, like Joe said, you should leave. In the meantime just keep your head down.”
The men were getting concerned. The wagon was due any minute but John had still not arrived. It was so unlike John to be late. Then Michael O’Donnell made the announcement. He had been waiting until all the men were there.
“He’s not coming,” he said. “His wife had to go into hospital last night. His son came round to my house with the news. That’s all I know,” Michael concluded as the wagon arrived.
On stopping the wagon, the driver got out. “Before you sit down give the seats a wipe with this,” he said, handing Andy who was nearest him a towel.
“I knew that bloody canopy would leak,” muttered Jimmy climbing on to the wagon.
“You’ll be all right. The rain’s stopped now.” The driver returned to the cab.
Andy wiped the seats, which were not too wet and they sat down.
The wagon set off in jerks causing water to run off the roof and pour down over the open entrance of the canopy. Joe Frain, who was sat nearest the entrance, swore when, to Jimmy’s amusement, icy-cold water ran down the back of his neck. They all shuffled up on the seat to get Joe further away from the entrance.
“Are you very wet?” asked Andy sympathetically.
Shivering, Joe replied, “not too bad.” However his stern look caused the grin to dry on Jimmy’s face.
“So. We’re leaderless,” mused Jimmy, thinking it better to change the subject.
“Maybe Michael will be in charge,” said Andy “He’s done it before I believe. Michael was again travelling in the front with the driver.
“I hope so but I don’t think he’ll want to do it. We might have that bastard Eddie telling us what to do: shouting at us. He’ll love that. He was gloating yesterday about his gang travelling in a nice warm bus while we had to come on the back of this bloody wagon.”
“I, he can shout all right,” said Paddo, who had just started on the job the previous day. “That poor driver who came with the load of bricks didn’t know what hit him.”
“One of these days,” said Jimmy. “Eddie will know what hit him. Maybe today will be the day.”
“Now Jimmy,” cautioned Paddo. “Don’t do anything hasty. Jobs are hard to come by. John might be back tomorrow.” Others joined Paddo in warning Jimmy.
“Ye’re all too soft,” retorted Jimmy.
Only Joe didn’t get involved. He was too busy dodging the downpour of water every time the wagon moved away after stopping. Looking up he noticed the large sag in the canvas over his head and realized that that was the source of the water.
I’ll fix that, he thought.
He stood up, and with both hands he pushed the canvas upwards. However, instead of the water running off the roof, most of it flowed into another very leaky depression in the middle of the roof.
This time it was the rest of the men, caught unawares, that the water rained down on.
Joe saw it coming and quickly got outside the canopy. The others didn’t notice what was happening until it was too late. Jimmy got the brunt of it. He was right under it, but none of them missed it. There was much cussing and swearing. Paddo slipped on the wet floor; not helped by the movement of the wagon. In their panic to get away others fell over him. Before they knew what was happening they were all in a heap on the floor with the ice-cold water raining down on them.
On his knees on the wet floor, Jimmy realized what happened.
“Joe Frain,” he screamed. “You bloody edjit.” Jimmy scrambled to his feet only to fall on his face again as the wagon stopped suddenly. On hearing Jimmy’s scream the driver had stopped to investigate. In any case they were within yards of their destination.
That was good enough for Joe, who quickly got himself out of the wagon.
As he got down from the wagon Michael emerged from the cab. “What’s wrong with Jimmy?” asked Michael.
Ignoring the question, however, Joe turned away and hurried towards the cabin where they left their coats and bags before starting work.
The others were no more helpful.
“Don’t bloody ask,” he was told before he could ask anything. However, following the rest of the men, as they made their way to the cabin, he couldn’t but notice how wet some of them were and he gathered that for some reason Joe was being blamed for it.
“I think he did it on purpose,” declared Jimmy angrily. “He saw us laughing at him earlier.”
“No,” replied Paddo, sensing that the situation could get nasty, “He didn’t do it on purpose. I saw it all but it didn’t register at the time. Joe was just trying to get the water off the roof, but it went the wrong way on him.”
That wasn’t good enough for Jimmy. “He’s still a bloody edjit. He should have left it alone.”
“Maybe, but it’s not his fault that the canvas had holes in it.”
“That’s another thing,” said Jimmy. “Butler must have known that canopy was no good.”
“Talking of Butler,” interrupted Michael, who had caught up with the others, “That’s him waiting for us.” Jim Butler, the company owner, was stood outside the cabin along with Eddie apparently awaiting the men’s arrival.
“Great,” said Jimmy. “This is our chance. “Lets give it to him.”
“No. No. Not you,” said Paddo. “You’re too hot headed. You’d get us all sacked.” Then turning to Michael he pleaded, “Would you have a word with him Michael. You know him the best.”
“I will if that’s what you want.” Michael was pleased to be asked. “But you’ll have to put me in the picture. No one’s told me anything.”
“Right O. Lets stop for a minute while we tell you.” Jimmy however carried on walking, worrying Paddo. “Jimmy,” he shouted. “Wait for us.”
“Reluctantly, Jimmy stopped. “I don’t know what they’re bothered about,” he said to Andy who was nearest him. “Let’s just give to Butler straight.”
Andy was uneasy for a different reason. “Butler is watching us,” he said. “We’re keeping him waiting.”
“Good,” said Jimmy. “Let the bugger wait.”
Jimmy removed his donkey jacked and shook it. “Come on,” he shouted. “It’s too cold to hang about.”
But, Michael wasn’t moving until he was fully briefed.
He needn’t have bothered. Jim Butler had already got hold of Joe Frain, who was there ahead of them.
“What’s the delay?” he asked impatiently, “I haven’t got all day.”
Before Joe could answer, seeing Jimmy’s antics with his donkey jacket Jim Butler exclaimed, “What’s he playing at?”
“His coat’s wet. That canopy is very leaky.”
“What are you talking about? It’s not even raining.”
“There was a load of water on the roof. When the wagon set off it poured down on our heads,” replied Joe, omitting to mention his part in the event.
“Well, you seem dry enough.”
“I was at the outside. Some of the men are soaking wet.”
Jim Butler turned to Eddie. “That’s it,” he said “I’ll get the mini bus. Tell the men that they’ll have a bus to take them home. I’ll have to go I can’t wait any longer. Clearly, he didn’t feel it was the right time to meet the men.
“You’re too soft,” stated Eddie as Jim Butler hurried away. Then turning to Joe, with a wink “don’t tell the men about the bus, not yet.” Eddie was in a mischievous mood. Joe looked puzzled.
“What were you doing yesterday?” asked Eddie
“I was digging out that main drain.”
“Never mind that today. That would be a bad job. There will be a load of water in the cutting. Instead help Michael with the fencing. The fencing is priority today.” Jim had informed him that a lot of material was to be delivered to the site that day. Therefore, it was important that the fencing around the site be completed before they left that evening. Again winking at Joe Eddie added “Just don’t tell the men about the bus.”
Joe nodded, still a bit puzzled, although he was pleased to be relieved of going down in the main drain.
“That’s it, scurry off,” said Jimmy, seeing Jim Butler get in his car and drive off.
“Aw, well, another time,” sighed Michael. Then, addressing Eddie, he asked, “is Jim coming back? I need a word with him.”
“I don’t know,” replied Eddie dismissively. “But, now you’re all here, at last. (He stressed at last) let me tell you John is not coming so you’ve got me instead. But, you’ll be pleased to know that I won’t be with you very much. I have my own gang.”
“Most of you can carry on with what you were doing yesterday. Michael, how are you doing with the fencing? We need that finishing today.”
“I’ll need more men then. John was helping me yesterday.”
“I’ve already told this man to go with you.” He nodded towards Joe.
“You can have those two as well.” He pointed out Jimmy and Andy.
Michael was satisfied with that. “Have you any spare donkey jackets?” he asked. “It’s a cold job; not like navvying.”
“The company don’t supply donkey jackets.”
“It’s the company’s fault that the coats are wet.”
“Is it now?” Eddie was not having it, but Michael stood firm.
“You know it is he said.”
Eddie relented probably realizing how much he needed the fencing doing. “We have some waterproofs. Will they do?”
“They’re better than nothing. They’ll keep the cold wind off I suppose.” Michael looked at Andy who nodded.
“Wait in the cabin. I’ll bring them over to you.” When stood up to Eddie was not so bad.
Michael was well in charge of the work. “With four of us, we’ll easily finish this job today. All the posts are already in place. It’s just a matter of fixing the wire netting to the posts. But, it’s heavy we’ll have to work in pairs. You and me Joe.” Aware of the tension between Jimmy and Joe, Michael planned to keep them apart as much as possible.
It was unnecessary. Although Jimmy is quick tempered he soon cools down. That morning was no different. To Michael’s relief within an hour friendly words were exchanged between Jimmy and Joe.
Consequently. the work went smoothly and progress was fast. As dinnertime approached more than half the fencing was complete.
Eddie never bothered them except initially to ensure that they had all the materials they needed.
“Eddie’s not as bad as I thought he was,” remarked Joe.”
“His bark is worse than his bite,” said Michael. “Hi up. Talk of the devil. Here he comes now.”
Eddie was impressed. “You’re doing well,” he complimented.
“Thank you, replied Michael. “You put good men on the job. Have you come to check up on us?”
“No. No. Not at all. I know I can trust you Michael.” It wasn’t the Eddie they knew. Eddie didn’t do complements. “I was just passing by. I was on my way to that little shop. I need a bottle of milk. But, you’ve blocked my way. I’ll have to walk all the way round now.”
Then Eddie had an idea. Ignoring Jimmy’s ‘ah’ in mock sympathy, he called to some boys who were across the road. There was a school nearby; it was their mid-day break. In response to his call one of the boys came across.
“Get’s a bottle of milk from that shop,” ordered Eddie, passing a half-a –crown through the wire netting.
The boy eagerly took the coin and ran across the road towards the shop. Instead of entering the shop, however, he was seen to run past it down a side street by the side of the shop.
Jimmy laughed out loud.
For a minute Eddie was speechless. Then, when he got his voice back, he said, “maybe he’s gone to another shop. They might not sell milk in that shop.
“More likely he’s buggered off with your half-a-crown,” laughed Jimmy.
Eddie was not giving up yet. “Don’t they sell milk in that shop,” he shouted at the other boys across the road.
“Yes sir,” answered one of the boys politely. “They do. Shall I get you a bottle?” The boy started to cross the road towards Eddie, but seeing Eddie’s face thought better of it.
“A fool and his money are soon parted.” Jimmy was making the most of it, annoying Eddie, who failed to see the funny side of it, all the more.
Without another word Eddie turned and walked away, his face like thunder.
“Come on,” said Michael. “It’s dinner time.” Then turning to Jimmy he warned, “You’ll pay for that. He doesn’t like being laughed at.”
“I don’t care.” Jimmy was still laughing. “I enjoyed that. Did you see his face?”
After dinner the work progressed even faster. “Now we’re in the swing of it we’re going too fast,” complained Jimmy. “This job has to last all day, or God only knows what that edjit will have us doing.”
Jimmy stopped and lit a cigarette. Andy, not being a smoker, busied himself kicking a stone around. It was too cold to stand around. For that reason mainly, Michael and Joe carried on regardless while Michael gave his opinion on the fencing “This wire fencing gives no shelter from the wind” said Michael. “Butler’s doing it on the cheap again. It’s not the best protection for the site either. It might keep kids out but it doesn’t hide anything. If someone wants to steal something all he has to do is to cut the wire.”
“It’s thick wire. Wire cutters wouldn’t cut it.”
“Bolt cutters would. That’s what they use.” Then Michael suddenly called. “Hi up! Jimmy and Andy. Watch yourselves.”
It was too late. Eddie was upon them. Then they heard him.
“Have you two finished?”
“No,” replied Jimmy. “There’s a lot to do yet.”
“Well, standing around smoking won’t get it done. Michael,” shouted Eddie. “You and your mate can finish the fencing. I have another job for these two.”
No one argued. “Come on,” ordered Eddie.
Jimmy and Andy followed him. “What have you got for us?” asked Jimmy, trying to be as pleasant as possible.
“That main drain. You can carry on with that. You’ll find picks and shovels in there.” Eddie pointed to a cabin.
Jimmy had a look in the drain, which was already partially dug out.
“It’s full of water,” he shouted. That was an exaggeration, but there was at least a foot of water in the cutting.
Eddie, who had started to walk away turned. “It will be,” he agreed, “after all the rain we had.”
“Have we wellies?”
“No. Some will be sent out tomorrow. You’ll find a couple of buckets in the cabin. You’ll have to bail the water out.”
“I’m not going down there without wellies.”
“You’ll do as you’re fucking told,” said Eddie aggressively, taking a few steps closer to Jimmy. “I know about you. You’re a trouble- maker. Then he turned to Andy. “Do you want to stand around all day as well?”
“No,” replied Andy. “But, you’re not being fair.”
“Look,” screamed Eddie. “Either ye do as ye’re told or ye can have ye can have ye’re cards, both of ye.”
But Jimmy wasn’t for budging. “Right,” he said angrily “Get our cards.”
“Don’t worry. I will. Ye’ll have them before ye go home this evening.” Eddie walked away.
“Make sure we do,” shouted Jimmy after him.
“Now what?” Andy was taken aback by it all.
“Let’s go and tell Michael the news.”
“That’s was all because you laughed at him,” said Michael. “I’ll go and have a word with him; see what I can do.”
“Thanks. But, don’t bother.” Jimmy was resolute. “I’m not working for him any more.”
“You’re a proud man. But, sometimes a man has to swallow his pride.”
“Not me. Not this time.”
“What about you Andy?”
“I don’t want to work for him either.”
“Jobs aren’t easy to come by; not round here anyway.”
“Maybe we’ve been round here too long,” said Jimmy.
“You’re thinking of moving on, are you?” Without waiting for an answer, Michael cautioned, “You know what they say, the grass is always greener…”
Andy stopped kicking a stone and turned to Jimmy. “My landlady’s sister,” he said. “She lives in Birmingham. She says there’s plenty of work down there. She runs a lodging house.”
“Well,” said Michael. “She sounds like a useful person to know, if you’re thinking of moving down there.”
Brendan was slightly perplexed. It was a rare sight in his pub: two
young men drinking orange juice. He didn’t recognise them. As far as he could tell it was their first time in the pub. Maybe, he thought, they’re new to the area.
He had no other customers. It was eight o’clock; always a quiet time, especially during the week, and that Thursday evening was no different. It would probably be an hour before his night customers started to come in and his early evening customers, who usually called for a drink or two after their day’s work, had all left.
That was how he liked it. He always urged his early evening customers to go home for their teas. He used the quiet time to tidy up and prepare the bar for the evening. Also, there was less trouble that way. The pub was doing well. Brendan didn’t need those men that came in early and stayed all night. Often, when the worse for drink, they would upset his night customers.
He didn’t force them to leave. That wasn’t his way. Mostly he did it affably, often making a joke of it. “Go home to you’re darling wives,” he’d say, and most of them, quite cheerfully did.
It was all good humoured. Only once a man, who was not a regular and probably a little deaf, took offence. He thought Brendan said, “go home to you’re starving wives.” It got a laugh afterwards. His regulars knew Brendan would never say that.
Of course, sometimes, in spite of Brendan’s efforts, one or two would insist on staying. That was ok but he would have to watch them later.
The two young men at the bar, however, would be no bother. He wished more of his customers would drink orange juice. As he approached the bar after wiping the tables, he thought they looked slightly uneasy. Brendan was curious. He liked to know his customers. They were Irish: there was no mistaking that, maybe just over from Ireland, he thought. If so they might need some advice.
Brendan was always free with the advice, and with young Irishmen, especially those newly arrived from Ireland, he felt it was his duty to offer guidance. He was a mine of information.
He knew which contractors had the best reputation. He knew the good digs and the ones to avoid.
“I haven’t seen ye two before. Are ye new around here?”
“Well, my name’s Brendan.” Brendan held out his hand.
“I’m Jimmy McCarthy and this is Andy Horan.” They both shook hands with Brendan
“If I can be of any help…?”
“Maybe you can,” replied Jimmy. “We’re after work. We were told some contractors come in here, but it seems we came at a bad time.”
“Yes. But, don’t worry. I’m sure one or two will be in later.” It was no bad thing that no contractors were in the pub, thought Brendan It gave him the chance to explain a few things and to learn a bit about the boys
“It’s the building trade ye’re interested in then?”
They both nodded
“Have ye experience?”
“Oh, we have,” replied Jimmy “Years of experience.”
So, they’re not just over, thought Brendan, nevertheless, they’re young and new to the area. A bit of advice won’t go amiss.
“Have ye cards?”
“Oh, we have.” Jimmy answered for both of them. Andy nodded.
“That’s good. Is it cards in work ye’re looking for?”
“Yes. I think so.” Jimmy shrugged. “But, we’ll take whatever’s going.”
“Good. Well ye won’t be out of work for long then. There’s a lot of work going on right now. From the looks on their faces Brendan saw that that was exactly what they wanted to hear. “But,” he continued, “I’d advise ye to think about what ye want before ye jump into anything.”
“There are subbies offering cash–in-hand: no cards. Paid by the day in some cases. If that’s what ye want, go for it. Summer’s coming; Ye might do all right for a few months. But, be wary. There will be days, weeks even, when ye’ll get very little or nothing. And when the weather’s too bad to work, what do ye do? I’ll tell ye. I used to do it. Ye’ll be expected to be in the pub spending what money ye got the day before.”
“There is the odd exception, but most of the men on those jobs are always broke. Although they talk about getting big money, believe me, that’s all it is, talk: pub talk. Maybe, as a landlord, I shouldn’t be saying this, but that’s how I see it. Over the year, the man in the steady job with cards inn is far better off.”
“I notice neither of you are drinkers.”
Jimmy smiled. “I used to drink but I’m giving it a rest for a while”.
“Wise man.” Brendan waited for elaboration.
“I was slightly overdoing it.”
“Slightly!” Andy gave Jimmy a look that said he knew different.
Brendan got the picture. “What about you Andy?”
“I don’t drink. You were saying about work?” Andy clearly wished to stay with the subject that they were there for.
“Yes. Of course: First of all, are ye staying around here?”
“No. We’re a long way off: in Aston. But, we’ll move if we have to.”
“If ye do, there are lots of digs around here. From what I hear, some of them are good and others are not so good. But, if ye decide to move that’s something we could talk about another time.”
“The work isn’t local. But, buses and wagons take a lot of men from around here to where the work is. In the morning you’d see gangs of men in lots of different places, waiting to be taken to their work.”
“This seems like a good place to stay then.”
“I suppose so. But, again, don’t rush to change digs. There might be work out your way, or maybe you could be picked up there and taken to where it is.”
“Jim Regan. He comes in here occasionally. He’s a foreman for Langs. Langs have work all over the Midlands. From what I’ve heard, it is a good firm to work for.”
“I have Jims number. I’ll give him a ring.” Brendan wasted no time. He found the number in his notebook. “He should be in now,” he said as he dialled the number.
“Is that Jim?”……….”Brendan at The Antelope.”………”I’m fine. I have a couple of good lads here looking for work. How are you fixed?”
“Yes. They have cards.”……”No. They’re living in Aston. But they’ll move if they have to.”….. “Address: just a second.” Brendan turned. “Have ye the address of where ye’re staying?”
“Andy took a piece of paper from his pocked and handed it to Brendan. Brendan read the address into the phone.
“Start: straight away.”
Behind Brendan’s back Jimmy put his thumb up and winked at Andy. Andy, disapprovingly kept a straight face. Jimmy quickly composed himself as Brendan turned around.”
“Can ye start in the morning?
Friday was an unusual day to start in a new job. They hadn’t expected to start before Monday at the earliest. This was excellent.
“Yes,” said Andy enthusiastically. Jimmy nodded too.
“Yes. They can.” Brendan was writing in his notebook, while behind his back, to Andy’s annoyance Jimmy was rubbing his hands in excitement.
“Thank you Jim. I appreciate that.” Brendan put the phone down and tore the page that he’d written on out of the notebook.
“This is where ye’ll be picked up,” he said. “I don’t think it’s not too far from where ye’re staying. I’ll get the A to Z.”
“A couple of other men will be there too,” he said, finding the page in the A to Z. “It’s outside a pub called the New Inn. Yes. It’s only a coupla streets away. This might help.” Brendan drew a little map on the page. But, ye can always ask for the New Inn.”
“Thank you Brendan,” said Jimmy. “You’ve been a great help.”
“Yes,” agreed Andy, “I don’t know what we’d have done without you”
“I’m glad I could help. Where did you live before?” Brendan felt that he’d earned the right to know some more about them.
“Not far from Manchester,” replied Jimmy. “In a place called Broadfield. You won’t have heard of it.”
Brendan smiled. “It’s a smaller world than you think. It wouldn’t have been Mary’s lodging house you were in, would it?”
The both laughed. “Not Andy,” replied Jimmy. “But, yes, that’s where I stayed. But, how——-?”
“It’s better known than you thought. Did you know Michael O’Malley?”
”The man that was killed lately?”
“Oh, yes,” said Brendan. “I heard about that. Terrible business. But, no. That wasn’t the man that I meant. This is confusing. You might have known the man that I had in mind as Martin: Martin Prendergast. Did ye know a man by that name?”
They both nodded. “Indeed we did,” said Jimmy. “We knew him well. Sure wasn’t he a neighbour of Andy’s back home. And we both worked with him. “He stayed at Mary’s like myself, though last week he disappeared. No one knows where he went to.”
“It’s worrying,” added Andy. “He told Mary he’d be back in a few days and the most of his clothes are still there. You knew him then?”
“Oh, I did. Sure he lived round here for a number of years: a decent quiet man. I liked him a lot. He often came in when the pub was quiet. I think that’s how he liked it. Many’s the chat I had with him. Not that he ever told me much about himself. He very much kept himself to himself. It was only after he left that it became known that his real name was Martin Prendergast. He was always known round here as Michael: Michael O’Malley. No one knew why. His was his business and he told no one. But, I’m afraid it’s now common knowledge. He cleared off without telling anyone as well. Some people were concerned about him at the time. But, it seems that’s what he does. And you say he’s done it again lately?”
“Yes,” said Andy, “but this time his landlady believed him when he told her that he’d be back in a few days. All his clothes are still there and he had a job waiting for him. It looked like he intended to come back from wherever it was that he went to.”
“He came down here.”
Both Andy and Jimmy looked surprised.
“Yes,” continued Brendan. “He was here on a Friday evening a coupla weeks ago. He didn’t stay long. He wanted an address of a man that he needed to see. I gave it to him and he left saying he’d see me later but he never returned.”
“So, he came down here,” mused Andy. Do you know if he went to see that man?”
“He did. I know that.”
“He told Mary he had a bit of business to attend to. Maybe it was with that man.”
“Yes. It looks like it was. But’ he gave me no hint as to what he needed to see the man about. In fact, he said he wished he could tell me more but he couldn’t. I know that he called at the man’s house that same evening. He stayed for about an hour. After he left that house no one’s seen him since.” We thought he’d gone back up north.”
“I’ve heard,” Brendan continued, “that some up there think that his leaving had something to do with the murder of that man called Michael O’Malley.”
They both shook their heads. That was obviously news to both of them. “I can’t see Martin having anything to do with the murder,” said Jimmy. “But you seem to know more than we do.”
Brendan smiled. He could see they were both astonished at how much he knew. “I like to know my customers,” he said, “and Michael, I mean Martin was a good customer. Andy, you were his neighbour back home. Did you know him there?”
“No. He left before I was born. It’s his brother that has the farm next to ours: a great man. He couldn’t do enough for us when my father died. And even now, whenever we need help he’s there.”
“Did he ever talk about Martin?”
“No. I never heard Martin mentioned. It was after I came over here that I learned about Martin’s past and me his next door neighbour.”
“I,” said Brendan expectantly.
“Well, I never knew until my landlady told me that one time Martin was seen as a hero for standing up to the Black- and –Tans. And she lived a long way from us.”
“He was more than just a local hero then. I knew there was more to Martin than met the eye. Did she talk about him a lot?
“No. Not much.” Andy shook his head. “But I think she knew a lot more about him than she was prepared to tell me.”
“What makes you think that Andy?”
“I don’t know. It was just the impression I got sometimes.”
“Did you ever hear your neighbours talk about him?”
“No. Not a word.”
“Strange, and, as you said he was a hero once. Even years after the event, you’d expect it to be talked about at least sometimes. Do you think something else happened that made people want to forget about him altogether?”
“Maybe. Maggie, my landlady, said the civil-war that came after was something no one talked about.”
Brendan was again ahead of them. He knew, at least a little, of Martin’s involvements in the civil war. A few nights previously Paddy Casey, when slightly the worse for drink, had told him about Martin being blamed for the murder of Paddy’s uncle and the recent discovery, thanks to Paddy’s sister that they’d got it all wrong. After telling him, however, Paddy had regretted doing so. He had revealed a family secret and begged Brendan not to breathe a word of it to anyone else. Brendan, of course agreed. Pub landlords hear many things that are best kept to themselves. But, it was an interesting story and, without betraying Paddy, he wished to know more.
“Was Martin involved in the civil-war?” he asked
“I don’t know. I asked Maggie that question and she said she didn’t know. She said she lived too far away to know. But, the way she said it made me think that she knew something she didn’t want to tell me.”
“Excuse me,” interrupted Brendan. “I’ve a customer the other side.”
“WE need to go anyway,” said Jimmy. “Thanks Brendan you’ve been a great help.”
“Ah, you’re welcome. Nice meeting ye both. I hope the job is all right.”
Brendan moved to the other bar.
“Teresa,” he welcomed. “How are you?”
“I’m O K.”
“Will you have a drink?”
“No thank you. I can’t delay. You asked me to let you know if I found out anything about Martin. Well, I believe I have.”
“That’s good. But, will you excuse me a minute. I must catch those two lads before they go.”
“Good,” said Brendan, as Andy and Jimmy were about to leave, “ye’re still here. If ye can wait a little longer, I have someone the other side that, I think, would like to meet ye.”
They both nodded.
“Come through this way.” Brendan lifted the latch and they both followed him through the bar area.
“Teresa,” he explained. “These two lads know Martin well. Andy was his neighbor.”
Seeing Teresa’s jaw drop Brendan stopped mid sentence. She looked stunned. He turned to the lads. They were equally shocked.
“You you’ve met before,” he stuttered.
This time, however, Teresa composed herself.
“Yes. We’ve met.” She forced a smile.
Both Andy and Jimmy remained silent, waiting for Teresa to make the next move.
She did “First of all,” she said, “let me apologise for pretending to be someone else. I think, Andy, you knew immediately.”
“Yes…yes,” stuttered Andy looking all embarrassed. Then composing himself somewhat he apologised. “Sorry,” he said, “about the way I behaved. I don’t know what came over me. I was expecting to meet Martin’s niece. But…”
“Never mind.” Teresa stopped him. “I deserved it. I should have been honest with you.”
“I’m sure you had your reasons,” intervened Jimmy.
“Thank you Jimmy. You’re very understanding. Yes there was a reason for it; a reason that I’m afraid I still cannot explain.”
“You were saying,” reminded Brendan, relieving the awkwardness, “that you have some information about Martin.”
“Yes. Maybe. This might interest you boys too.” She turned to Andy and Jimmy.
“Excuse me,” interrupted Brendan. “I have a customer at the other bar.”
He didn’t go there. He simply took a few steps in that direction and shouted, “I’ll be there in a minute.” Then, turning back he apologised. “Sorry about that. Go on Teresa.”
“There is a man that fits Martin’s description in hospital in Coventry,” she told them. “I had a phone call this evening from the priest in Broadfield: Father Downey. You boys will know him.”
Andy and Jimmy both nodded. “He got a call,” she continued, “from the hospital, or maybe it was from the police; I’m not sure. The man is unconscious but something was found on him, a church newsletter I think, with the address and the priest’s phone number on it. The priest had my phone number. He wondered if I could help in identifying the man. He’s anxious to know if it is Martin. But I can’t do it. I never met the man.”
“I’ll do it,” said Brendan without hesitation. “I’ll do it in the morning before I open up. I know you boys could do it. But, it’s your first day in the job. If one of you gives me a ring, I’ll tell you if it’s him and how he is.” Brendan got a card from under the bar and handed it to Andy.
After they all left Brendan hurried to the other bar. He didn’t like keeping customers waiting. However, to his surprise, there was no one there.
“I’ll be leaving you on your own this morning Mary,” said Brendan.
“Right O,” she replied. “Something wrong?”
“I’m going to see a man in hospital in Coventry. He’s unconscious. They don’t know who he is, but I’m told that there’s a possibility that he is a man who used to be a customer of ours: Michael O’Malley: a nice man. If it’s him I hope he pulls through.”
“Please God. Well, good luck.“
“Yes,” she said. “The intensive care unit. I’ll find out if you can see him.” She picked up the phone.
“I was told I could visit at any time.”
“It’s just that they may ask you to wait if there’s a procedure being carried out.”
“It’s O K,” she said, putting down the phone. “Just go up. The nurse will be expecting you.”
“He’s still in a coma,” she informed him, when they reached the patients bed. “He won’t respond, but you could try talking to him. You never know what a familial voice would do. Oh! I’m sorry. I’m jumping ahead. First of all, do you recognise him?”
“Yes. It’s Martin. What happened to him?”
“Yes. They’ve been informed,” the nurse replied. “They’ll need to speak to him when he regains consciousness.” “If he regains consciousness,” she added. “They’ve been here. They talked with the ward sister. She could tell you more, but, I’m afraid, she’s not here today.”
“What can I say?”
“Anything. Call him by his name. Tell him who you are.”
“Martin. Martin Prendergast.”
“Maybe. He’s always been called Michael in my pub. By the way, I run a pub. But, I was told recently, on good authority, that his real name is Martin.”
“It’s for our records. I’ll put Martin Michael. How’s that?”
“O K,” she agreed reluctantly. “An address?”
“No. Sorry. He lived up in the north of England. He was just down here, for a day or two, he said, on a bit of business.”
“Previously. He did live down here for a number of years. I got to know him well then: a nice quiet man. I don’t know why anyone would want to hurt him.”
“A quarter past twelve,” replied Brendan checking his watch.
“Yes.” Brendan was not in the mood for small talk. He was not in the pub then.
“So was I: my father. He’s not well at all.”
“Sorry about that.”
“It’s O K. Was it a relative you were visiting yourself?”
“No. A friend.”
“You seem upset. Is he not very well either?”
“No. He’s unconscious.”
“Oh dear. An accident, was it?”
“Has he been unconscious long?
“Over a week.”
“Do you think he’ll get better?”
“I don’t know,” replied Brendan curtly. “My car’s this way,” he said following the path to the right.
“So is mine: a bit further on,” said the man, still accompanying him.
“Is he in intensive care then?”
“Yes.” Brendan had reached his car. Not looking at the man he opened the door and got in.
“I hope he gets better.”
“Is this it?” he asked, in almost disbelief. “You gave me the impression that lots of others would be here.
“Yes Brian. Sorry to disappoint you, but I had to make sure that you came. This is it. We mustn’t involve more than is absolutely necessary.”
“But, others are involved, if it’s about what I think it’s about.”
“I, Brian, you know what it’s about. Are you sure that you won’t have a cup of tea or something.” Dave saw how restless Brian was.
“Yes. Yes. I’m sure. Just get on with it.”
“O K. Well, you both know why you’re here. There’s been a major cock up. A project, which should have been very simple, was messed up. I know there have been rumours and whispers about what happened and who was involved. Well, that must stop. You know what they say about idle talk.”
“Are you accusing me?” Brian was annoyed.
“No Brian, I’m not accusing anyone. I’ve asked you here so you know exactly what the situation is and how serious it is.”
“It’s serious for you.”
“We all planned this project. No one can wriggle out of it now.”
“We planned it. We left it to you to implement it. Nothing could go wrong, you said.”
“Something unexpected happened, which was out of my control. Let me explain.”
“You know what the project was. We all talked about it. Two boys were sent to the Manchester area to carry it out. I know some think that I personally went. I didn’t. I sent those two boys. You both know who they are. They’re smart lads, especially Allan. There was no reason to suspect that here would be any hitches. But, I’m afraid they bungled it. They got the wrong man and now he’s dead.”
“How could that happen?”
“It wasn’t entirely their fault. It turned out that the name the target was known by down here was not his real name. Down here he was known as Michael O’Malley but up there he used his real name, Martin something or other. Now it turns out that a man by the name of Michael O’Malley lived in that area: not at the address the boys were given but close by. The man was older and frailer than their intended target. So they should have known that he was the wrong man but they didn’t.”
“Didn’t they warn him first like we agreed?”
“Yes. They said they did but he ignored the warning.”
“Yes. Of course he did. He was the wrong man. He wouldn’t know what it was all about. So, what did they do?”
“Their instructions were to make sure that he knew that they meant business. But, they went too far.”
“They killed him.”
“Yes. It didn’t take much. Like I said, he was old and frail.”
“Jesus, what a cock up. Didn’t you know about the man’s real name? I thought you did the research.”
“Yes. I did know something about it. But, I thought, to tell the boys would only confuse them as it seemed he no longer used his real name.”
“You thought. You thought. It looks to me like you didn’t fucking think at all. It’s a right cock up. But, it’s your cock up. Don’t drag us into it.”
“Brian, what was done was done was done on behalf of the group. If those boys are arrested a lot of stuff will come out. None of us have clean hands: not least you Brian. For example, the raid on that Paki shop: You were lucky to get away with that, if you have got away with it. The case is not closed yet.”
“Those boys don’t know anything about that.”
“Tommy does and he’s probably discussed it with Alan.”
“Well, it must have been you that told him.”
“He was there when it was discussed. Don’t worry. It’s been impressed on him the importance of not talking about it to anyone else. But, in police custody, who knows what would happen.”
“He’d break. That’s for sure. What about the other one?”
“He’s the one that I’m really worried about.”
“Well, he doesn’t seem to have the stomach for all this, and I don’t know where he is.”
“He works for you, doesn’t he?”
“Not any more and he seem to have disappeared.”
“Don’t you know where he lives?”
“He’s not there anymore. He hasn’t been back to his flat for over a week.”
“Why do you think he hasn’t the stomach for it?”
“It was the way he reacted to how I dealt with the man who was going to report us to the cops.”
“The man was the intended target. He knew what the boys did and he followed them down here. He confronted us in The Queens. He told us that he knew what the boys did: that they killed a man, and that he was going to the police. He had to be stopped.”
“So, what happened?”
“I stopped him. I did what had to be done.”
“Did you kill him?”
“No. He’s in hospital, unconscious, though.”
“Fuck. Can’t you do anything right? When he comes round he’s going to talk.”
“From what I’ve heard that’s very unlikely.”
“How do you know?”
“Sam will tell you.” Dave turned to Sam Thomson, who had been silent until then “Tell him what you know Sam.”
“You don’t think!” Clearly that was not good enough for Brian. “You don’t know, though, do you?”
“That’s not right Brian. If he doesn’t recover we have no problem. It was only him that linked us to what happened in Manchester. And if he does recover we don’t know what he’ll remember. He certainly won’t know what hit him that night.”
“Who does know? Who was there?”
“Just me and the two boys that he was going to report to the cops.”
“You said that you feared that one of them might blab?”
“Yes. Alan. That was over a week ago. He threatened to go to the cops. But I think it was just a threat. He’d be dropping himself in it if he carried it out. If he had done it we’d have heard something by now.”
“I don’t get this at all. Why would he go to the cops? He’d be reporting himself.
“He got himself into something he can’t deal with. Apparently it was Tommy that beat up the man who later died. But, Alan was there. Whether he likes it or not he was part of it, and now he regrets it.”
“Well he needs to be found and made aware of the consequences of any blabbing he might do. And I don’t mean the law. What are we doing about finding him?”
“Don’t worry. We’ll find him. We’re keeping an eye on his flat. He’s been back to it once: at least once. Tommy visited him. Tommy wasn’t going to tell me but Sam, who was keeping an eye on the flat, saw him enter and told me. He’s a good detective is Sam.” Dave patted Sam on the shoulder causing Sam embarrassment.
“Anyway, when I confronted Tommy he told me about it. Apparently Alan has got a job but he wouldn’t tell Tommy where it was. Tommy thought Alan was back living in the flat. But apparently he had only called to pick some things up. Joe Casey was there too. Remember him?”
“That bastard. I’ll kill him one of these days.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll be dealt with. But right now we have more pressing problems.”
“Yes,” said Brian, “that man in hospital mustn’t be allowed to talk.”
“Like I said, it’s unlikely he’ll recover.”
“We must make sure he doesn’t.”
“Brian, he’s in intensive care. There is always a nurse with him or close by,”
“We could at least warn him. We scared him before. We could let him know that this was just a warning.”
“How could we do that? He’s unconscious.”
“I meant when he wakes up.”
“That’s unlikely. But if it does happen we can’t be there.”
“What do you propose that we do then? Nothing?”
“Yes. That’s our best course of action: just carry on as normal. There’s nothing to link us to that man Michael O’Malley’s death. During the time that they were away, those boys are shown in my books as having worked continuously for me. I’ve taken care of that. The books even show the jobs that they were on.
“It seems that wasn’t good enough for one of then, though. Was it? Alan is it? He’s not carrying on as normal,”
“I’m not bothered about him any more. Sooner or later we’ll catch up with him”
“He must meet with an accident,” said Brian. “Maybe a fatal one.”
“They’ll know in ‘The Antelope.’ Sam sensing the heat in the debate and in order to change the subject spoke. He’d been thinking “The man in hospital,” he explained. “There’s a lot of interest in the man in ‘The Antelope.’ The landlord will know how he is.”
“You’re right,” agreed Dave. “Those Paddies stick together. It would look suspicious, though, if someone else who wasn’t a Paddy went in there asking questions.”
“Not if he was a friend of the man,” said Brian. “He could say that he used to work with him.”
“Sam, did you say that no one saw you that night you found out about the man being in hospital?”
“No. I was in the other room when I heard the conversation. But, the landlord will know me. I talked with him at the hospital.”
“Yes, of course. That rules you out.”
“I’ll find someone,” said Brian confidently.
“What about Tommy,” asked Sam? “He’s already involved.”
“Yes,” mused Dave. “We could trust him. But, he’s not the brightest spark.”
“He doesn’t have to be a brain surgeon,” said Brian.
“No. I suppose not. I’ll have a word with him.”
“You’ll get used to it,” said Andy, though doubting it. The encouraging words, however, were not helpful. Jimmy turned on Andy.
“It’s all right for you. You never drank.”
“You were all right with it here the other night.”
“That was different: we were here on business. But, on a night out, it just isn’t right.”
“Andy, and Jimmy,” she exclaimed. She seemed surprised but clearly pleased to see them. Smiling, she approached them holding out her hand.
“Is Brendan about?” asked Teresa.
“He should be down shortly.” The barmaid appeared at the bar. She’d overheard the question. “He’s having a rest. He had a busy afternoon. But, if you need to see him, I’ll tell him you’re here.”
“No. It’s O K thank you. Let him rest. I’ll see him when he comes down.”
“Will you have a drink Teresa?” asked Jimmy.
“Thank you Jimmy,” replied Teresa. “I’ll have an orange juice.”
“Brendan was helpful then?”
“ Oh, yes. It was him that got us the jobs. The other night- the night we saw you- when we told him that we were after work, Brendan knew the foreman and got on to him straight away. We started work the next day.”
“That must have been a relief. Being out of work in a strange town wouldn’t have been nice.”
“No, it wouldn’t. We were lucky; we had no time at all out of work.”
“A little. He was very tired.”
“Did he say what happened?” asked Jimmy.
“No. I don’t think he could remember anything. But, he had only just recovered consciousness.”
“Do you think he will be all right?” asked Andy
“It’s still early days. He’s certainly not out of the woods yet. I didn’t see a doctor but I talked with a nurse. She said his chances have improved.”
“Did he know you?”
“No. But, I never met him before today. Even if I had I don’t think that he would have known me. I tried to tell him who I was but I don’t think he understood.”
“One thing,” Teresa continued, again glancing over her shoulder, I talked with my brother Joe after I saw Martin. He warned me not to tell anyone about Martin recovering. He said there are men out to get Martin. I told him that I must tell Brendan because I had promised to keep him informed.” He said O K but I must impress on Brendan that no one else be told. However as you’re friends of Marin’s I think you have right to know. But, please keep it to yourselves.”
“Brendan, I haven’t disturbed you I hope?”
“No. I wasn’t disturbed. It’s just now, after I came down, Kate told me that you wanted to see me.”
“Yes.” Teresa hesitated until Brendan sat next to her.
“Would you like to go somewhere else?” he asked, thinking that what she had to say was just for his ears,
“No,” she replied, glancing over shoulder. “These boys already know what I have to tell you. But, for now, I don’t want anyone else to hear it.” Keeping her voice down, she repeated what she told the boys about Martin and also what her brother had told her about keeping his recovery, if that was what it was, quite.
“O K,” Brendan said. Don’t worry I’ll keep it to myself. But, I can’t believe that Martin would have enemies of any kind, let alone ones that would hurt him that badly. Sure wasn’t he the quietest man in Birmingham.”
“He is now, but maybe he wasn’t always that quiet.”
“Well, I’ve known him for over twenty years and I never heard of him falling out with anyone. I know that in his youth, back in Ireland during the troubles he was involved. But, surely that’s all forgotten now.”
“I don’t know. Some people have long memories.”
“He was a brave man during the troubles,” said Andy. “I heard that he once stood up to the Black-and-Tans on his own.”
“Wow!” Teresa turned to Andy. “Tell us about that Andy.”
“It was when he was just a kid, thirteen or fourteen maybe. He was in the ball alley with a few other boys, when the Black-and-Tans came along in their wagon. They stopped their wagon and ordered the boys to lie down pointing their guns at them. It’s said that they all did except Martin. Martin refused to lie down, telling the Black-and Tans that they were too cowardly to shoot him. It’s said that they just got in their wagon and drove off.”
“He was a hero,” said Teresa. He must have been famous around there Andy.”
“No. That’s the strange thing. It was only after I came over here that I heard that story. I never heard it mentioned over there. It was my landlady that told me and she came from a place a good many miles away from us.”
“Do you know anything else about his activities in that time?”
“No. I don’t. I know that he left when he was very young. It was said that there was an argument about who got the land. But, I don’t know. Maybe there was another reason.”
“I think I’ll go to see him tomorrow,” said Brendan. “It might be good for him to see someone he knows.”
“Yes.” Teresa nodded. “I’m sure it will be.”
“I ought to go too,” said Andy “Sure he has no relatives in this country. His brother in Ireland will want to know how he is. He’ll be relying on information coming from me. But, the way work is, I don’t think I can manage it; not before weekend anyway.”
“Well, if you give me a ring tomorrow evening, like you did the other evening,” said Brendan. “I’ll be able to tell you how he is”
“What time do you finish in the evening, Andy,” asked Teresa.
“It was nearly eight o clock when we got back to the digs last Friday. But it might not be that late every night.”
“That would be too late. Visiting finishes at eight.”
“There was a lot of concreting to finish that day,” said Jimmy. “I don’t think it will be that late very often and if it’s raining it’s likely that we’ll finish a lot earlier.”
“If you finish early one day,” said Teresa, “give me a ring.” Teresa produced a notebook in which she wrote her phone number. She tore out the leaf and handed it to Andy. “I’ll come and pick you up in the car and take you to the hospital.”
“Thank you,” said Andy. “That’s very good of you. It’s a lot of trouble for you though.”
“Not at all. My husband Tom uses the car to get to work. But, he’s rarely later than five o clock getting home and I’m usually home by four.”
“That’s sorted then,” said Brendan. “But, in the meantime, just ring me tomorrow evening.” Then, turning to Teresa, “I think it’s your brother that’s just come in the other side.” Nothing happened in his pub without Brendan knowing.
“Which one?” she asked
“The young one. I don’t know his name.”
“Joe. He probably wants me.”
“Excuse me,” she said, standing up. “I’d better see what he wants.”
“Yes. Like I told you, I promised to keep Brendan informed about Martin.”
“You convinced him, I hope, that he mustn’t tell anyone else.”
“Yes. Don’t worry. But, I don’t understand the need for secrecy. What are you not telling me?”
“That’s your car over there, isn’t it?” Joe was looking at Teresa’s car, which was parked across the road.
“Yes,” she replied. Then reading his mind, “let’s sit in it. It’s still warm.”
“You’ve told no one else?” Joe sounded worried, when they were both sat in the car.
“Just a couple of others, but don’t worry, it won’t go any further.”
“Who?” demanded Joe angrily?
“Just those two boys that I was sat with.”
“Jesus!” exclaimed Joe. “Why didn’t you just announce it to all in the pub.”
“Joe, please, calm down. Those two boys are friends of Martin. I felt that they had a right to know about him. But. I’ve made it clear to them that they mustn’t tell anyone else. I sure that they won’t.”
“Teresa, I don’t think you’re aware of the danger that you could be putting yourself in here.”
“I wont if you wont tell me. What is it that you know that is so dangerous?”
“Martin knew stuff. If it was told to the police it would put some men away for a long time.”
“Joe, how do you know all this? I’m worried about who you’re associating with.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t associate with those men any more. But I know enough about them to know how dangerous they are.”
“And you know that it was them that assaulted Martin?”
“Yes. I do.”
“Why don’t you go to the police?”
“I have no proof.”
“And Martin has?”
“Yes. I believe he has.”
“Why don’t you tell the police about your suspicions?”
“That wouldn’t be wise.”
“Teresa didn’t pursue that line any further. “I don’t understand,” she said. “Martin lived more than a hundred miles away. Why was he a threat to someone down here? Or was he followed down here?”
“It’s complicated.” Joe hesitated, not sure how to proceed. “A man by the name of Michael O’Malley was assaulted in Broadfield. You know about….” Joe stopped mid sentence. Something across the road had got his attention.
Teresa followed his gaze. A young man was entering The Antelope.
“Do you know him?” she asked.
“Yes. I used to work with him.”
“So? What’s the big deal?”
“He’s up to something: going in there.”
“It’s a public house.”
“Not one that he’d normally go in. He’s been send, to get information, Probably about Martin. I hope no one talks.” Joe went quiet. He was thinking.
“He’ll do this for you.” Said Joe
“Do what? What do you want?” Teresa was apprehensive.
“Tommy Parsons,” said Joe, “that’s just entered the pub. We need to feed him some false information about Martin.”
“I don’t like the sound of this.”
“Just listen to what I have to say.”
“O K,” she sighed.
Tommy Parsons was feeling excited, thrilled even, at how well his mission had gone. His previous trepidation had proved to be totally unfounded. The Antelope, he found, was not at all the hostile place that he’d feared. He’d heard that it a rough pub that only wild Irishmen, all spoiling for a fight, frequented. Anyone that they didn’t know would be picked on.
In fact he was barely noticed and he didn’t even have to ask the difficult question that he was so fearful of asking. It was mission accomplished and with ease. Also, the answer he got was exactly what he believed Dave was wishing for. Making his way to The Queens he was confident that his successful mission would put him in better standing with Dave.
In The Queens Dave Campbell and Brian King were sat in the snug. They were the only ones there. “This pub is going to the dogs,” commented Brian, locking round the otherwise empty room. “Nearly nine o cock and still no one in. Mind you it’s not surprising I suppose. It’s not the most inviting of places and that miserable landlord would put anyone off his drink.”
“By the way, how much does he know about your problem, our problem?”
“Nothing, it’s sorted,” replied Dave dismissively.
“Don’t worry about him. I’ve had words. As far as he’s concerned we were never here that night, me or the boys.”
“And you can trust him?”
“Absolutely. He knows better than to say anything different.”
“So, it’s only the man in the hospital that we need to worry about.”
“Let’s hope it’s not good news: for the man I mean.”
“Don’t worry,” replied Brian with a hint of a smile. “Anyway, we’ll soon find out. That’s him at the bar now.”
“You seem pleased with yourself,” remarked Brian. “Was it a successful journey then.”
“Yes. Of course.” Tommy made no attempt to conceal his delight as he seated himself opposite Dave and Brian.
“You found something out then?”
“Yes. Of course,” repeated Tommy.
“He won’t live long.”
“Shush, keep your voice down,” hissed Dave, also gesturing with his hand.
“No. I didn’t need to. A lady standing next to me at the bar asked him. I overheard what he told her.”
“That was convenient.” Brian sounded dubious as Tommy continued.
“The landlord wasn’t there when I first went in. There was just a young girl behind the bar. I ordered a pint and she served me; friendly enough, she was. Then she went talking to a couple of men at the other end of the bar leaving me on my own. After a while the landlord appeared, but I couldn’t talk to him because he kept moving from one side of the bar to the other, checking, I think, on the drinks.”
“I was drinking my pint and leaning on the bar, casual like, waiting my chance to ask the question when this smart looking lady came in and stood next to me. She knew the landlord. She called him by his name: Brendan. He seemed pleased to see her. He came over to her straight away. I thought that was spoiling my chance of getting him on his own. But, then she asked him the very same question that I would have asked him if I got the chance.”
“Yes. Yes. You told us that. What was the question?”
“You did a good job Tommy,” said Dave, although Brian seemed less sure. “That’s it then,” stated Dave. “We can forget about that man.”
“Of course it’s true. Why wouldn’t it be?
“I don’t know. It seemed to go too well in there for Tommy.”
“I was very lucky,” said Tommy
“Maybe. But, like I said, it will still be murder. The police are bound to come sniffing around.”
“They will have nothing to connect us to it,” said Dave.
“Unless someone squeals.”
“That won’t happen.”
“What about that lad? You said he once threatened to go to the police.”
“He won’t. He knows better.”
“Have you found out where he is yet?”
“No. But, I’ve got my spies. We’ll find him sooner or later.”
“Yes he was a mate of mine but I don’t know where he is now.”
“Has he got family?”
“Yes,” replied Dave. “Tommy has been to his parents house. They don’t know where he is either.”
“Did you believe them Tommy?” asked Brian
“Yes. Yes. I think so.”
“Well, he must be found,” stated Brian. “Maybe he won’t go to the police. But, we don’t know who he’ll tell. Maybe he’s already talked to people.”
“I hope you’re right.” Brian was far from convinced. “I’d still like to talk to him, though.” Then, turning to Tommy, “Tommy are you sure that you have no idea where he is? Has he any mates that he might be staying with?”
“ Well, when I saw him at his flat- the last time I saw him- Joe was there.”
“That Bastard,” Brian exploded.
“Brian, keep your voice down,” urged Dave. Then, turning to Tommy, “you never told me that.”
“It d.d.. didn’t seem important,” stuttered Tommy, clearly embarrassed.
“That’s another one that we must find,” stated Brian. He must be taught that there are consequences for walking away like he did.”
“Yes. Definitely,” agreed Dave. But, concerned about what Brian might do, cautioned, “we must let this lot die down first. We can’t make things any worse.”
“We wouldn’t be making things worse. We’d simply be clearing up unfinished business.”
“And how do you want to do that Brian?”
“Maybe they will meet with accidents; a couple of accidents, down some dark alley. Much like you dealt with your problem. Only I would do it properly.”
“Yes. Yes. Of course you would,” said Dave sarcastically. You would have to find them first. You don’t even know where they are.”
“I know the firm that Joe works for. I’ll find him if he’s still there. Even if he’s not I’ll find him said Brain confidently. We can’t let him take the piss. Can we Tommy? he asked, slapping Tommy, who seemed to be in a trance, on the back.
“Nothing”, replied Brian dismissively, seeing how worried Tommy was. “He’s all talk. He won’t do anything.”
“He sounded like he would.”
“Like I say, he’s all talk. I’ve often heard him talk like that. He likes to pretend that he’s as hard as nails. But, nothing ever comes of it. I wish you’d told me about seeing Joe with Alan though.”
“Sorry. Why? What would you have done?
“If he was round at Alan’s flat, then probably he knows where Alan is. Did you talk to him much?”
“Just a bit. Like I told you, it was him that told me that the man was in hospital. Then he left soon after I got there.”
“Yes. You told me that. Thank you.” After a pause Dave said, “Joe Casey; we’ll have his address at the office, at least his parents address. He probably doesn’t live there now but they’ll know where he does live. Do you fancy a trip there tomorrow evening? You’re very good at getting information.”
“Better that we find him before Brian does,” continued Dave
“O K,” replied Tommy. His last mission, although successful, had not gained him the respect that he had expected. Maybe another one would.
“I’d better get back. I promised to make tea,” she said when they heard the knock on the door. As she was on her feet she walked down the short hall to answer it.
“Does Joe Casey live here?” asked the caller.
Teresa stared. Did she recognise him from the previous evening? However, she immediately recovered. She was probably mistaken, she thought. Outside The Antelope the street lighting was poor. And inside she didn’t get a proper look at him. Mostly, he was turned away from her.
“Sorry,” she apologised. “No. He doesn’t live here any more.”
“I’m Tommy Parsons,” the caller explained. “I used to work with Joe.”
On hearing the name her doubts were dispelled. He was the young man that she was stood next to at the bar of The Antelope on the previous evening. She wondered if Joe’s plan had worked. Or had it backfired? Was that the reason that Tommy was here? If he recognised her he gave no indication of it. Could he be pretending? She thought not. He’d barely looked at her the previous evening.
“Do you know where he lives?” asked Tommy.
“He moved recently,” she said. “He hasn’t told us his new address.”
“But,” Tommy insisted. “Is there any way that I can get in touch with him?”
“I don’t know. Is it important?”
“Yes. He’s owed some money from his last job. We need to get it to him.”
“It’s someone after Joe,” she answered.
“Will his parents know where he is?” asked Tommy Trying to look past her.
“Tell him to come in,” came the voice from the living room.
“Do you want to come in for a minute,” she asked.
“Come on then. Close the door.”
“Tommy wants to know where Joe lives. Its strange,” she said, winking as she said it, “we’ve just been talking about that. I already told him that we don’t know Joe’s new address.” She hoped they got the message.
“There’s some money from his last job that we need to get to him,” repeated Tommy to Teresa’s parents after he sat down.
“Well if you leave it here we’ll make sure he gets it,” said Dom.
“Is it a lot of money?”
“A week’s wages, I think. Have you no idea where he is?”
“He’s a strange one, our Joe,” he said “I don’t think he wants us to know where he is. I don’t know what he’s getting up to.” Then, changing the subject, he asked “What’s it like working for Dave Campbell now? That’s who you work for isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Tommy nodded but didn’t elaborate.
“Well, is he as bad as they say he is?”
“He’s all right.”
“Does he treat you good?”
“All right,” repeated Tommy. Teresa noticed how uncomfortable the questioning was making Tommy. “I’ll have to go,” he said.
“There were questions that Teresa would like to ask Tommy. From what her brother had said Tommy was somehow involved with those who wished to harm Martin. She didn’t think that Tommy’s part would be a big one but he probably knew what was going on. It might be easer to get information from him than from her brother. She was convinced that there was much that Joe was not telling her. However, she couldn’t ask Tommy those questions in the presence of her parents. The answers would probably worry them. Then she had an idea.
“Where do you live Tommy?” she asked
“How are you getting there?”
“On the bus.”
“I’m going now. I’ve got the car outside. I’ll drop you off.” She didn’t give him the option to decline.
“Thank you.” He sounded reluctant.
“It’s cold now but it will soon warm up,” she said by way of conversation when they were both sat in the car. “That’s one good thing about this car.”
“So, you never see Joe now?” she asked, as they got moving, keeping her voice as friendly as possible.
“No. Not since he left.”
“You wouldn’t leave? You’re happy working there?”
“Yes. It’s all right”
“Your boss, Dave Campbell. He has a reputation. Does he involve you in things other than work?”
“Oh! That’s not what Joe said. I got the impression that that’s why he left. The work was O K, he said. It was the other stuff, as he put it, that he didn’t like.” She glanced at Tommy. He was staring ahead as if he hadn’t heard a word of what she said.
“What about Dave?” she asked. “Is he still involved in other things?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh, come on Tommy, you must know. What about that group he was running: The Angry something or other? Is that still going?”
“Yes. I think so.”
“Aren’t you involved?”
“Tommy, I know,” she stated emphatically. “I know that’s not true. I saw you,” she bluffed, ”handing out the leaflets.”
“Oh! I did that, a little,” replied Tommy dismissively. Teresa could see the questions were making him uncomfortable. “It’s O K I’ll walk from here.” He fumbled with the door controls, unsure how to open it.
“Hang on Tommy, ordered Teresa. “Don’t go. I’ll take you where you wherever you wish in a minute.” Then, in a friendlier voice, she continued, “I’m just curious about a few things Tommy. I believe you can help me.”
“For a start,” Teresa continued, “tell me why you want to contact Joe.”
“I told you.”
“Tommy, I know that wasn’t the truth. Joe is in danger, isn’t he?”
“Tommy,” she stated. “I know Joe. He wouldn’t walk away without what was owed him.”
“Tommy,” she said keeping her voice as friendly as possible, “I know you’re afraid to tell me anything. You’ve probably been threatened. I understand that and, believe me anything you tell me will be confidential. I’m not trying to get you in trouble. But please,” she pleaded, “tell me the truth about why you need to know where Joe lives. It’s not because he’s owed money, is it?”
“He’s in danger, isn’t he?
“Joe was your friend,” continued Teresa. “Surely you wouldn’t wish him any harm.”
“Tommy, I know it does. You know what happened, don’t you? Look at me Tommy.”
It was about eight o’clock on Monday evening, a quiet time in The
Antelope, when Brendan’s phone rang. It was Andy.
“Did you get to see Martin,” he asked.
“Oh, I did Andy, and it’s good news. He’s doing well. I think he’ll make a full recovery.”
“That’s great. You were talking to him then?”
“I was. He was sat up in the bed, talking away.”
“Did he remember anything about what happened to him?”
“No. I don’t think so. But, he didn’t seem to want to talk about it and I didn’t press him. The police had a talk with him, he said, but I don’t think he could tell them much.”
“He was definitely assaulted then?”
“Yes. There’s no doubt about that. He’s not as bandaged as he was. Some of the bandages have been removed, but the wound is still covered. It’s on the back of his head. Maybe he didn’t see anything.”
“Why do you think Teresa doesn’t want us to tell anyone else about him getting better?”
“I don’t know Andy. She seems to think that there are men out to harm him. But, if I know Martin, and I think I do, he had no enemies. He wasn’t that kind of man. Sure, everyone liked him.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“But, you never know. We’d better be on the safe side and do as she says.”
“No coffee?” Tom sounded disappointed. On work mornings there was always a cup of coffee waiting for him when he got downstairs. Although Tom had to leave before her, Teresa was always up first. That Wednesday morning, however, her mind was on other things.
“Sorry,” she apologised. “I’ll do it now.”
“Never mind that. What’s wrong?”
“What’s that?” asked Tom. “Has the post come already?”
“No. Not the post, but this was put through our letter box sometime during the night.”
. Keep your nose out of
“Some crank,” said a puzzled Tom “He didn’t even sign it. I wouldn’t worry about it. You must show it to the police though.”
“There’s something I haven’t told you.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Tom sounded angry. Glancing at his watch he helped himself to some cereal.
“You scared him away. But why did you doubt his reason for wishing to see Joe?”
“It was what Joe said on the previous evening. Sorry, I haven’t told you about that.”
“But,” Tom continued, “I’m afraid it will have to wait until this evening.” A quick peck on the cheek and he was gone, leaving Teresa alone wit her thoughts.
“Teresa, it’s Andy. We’re finishing work early today; it’s so wet.”
“Yes Andy?” She was momentarily puzzled. Then she remembered her promise: to take him to the hospital if he finished early one day. He said that would only happen on a wet day. She should have known.
“No Andy. It’s fine. When time can you be ready?” It wasn’t fine, but what could she do?
“You’re wet Andy,” remarked Teresa
“Not too bad. I hadn’t far to come.”
“It’s a nice warm car,” he said “I’m very grateful for this. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“It’s fine Andy. I intended to go myself in any case. The poor man won’t get many visitors.” Teresa smiled, masking, she hoped, her still agitated state of mind. Things had not gone as smoothly as she hoped to give Andy the impression they had. It was one of those days. Tom was not happy with her going out almost immediately after he got in. Her brief apology and explanation had clearly not satisfied him. Of that he’d left her in no doubt. There would be more explaining to do when she got home. But, for now, she must put it to one side.
“I believe he’s on the mend,” she said. “Brendan saw him on Monday”
“Yes. I talked to Brendan too.”
“I’m sure seeing you will cheer him up.”
“I hope so.” Andy didn’t sound very confident. Then, turning to Teresa, he asked. “Why do you want to keep it quiet about him getting better?” It was clearly something that had been preying on his mind.
“That’s a good question Andy,” she replied. It was something that she hadn’t planned to talk about. However, she felt Andy deserved an explanation. Not taking her eyes off the road, the conditions didn’t allow it, she continued. “It’s my brother Joe, he’s convinced that Martin was attacked to keep him quiet.”
“I thought he was robbed.”
“Yes. He was robbed. But, according to Joe that wasn’t the only reason for the attack. Joe believes that the main reason for the attack was to stop him telling the police what he knows.”
“I know it’s hard to believe Andy,” she continued, “but Joe is of the opinion that Martin has information that if told to the police would put certain people in prison for a long time. The person, or persons, that attacked him meant to kill him. It’s best that they think they succeeded. Otherwise, Joe believes, they will try again.”
“When Joe told me this, at first I dismissed it. Joe has quiet an imagination. But, the more I think about it the more I’m getting round to believing that there might be something in it.”
“Yes. I’m sure that will be fine Andy.”
“She’ll be telling his brother: they’re neighbours. I already told her that Martin is in hospital. I hope I did the right thing.”
“I’m sure you did Andy. His brother has a right to know.”
“I hope Martin sees it like that.”
“He must be better. He’s out of bed,” observed Teresa, as she and Andy approached Martin’s bed.
“I’m a a lot better thanks Andy.”
“You’ve met Teresa.”
“I’m sorry,” replied Martin taking Teresa’s hand.
“Don’t you remember me Martin? I saw you a few days ago.”
“I’m sorry,” repeated Martin, shaking his head. He clearly didn’t remember.
“Don’t worry. You were very tired that day. But, it’s great that you’re so much brighter today. Sit down.”
“Thank you.” Sitting back down, Martin turned to Andy. “Get a couple of chairs Andy,” he said, pointing to some chairs stacked by the wall at the end of the ward.
“Oh, thank you. I’m so grateful to you. It was a great thing that you did. It meant so much to me. A lot of people blamed me for what happened to your uncle and Seamus Cox. Your father let me read the letters from Seamus. It was great to find that he didn’t blame me.”
“Yes. We were all pleased about that. Mind you, my father stopped blaming you a long time ago. And, not only did Seamus say he didn’t blame you; he said you actually saved his life. You were a hero.”
“Now, I don’t know about that. That wasn’t the way it looked to me.”
“Oh, you’re too modest,” laughed Teresa. “And that, I’ve heard, wasn’t the only the only heroic thing you did in your youth. Was it Andy?” Andy had just returned with two chairs.
“No,” replied Andy. He had his back to them while placing the chairs.
“There was the time in the ball alley….” Turning and seeing Martin shaking his downcast head, Andy stopped abruptly.
“We’re embarrassing you now Martin,” said Teresa “Sorry. We’re just happy that you’re looking so much better. You’re feeling better too, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I am.” Martin looked at her seemingly pleased that the subject was changed.
“Oh, yes. I get headaches. The painkillers they give me, though, ease them.”
“ Can you remember anything about what happened?” asked Andy
“No. Not about how I got this.” Martin pointed to the dressing on the back of his head.
“Were you robbed?”
“Yes. The money I had on me was gone.”
“Was it a lot?”
“Well, the most of a hundred pounds, I think, and a few other things that were in my pockets. But, they didn’t take my pipe and tobacco, or the knife. They left all them.” Martin smiled looking at the items on top of his bedside cabinet.
“Oh, good,” said Teresa At least you can have a smoke then.”
“Yes. I can. Not here, but there’s a room down there.” He indicated with his head. “Where I can smoke my pipe. They’ve been taking me down in a wheelchair, but I walked down myself today.”
“A lady came a coupla days ago. When I told her what happened, she said she’d sort something out, but I’ve not heard since. I have a bank book in the digs I was in, but I don’t know how I’ll get it.”
“I could write to Mary,” Andy offered. “His landlady,” he explained, glancing at Teresa. Teresa, of course, knew all that. She also knew about the bankbook, but she had to be careful what she said. “She’s not on the phone?” she asked, although she knew that as well.
“No,” Martin replied.
“Is there anyone else we could ring? What about the Priest?”
“Yes. Father Downey: a nice man, but I don’t know his phone number.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll find it. Leave it with me. In the meantime…” Teresa got out her purse.
“Just a little to tide you over.” She pushed a five-pound note into the top pocket of his pyjamas.
“Well, thank you. I’ll pay you back when I get sorted.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll sort you out.”
“If you’re talking to Mary its in the top drawer of the chest of drawers in my room. Maybe she’ll post it down to us.”
“They’re worried about you up there,” said Andy. “They’ll be delighted to here that you’re on the mend.”
“Yes. Of course: Brendan said you were living down here now. What caused you to move?
“It’s a long story. The work mainly: there’s more work down here.”
“Brendan said something about you getting a job. I’m a bit confused. There’s so much I can’t remember.”
“Don’t worry about it you’re doing great.”
“But, you remember being at my father and mother’s house, earlier that evening,” Teresa reminded him.
“Oh, yes. I do. Sure, like I said, didn’t I read the letter there?”
“And after you left?” Teresa asked. “Can you remember where you went?”
“No. Brendan was here the other day. I was in his pub earlier that evening. He said I promised to come back, but I never did. I remember being in his pub all right. It was him that gave me your father’s address.
“I heard a policeman was here Sunday. Did he come back again?”
“Yes. I was told he was here Sunday, but I can’t remember that. He came back again yesterday, though: a nice man. But, I could only tell him what I told you. The nurse wouldn’t let him talk to me for long. She said I needed to rest.”
“Yes, just rest. I’m sure it will come back to you eventually.” Teresa was wondering if Martin had been questioned about he death of Michael O’Malley in Broadfield. It seemed not. Not yet. Although it must happed sometime. Martin probably didn’t even know that he’d died. She would like to hear his opinion on that. But, it wasn’t the right time to ask him, or even to tell him about the death.
“Talking about rest, are we tiring you out?”
“No; not at all. It’s very good of you to come.”
“In my last letter home,” Andy continued, “I told my mother that you were in hospital. She’ll be telling your brother.”
“Well, I’ll write again tomorrow and say that you’re a lot better.”
“Please do Andy. You’re a good lad.”
“Would you ever think of writing to him yourself?” I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.
“Maybe he would. After all those years though, I don’t know.” Martin shook his head ruefully.
“The doctor that came to see me this morning said that if I carry on improving like I am doing I could be out of here in a week. But, he didn’t think that I could go back to work for a long time.”
“So, what will you do?”
“He said that they will send me to some kind of convalescent place, but he didn’t know where.”
“That will be nice. You can have a nice rest there: much nicer than in hospital. When will you know?” Teresa was thinking about Martin’s safety.
“I don’t know. I think it’s the same lady that’s sorting out my money that will be arranging where I go. It will be probably be next week before I know anything.”
“I think it would be best if you could keep it between you and her: to let as few as possible know where you’re going.”
“Why? Although he asked the question, Martin didn’t seem unduly surprised at the advice.
“Well, I don’t know.” Teresa had to choose her words carefully. “I wouldn’t expect you to have enemies that would wish to harm you. But, the assault appears to have been more vicious than was necessary if the motive was just robbery. What do you think?
“Don’t worry about it.” Teresa was concerned about the effect that even raising the subject would have on Martin. “It’s probably an unnecessary precaution. I just think it’s best to be on the safe side.”
“Maybe we should leave now,” she said. “Let you rest.”
“Maybe Brendan mentioned the name,” she suggested.
“Have you told the police?”
“No. Sure they wouldn’t care about what I’m dreaming.”
“They say you should tell them everything. They’ll decide if it’s relevant.”
“That’s interesting,” said Teresa, trying to sound as matter of fact as possible, as she walked towards the hospital car park with Andy, “Martin mentioning that name Dave Campbell.”
“When I say interesting, I mean worrying, frightening.”
“You know him?”
“I know of him, if it’s the same Dave Campbell, and I fear it is, he’s not a nice man. He has a reputation for violence. He has been in prison for it. Although he has apparently been going straight for a number of years, running his own business, I gather he’s far from a reformed character.
“You think it’s this Dave Campbell that attacked Martin?”
“It could well be, if Martin upset him. He’s certainly capable of it by all accounts.”
“It’s hard to think that Martin would upset anyone that much.”
“Don’t worry about it Andy,” she said. “We’ve probably got it all wrong anyway.” Teresa was trying to sound calm, but the uneasy feeling brought on by the warning note that morning, but which she’d managed to banish all day, had returned on hearing the name Dave Campbell.
“Has this just been done?” asked Andy before realizing what a stupid question it was. Of course it had just happened. Why else would Teresa be in such a state?
“Shouldn’t we tell the police?”
“What good would that do?” Angry and frightened she was lashing out. “Let’s go,” she repeated, making her way round the car.
“It’s O K. You’re upset: your new car.”
“Yes. I’ve left you some. It’s in the oven: still warm. Take your coat off. I’ll dish it up.” Tom was a good cook. He was clearly in a much better mood than when she left him. Promising, she thought, but how long would it last?
“Thank you, but leave it a while. We need to talk”. She removed her coat. She didn’t hang it up. Instead she just threw it over a chair. Let’s get this over with, she thought.
“This sounds ominous.” He’d got up to get her dinner. Instead, he turned the television off before sitting down again.
“You’re not hurt?”
“No. I wasn’t in it. It was done in the hospital car park. I don’t know what to do. I’m sure it’s connected with that note I got this morning: another warning. Tom, I’m really frightened. Someone’s been following me around. What’s going to happen next?”
“What does he know?” she thought. Nevertheless his comforting words soothed her.
“The damage to the car,” Tom continued. “It’s on the passenger door, huh?”
“Yes.” How did he know? Then it dawned on her. “You rotter.” Pulling herself away from him she sat upright. “It happened while you had it. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You didn’t give me the chance.” Tom was amused.
“Of course I did. It’s not funny. You let me go on thinking all sorts of horrible things.
“Come here.” Tom tried to get hold of her, but she pulled herself away.
“I’m not friends with you.” But, she was, really, and discovering that the reason for the damage was not what she’d feared was like a weight lifted off her. “So, what happened?”
“Oh, driving out of the school yard, I got distracted. I did it on the gate”.
“So, that’s why you were in such a bad mood this afternoon.”
“You know you were. Teresa was suddenly hungry. The long talk, which still must be had, could wait. “Where’s my dinner.”
“Supper you mean.”
a house, Joe decided to call it a day.
“I can’t carry on like this,” said Alan as they entered the flat.
“Oh!” Joe was taken aback, but tried not to show it. He threw his coat on the chair and sat on the settee “When was that?” he asked.
“Not long before we left.” Alan took both coats and hung them on hooks on the back of the door, before sitting on the chair.
“He didn’t see you?” asked Joe, trying not to sound over concerned.
“No, I was upstairs. I just saw him talking to the foreman.”
“No worries then.” But Joe was more worried than he tried to sound.
“You didn’t say anything.”
“We were both busy; you downstairs and me upstairs. But, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”
Joe saw how worried Alan was. This could set him back again he feared, and just when Alan seemed to be back to his old self. In the weeks they’d worked together, Alan had worked so hard that Joe thought him almost irreplaceable. He couldn’t lose him now he thought. But what could he do.
“I know,” said Joe. “That bastard, Brian King. I hate him too. I don’t know what his Job is. I just know that he travels around to different sites.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Joe. “Forget cooking this evening. I’ll go to the chip-shop. If you want to have a wash while I’m out—. I’ll be having a bath after, before I go out.” Although they had washed their hands and maybe splashed a little water on their faces before leaving work, they always had a proper wash when they got home.
Was there something Joe could do? If he could get Alan to go out it would help. Apart from going to work, Alan hardly ever left the flat: just the odd trip to the corner shop. Staying in the flat alone, probably brooding about his situation, Joe felt was a big part of his problem. But Alan showed no inclination to go out. Was he still worried about who saw him?
“Not changed?” asked Joe
“No. I’ll wait until after you’ve gone. Then I’ll have a wash and get changed. Would you like a plate?”
“No thanks.” Joe liked to eat his chips straight from the paper with his fingers, in front of the television. “What’s on telly?”
“Right Alan, I’m off,” he said
“O K. Good luck”
“Thanks. I’m confident of getting the contract; just some details to trash out. I’ll need to discuss them with you too. We could do it in the pub,” he suggested watching for Alan’s reaction. It was noncommittal, which was as good as Joe expected.
“There’s a nice looking pub around the corner,” he continued. “We could celebrate getting the contract with a drink.”
“I don’t know.”
“O K,” agreed Alan, reluctantly. “But, I won’t be much company.”
“You never are,” laughed Joe. “I should be back soon after nine. Be ready.”
“O K,” agreed Alan, although, clearly not sharing Joe’s enthusiasm.
“You got the contract then?” he asked, seemingly making an effort to show an interest.
“Yes. Yes. Of course; come on. I’ll tell you all about it in the pub.
“A pint of bitter,” asked Joe as the entered the pub. He remembered what Alan liked.
“Find somewhere quiet in the room. I’ll bring the drinks in.”
“I don’t know.” Alan shook his head. “I don’t know what to do.”
“It’s not just that. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I can’t keep hiding away.”
“So. What are you thinking?”
“Well, I don’t want to leave you in the lurch, but I can’t carry on like this.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Maybe I should go to the police, tell them everything and take the consequences, before they come for me.”
“Joe could see that Alan was deadly serious. “You must think about this,” he cautioned, “before you do anything.”
“Think about it! I’ve done nothing else but think about it. I can’t undo what I’ve done. It won’t go away. I’ve been stupid. I’ve done bad things. I must pay for them.
“Come on; drink up. You’re buying next.” Joe was trying to lighten the mood, but to no avail.
“Sorry. I’m not in the mood.” But, Alan did have a drink. “I did warn you that I’d be poor company.”
“I thought it was Dave and his cronies that you were bothered about. Why are you suddenly worried about the police coming for you?”
“Not suddenly. I’ve thinking about it for a while. I was involved in a murder; maybe two murders.”
“Not two murders. The man that Dave assaulted is getting better. The other man, up in Broadfield, yes, that man died, but you never touched him. In fact you pulled Tommy off him. You stopped the assault from being worse. The man’s injuries would have been worse if it weren’t for you.”
“How could they have been worse? The man died.”
“Yes. Yes. The man died, but we don’t know how much the injuries he got that day contributed to his death, if at all. The man was old and feeble.”
“All the more reason why we shouldn’t have attacked him.”
“You didn’t. You pulled Tommy off him. What else could you have done?”
“You didn’t know how bad his injuries were. In fact you told me that you thought his injuries were not so bad. You’re beating yourself up over things that you didn’t do”
“Yes. There’s so much I didn’t do. The man that Dave hit with the starting handle; I didn’t do anything to help him either.”
“Alan; I didn’t mean it like that. You’re not responsible for what Dave did. It’s not like he discussed it with you beforehand. He just did it. You weren’t to know that he was going to do it.”
“Maybe not, but I didn’t do anything to help the man after.”
“Alan. What could you have done with Dave there? Anyway, you thought the man was dead, didn’t you?”
“Yes. When it comes to Dave, we all should have known better. He took me in for a very long time. I was so stupid then. You, though, were the sensible one. You never got involved in any of Dave’s schemes. Although I didn’t think so at the time, looking back now I can see that is something you should be proud of.”
“I don’t know.” Alan shook his head. “He got me in the end.”
“Yes. Eventually he got you. I don’t know why you allowed yourself to be taken in by him. But, it happens. The important thing is you’re away from him now. It took me a long time to realize what an evil man he is, but I’m so glad that I got away from when I did. I should have done it a lot sooner.”
“Yes. So should I. The thing is I don’t feel like I’ve got away, although I can’t ever go back.”
“You still think he’s out to get you?”
“Yes. He’ll be angry about the way I left and I did threaten to tell the police about what he did to that man.”
“Serve him right if you did. It wouldn’t be wise though,” Joe hastened to add. “He’ll know now that that hasn’t happened. If you had gone to the Police he’d have heard from them by now. Probably he’d be locked up. That would be no bad thing, but you’d be putting yourself in real danger. No. I think it’s best for you to keep away from him. In spite of what you think he’ll give up on you in time, if he hasn’t already. He has other things to worry about right now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, my sister for one. She’s been asking questions about him; not too discretely I’m afraid, and he’s found out.”
“He’s found out! How do you know that?”
“I met her yesterday evening. She told me she had a note pushed through her letterbox warning her off. It wasn’t signed but she’s sure that’s where it’s from. It will be.”
“Oh God! Now she’s in danger too.”
“I don’t think so. I’ve warned her to be careful. I think she will. She has no more plans to do any more snooping into Dave’s affairs.”
“Has she reported it to the Police?”
“No. Not yet. My advice was to ignore it at this stage.”
“You think that’s wise?”
“I hope so.”
“So do I.” Alan clearly disagreed, but Joe was pleased that he asked no more questions. Instead, he noticed, seemingly for the first time, the empty glass, which Joe had been toying with for minutes.
It was about seven o’clock in the evening when Father Downey answered the doorbell. “Mary! How are you?”
“Come in.” After she entered, he closed the door and ushered Mary into his living room. “I’m glad you called,” he said. “I’ve being meaning to come and see you. Take your coat off and sit down. Would you like a cup of tea?”
“No thanks Father. It’s not long since I had one.”
“Well, how are you doing?” he asked when they were both seated. How is married life?”
“It’s all right, I suppose.” She didn’t sound very sure, but had no more to say on the subject. The priest didn’t pursue it. It was clearly not what she came to talk about.
“It’s Martin, Martin Prendergast,” she said. “I’m worried. I don’t know what to do.”
“Martin. Have you heard something?”
“No. Not a thing since he left. For all I know he could be dead.”
“No Mary, he’s not dead. That’s what I was coming to tell you. He’s badly injured, though. He’s in hospital in Coventry.”
“Coventry! What’s he doing there?”
“I don’t know. It’s a mystery. I had a phone call last week from the hospital, but I didn’t know for sure then that it was he. He was unconscious and there was no identification on him. All they found was our parish newsletter in his shirt pocket, which was why they phoned me. From the description they gave I suspected it was Martin. I didn’t tell you. I thought there was no point in upsetting you until I knew for sure.”
“Thank you Father.”
“I had a phone call this afternoon confirming it was him.” Remember that girl, Teresa that came looking for him a couple of weeks ago. Well, she phoned me today to say that she saw him in the hospital. There’s no doubt; it’s him. But, the good news is that he’s conscious now and getting better.”
“Oh, thank God for that Father. Poor Martin; I hope he’s all right. Do you know what happened to him?”
“He has head injuries. She thinks he was assaulted, but she’s not sure. The police are looking into it.”
“Oh, The police; they’ve been at my house three times: twice yesterday and once today, but I haven’t seen them. I don’t know what to say to them, so I kept out of their way.”
“Mary, what are you worried about? You’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Should I have reported Martin missing before now?”
“Maybe, I don’t know. Don’t your lodgers come and go all the time? You weren’t to know that Martin wouldn’t come back. I don’t think you’ll be in any trouble for not reporting him missing. You say the police came to your house, but you didn’t see them.”
“Yes, Father. Maybe I did a silly thing. I was coming back from the shop yesterday when I saw the policeman knocking on my door. I thought it might be about Martin and I didn’t want to talk to him, so I kept away ‘till he’d gone. He came back again in the evening, or some policeman did. I didn’t see him. Henry went to the door. I told Henry that if it was the police to say I was out. He did that. I can rely on Henry. But, he was kept talking at the door for a long time. It was about Martin all right. Henry was asked all sorts of questions about him. How long was he living there? How long was he gone? Where did he work? All sorts of questions were asked. And when he came again today I just didn’t answer the door, pretending I was out again. Jimmy Flynn said the police were on the building site where he works asking questions about Martin today as well.”
The priest nodded. “Why don’t you want to talk to the police, Mary? What are you frightened of?”
“There’s something else Father that I haven’t told you about. When that girl that you mentioned came- she said she was Martin’s niece, and I had no reason to doubt her, but Andy said after that she couldn’t be, so now I’m not so sure. Anyway, she seemed such a nice smart girl. I trusted her. I took her to Martin’s room. We thought that maybe we’d find something that would tell us where he’d gone. We didn’t, but we did find this.” She took a piece of paper from her handbag and handed it to the priest.
He priest studied the note. He already knew of its existence, or at least he assumed that it was the same note that Teresa had told him about. But, he didn’t mention that to Mary. Priests have to be careful about repeating things they are told, even things they are told outside of the confessional.
“Well, what do you make of it Father?” asked Mary. Do you think I should take it to the police?”
“Yes Mary. I think you must.” She should have done it before now, he thought. It was over a week since the note was found. She was withholding what might be important evidence. “Why does that bother you Mary?” he asked
Mary just shook her head
“Are you worried that it will get Martin in trouble?”
“I am Father. Although I don’t think Martin wrote it. We compared the handwriting, that girl Teresa and me, with the writing on another note he wrote. She seemed to think that the writing was different, not Martin’s. But, I couldn’t be sure. It didn’t look much different to me, not that I know much about that kind a thing. She said that she was no expert either. If the police see it I’m still afraid that they’ll suspect him, especially now that he’s gone missing, and I know that Martin would never do anything like that.”
“Yes Mary. I know. That’s what I think too. But, this is something that you shouldn’t keep from the police. You could get in trouble if you do. When the police look into it they will know that Martin is not a murderer.”
“But, Father, what’s this doing in his room?”
“I don’t know Mary. I’m convinced that he’s not a murderer, but Martin is a more complicated man than he appears. I don’t think you know that for a number of years Martin went by the name of Michael O’Malley.” The priest deemed that in the circumstances it was something Mary ought to know: it may help her to see things in a different light. Although discretion was understood, Martin hadn’t asked him not to reveal it to anyone else.
Mary shook her head in almost disbelief. If it came from anyone other than a priest she wouldn’t have believed it. “No Father. I didn’t know that.”
“It was when he lived in Birmingham,” the priest continued. “The reason I can only guess. When he told me he didn’t ask me to keep it secret, but clearly he didn’t wish it to be widely known. I haven’t told anyone else and Mary, for the time being at least, I feel we should keep it to ourselves.”
“Of course Father; I won’t tell a soul.”
“The note was probably given to Martin, threatening him, not Michael O’Malley, God rest him. If the police get an expert to compare the handwriting I’m confident that they’ll find it’s not Martin’s
“Oh, I hope so Father.”
“Now, we hear that he was assaulted,” continued the priest. “Maybe there’s a connection. We don’t know, but it’s possible that this note will help the police find Martin’s assailant. You might be helping Martin by showing it to them.”
“Oh! I never thought of it like that. Thank you father. You’ve made me feel a lot better about it. I’ll do it first thing in the morning.”
Mary’s mind was made up. Next morning after all her lodgers and Paddy had left she put on her heavy coat and set off for Broadfield police station, which was about ten minutes walk from her home.
It was a cold, frosty morning. She walked briskly. She felt relieved that she’d finally made the decision. It no longer felt like the dilemma that had been preying on her mind for over a week. The conversation with Father Downey the previous evening had dispelled most if not all of her doubts of the wisdom of taking the information she had to the police.
Mary had few dealings with the police. In that she was heeding her father’s advice. “Don’t go there unless you have to,” he’d told her. “The think we’re all savages.” Maybe that was an overstatement of his opinion. Nonetheless, she knew, his experience of the police was not good.
Mary’s own experience was little better. On the rare occasions that the police got involved in her affairs she found them less than helpful. On the last such occasion, just three weeks earlier, what should have been a minor incident was turned into a major event by the cack-handed way it was dealt with by a policeman.
It was Jimmy’s McCarthy’s first night there, or would have been if he could get in. When he returned to the house, although the worse for drink, Jimmy was not too late: Mary would have been still up. A knock on the door was all that was required and she would have let him in. Instead, Jimmy clumsily tried to unlock the door with a key that wouldn’t fit the lock. He later claimed that Mary had given him a wrong key, but she didn’t think so.
His drunken fumbling alerted a patrolling policeman. The policeman recognised Jimmy- Jimmy had many encounters with the police- and unaware that Jimmy had changed digs, wrongly jumped to the conclusion that he was trying to break in.
Again, a knock on the door would have cleared things up. But, no In spite of Jimmy’s pleas, the policeman dragged him to the police station and locked him in a cell.
It was about six in the morning: Sunday morning, and all were sleeping peacefully, when the loud knocking on the front door waked Mary.
That, and the angry, noisy exchanges between Jimmy and the policeman, much to Mary’s embarrassment, roused the whole household and the neighbours.
The policeman was informing Jimmy that he would be charged with being drunk and disorderly. Jimmy, having none of it, was vehemently demanding an apology for wrongful arrest.
Neither of them, however, was a match for an angry Mary that morning.
Jimmy was ordered to bed. He didn’t argue. He had no wish for another confrontation, although he knew that he was just postponing the inevitable. The policeman, she sent away with a flea in his ear.
Mary just hoped she wasn’t about to meet the same policeman. The anger, that night, had made her braver than she felt then.
On entering the police station she felt apprehensive. There was nobody at the front desk. She looked for a bell to ring half hoping that no one would come and she could just go. Then a policeman appeared. At least it wasn’t the one that she confronted that morning with Jimmy.
“Yes, madam, can I help you?” he asked in a friendly voice, in no way intimidating. But, he was so young, barely old enough to be a policeman, she thought.
“Yes. I think you can. I have some information that I think I should give you.”
“O K,” he said taking a pen in his hand. “What’s your name please?”
“Mary….” She hesitated. “Mary Foley.” It was the first time she’d used her married name. It felt strange.
The hesitation caused the young policeman to give her a curious look, adding to Mary’s unease, before he wrote the name down.
“It’s about Michael O’Malley,” continued Mary composing herself.
She watched the policeman’s eyebrows rise. He put down his pen and looked Mary in the eye.
“The man who was murdered?”
“I’d better get my sergeant. I won’t be long. Have a seat Mary.” He pointed to a chair behind Mary.
Mary sat down. What had she got herself into? She wasn’t happy talking to such a young policeman. But, being pushed up a level? She hadn’t anticipated that. It was the mention of Michael O’Malley that caused the policeman to decide that her information was too important for he himself to deal with. Of course it was a murder investigation. She felt slightly panicky. She looked at the door. She could still slip away. It was her last chance. But, she didn’t move. She couldn’t.
The policeman returned behind the desk. At the same time, from a door on Mary’s side of the desk, came the sergeant. He seemed pleased to see her.
“Ah, Mary. Good to see you,” he said holding out his hand like he knew her. As far as Mary knew they had never met before then, but at least he was friendly. He was a big, middle-aged man. Mary stood up and took his hand.
“I’m sergeant Cassidy,” he said. “We’ve been trying to contact you.”
“Yes. I know. Sorry, I was out.”
“Never mind. You’re here now. You have information for us?”
“Yes sergeant. There’s something I think I should tell you.”
“Very good. Let’s go where we won’t be disturbed.”
Mary was led down a short corridor. “Did you walk here?” asked the sergeant, keeping up the conversation.
“Yes. I don’t live far away.” She thought he probably knew that already.
“It’s a very cold morning, but this room is nice and warm.” He opened a door and ushered Mary in to what she thought was probably an interview room. There was a large table with some chairs around it, where criminals are interrogated, thought Mary with trepidation, as the sergeant closed the door. However, the sergeant was doing his best to put Mary at her ease. “Would you like a cup of tea Mary?” he asked “Or we’ve got coffee.”
“No thank you. It’s not long since I had one.” Mary just wanted to get on with what she came to do.
“O K, well sit down. Take your coat off if you like. Like I said it’s warm here.
Mary removed her coat and sat on the chair nearest her, placing her handbag on the floor next to her. The sergeant took her coat and hung it on a hook on the wall before sitting on a chair to Mary’s left. That way it seemed more intimate, less intimidating than if he’s sat opposite her.
“Well, Mary. How are you this morning?”
“I’m all right.” Mary wished for no more small talk. “There’s something I want to show you,” she said, picking up her handbag and removing the note, which she then handed to the sergeant. “I found this in Martin’s room the other day.”
“Yes. Martin Prendergast: my lodger.”
The sergeant read the note. “Nasty. It’s addressed to Michael O’Malley.”
“Yes. But, Martin didn’t write it: he wouldn’t” Mary had no doubt about that, but feared that she didn’t sound very convincing.
“Martin is the man who’s gone missing?”
“Yes. But, now I know where he is. He’s badly injured, though.” She thought the sergeant already knew that.
“There is some confusion about what his real name is.”
Again, the sergeant was ahead of her. Was there anything he didn’t know? However, she was glad that he knew that. To explain the note it was something she would have to reveal.
“So I’ve heard,” she replied. “But I’ve known Martin for a long time and I’ve never known him as anything other than Martin Prendergast.”
“Tel me about him. What was he like?
“A nice quite man. He’d never harm anyone.”
“Did he upset anyone?”
“Did he get on with the other lodgers?”
“Yes. They all liked him.”
“Do you know why he left?”
“No. He didn’t say. He had a bit of business to see to, was all he said. He wasn’t a man that talked a lot. He kept himself to himself. So I didn’t ask him any more. I thought he’d be back in a few days, like he said he would be. I’m sure that was his intention. The most of his clothes are still in his room.”
The sergeant referred to a notebook, which he produced from his pocket. “You had another lodger leave recently?”
Mary thought for a moment. “Yes. They come and go all the time.”
“Jimmy McCarthy I believe was the most recent one to leave.”
“Yes. He was.” Mary was no longer surprised at the sergeant’s knowledge and, of course, the police knew Jimmy.
“Did he give any reason for leaving?”
“He lost his job. He went to Birmingham. There’s more work down there, I believe: at least in the building trade, there is.”
“He didn’t go on his own, though. Did he?”
“No. Andy Horan went with him.”
“Andy Horan?” The sergeant referred to his notebook. “He used to visit Martin. I’m told.”
“Yes. He came from the same place in Ireland as Martin.”
“And did they get on well?”
“Oh, they did. Andy knew Martin’s brother. They were neighbours.”
“I heard that the last meeting they had didn’t go very well.”
“I wouldn’t say that. It’s just that Martin can be a bit grumpy sometimes.”
“What was it about?”
Why is he asking? Thought Mary feeling slightly resentful. He must already know the answer. However she did answer. “Andy writes to his mother a lot. He gave her Martin’s address and she passed it on to Martin’s brother. His brother then wrote to Martin. Martin wasn’t too happy about that.”
“They don’t get on then: Martin and his brother?”
“No. It seems not. They didn’t write to each other anyway.”
“But, recently Martin did get a letter from his brother.”
“And it upset him?”
“He blamed Andy Horan?”
“It didn’t come to blows. Did it?”
“No: Nothing like that. He just told Andy to stop interfering in his business.”
“How was Andy about it?”
“A bit puzzled, I think. He didn’t expect that from Martin.”
“Do you think that Martin leaving had something to do with the letter he got from his brother?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“Did Martin ever talk about Michael O’Malley?
“No. Not that I remember. I didn’t think that he even knew him.”
“This note.” The sergeant indicated the note that Mary had given him.
“How do you think it got in Martin’s position if he didn’t write it?”
“It must have been given to him by someone.”
“Have you any idea who that could be?”
“No. I’ve no idea.”
“Have you seen any strangers talking to Martin?”
Mary hesitated. “There was young chap that called at the house a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t talk to Martin as far as I know, but he was asking for Michael O’Malley. He thought he lived there. He had a letter for him. He gave the letter to Paddy. Paddy told him he’d give it to Michael O’Malley when he next saw him. I don’t know if he ever did.” Mary had forgotten about that. The letter had been on the mantelpiece for a while. She wasn’t sure, but she thought it was no longer there. She’d have to ask Paddy.
“Yes. Paddy is my husband.”
“We’ll need to have a word with him. When will he be available?”
“He’s at work now, but he’ll be home in the evening. Will I ask him to come round?”
“No. We’ll come to see him. We’ll need to have a look at Martin’s room too. What time will Paddy be home?”
“It varies: six or seven. Oh! God. Will I have the police all over my house?”
“I’m afraid so Mary. It can’t be helped. It’s a murder investigation. The chap that gave Paddy the letter: did you see him?”
“I did. I saw him first. It was me that answered the door when he first came. Like I said he was asking for Michael O’Malley. He thought he lived there. I don’t think he believed me when I said that he didn’t, so I shut the door on him. But, then he met Paddy. Paddy was on his way home from work.”
“Would you know that man if you saw him again?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“O K Mary. Thanks for your help. I’ll see you this evening.”
“Tommy, come with me.”
Tommy Parsons was taken by surprise. The command almost made him jump. Dave shouldn’t even be on the site. Immediately Tommy placed his brush in a nearby jar of thinners and hurriedly fixed the top on the paint can.
“Leave that. Come inside.”
It sounded ominous. Tommy anxiously followed Dave into the house, of which he’d been painting the outside windows.
“Close the door. Come in here.”
Obediently, his heart pounding, Tommy did as told and Joined Dave in the empty room. Dave was looking out of the window. He turned to Tommy. “Tell me again,” he asked, “about your visit to Broadfield.”
“I told you.”
“About the letter that you were instructed to give to the man. You didn’t actually give it to him, did you?”
“No. I told you. We couldn’t. But, a man said he would give it to him.”
“And you believed him.”
“Yes. We were sure he would.”
“But, you’re not so sure now, are you?”
“What did the man say?”
“He said he’d definitely see him on the Friday night, but he might see him before that.”
“On the Friday night the man, the target, you said, left the club early.”
“And when you asked him about the letter?”
“He said he didn’t know what we were talking about.”
“So, he probably never got it.”
“I don’t know.”
Dave turned away to resume looking out of the window. “At last,” he said. “He’s here.”
“It’s Brian King,” said Tommy following Dave’s gaze. Brian, looking lost, was on the other side of the open space that separated the rows of houses. “You were expecting him?”
“Ignoring Tommy Dave rapped on the glass with his knuckles, to no effect. “The dozy bugger.”
Dave went to the front door. He opened the door and shouted, “Brian.”
Acknowledging the shout Brian hurried towards him. “What’s this all about?” he called out when he got closer. His face was flushed. He seemed agitated.
“Come inside,” urged Dave, not answering the question. “We can’t have the whole neighbourhood knowing our business.”
“There’s no one about.”
“Walls have ears. Close the door.” Dave led the way back to where a perplexed looking Tommy was waiting.
Brian barely acknowledged Tommy before turning on Dave. “This better be good. I’m wasting time here.”
“You said you’d be in the area.”
“O K. What’s it all about?”
“Two bits of news. The man in Broadfield is dead.”
“We knew that already.”
“Not for sure. Now it’s definite.”
“So, what are you worried about?” There’s nothing to link us to it. Is there?”
“The other news is the man in hospital in Coventry is getting better
“Oh! I thought He was dying.” Turning to Tommy Brian scoffed, “So much for your information”.
Tommy, looking sheepish, muttered, “I only told what I heard.”
Dave defended Tommy. He had other plans for him and didn’t wish for him to get too upset. “It’s not Tommy’s fault.”
“No,” retorted Brian. “It’s all your fault. You sent a boy on a man’s job. Another of your bloody cock ups.”
“He wasn’t on his own.”
“No. You sent two boys and they bungled it. Why?”
Dave remained silent. He had plans for Brian too, and put up with his ridicule. Then Tommy answered.
“We had the wrong name. We didn’t know that he had another name.”
Brian turned to Dave. “Why didn’t they know?”
“I didn’t want to confuse them. I was trying to keep it simple.”
“Simple! It was simple. So, what’s the problem? Why am I here?”
“It’s about the letter. We don’t think the man ever got it.”
Again Brian scoffed. “It was supposed to be put in his hand.”
“Yes. Well, we won’t go into that again.”
“What’s the problem then?”
“It mustn’t get into the hands of the police.”
“It’s in my handwriting. I know. I should have typed it, but I didn’t think it would get this far.”
“So? Why would the police go checking your handwriting?”
“That man, Martin. He said my name in the pub.”
“You said he wouldn’t remember anything.”
“No. I don’t think he’ll remember much, but he might just remember my name.”
“So? What do you want to do?”
“We need the letter back.”
“I need the letter back.”
“How are you going to do that?”
“Tommy knows the man that it was given to and he knows where he lives.”
“He’s more than a hundred miles away. Isn’t he?”
“Yes. Someone would have to go with Tommy.”
“You mean me?”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t bungle it.”
“Are you sure this is the house?” asked Brian as he brought the car to a halt.
“Yes,” replied Tommy. “I remember the green door and the steps up to it”
Brian reversed the car back to stop in front of the house two doors away. “We’re still a bit conspicuous here, but it can’t be helped. You’re sure you’ll know the man when you see him?”
“And you say it was about half past six when he returned from work that day.”
Brian checked his watch. “We’re a bit early, but we don’t want to miss him. Hi up, who’s this?” A big tall man was walking towards them.
Tommy waited until the man got closer. “Yes. It’s definitely him.”
Brian got out of the car and approached the man. “Excuse me,” he said. “Could I have a quick word?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know your name.”
“Paddy. Great. I’m James. Maybe you can help me. Do you remember a few weeks ago you were given a letter, which you promised to pass on to a man called Michael O’Malley?”
“I. I remember.”
“Do you know if he ever got it?”
“No. He didn’t. But, sure it doesn’t matter now. The man’s dead.”
“Yes. I’m sorry about that. Do you know what happened to the letter though?”
Paddy thought for a moment. “I’m not sure. Why? Is it important?”
“Yes. I’m afraid it is. Can you remember what you did with it?
“I had it in my pocket to give to him that Friday night, but I never saw him. What was it about anyway?”
“It was about an insurance that he’d been paying into.”
“Well, now he’s dead, it doesn’t matter. Does it?”
“Yes, I’m afraid it does. His widow can now claim on that insurance, but there was an important document in that letter. She will need it to make the claim.”
“Can’t you just send her another one?”
“It’s not that simple. It would be much easier if she had that one.”
“Maybe it’s in my other jacket. I’ll go and have a look.”
“Thank you Paddy.”
As Paddy entered the house, Brian walked back to the car giving Tommy the thumbs up. “I think we’ve cracked it,” he said entering the car to await Paddy’s return.
They sat in silence watching the green door. Then the door opened. “He’s coming back,” said Tommy. “Oh! No, It’s that miserable woman.”
Tommy remembered Mary, especially the mass of unduly grey hair. Appearing disgruntled, she just stuck her head out and looked critically in both directions, before focusing on the car which she gave a fierce once over, before withdrawing to the house and closing the door.
“I’m glad she’s gone,” said Tommy. She’d be no help.
Brian, anxiously tapping his fingers on the steering wheel and not taking his eyes off the green door, wasn’t listening. He was getting more and more uneasy as time went by and there was no sign of Paddy.
“Hi up!” exclaimed Tommy. “The cops are coming.”
That got Brian’s attention. “Where?”
“Behind. Coming up the street. Two of them.”
Unfazed, at least outwardly, Brian casually looked in his wing mirror. Two policemen were walking towards them.
“No worries. Just ignore them. Don’t stare.”
Tommy wasn’t fooled. He could see that Brian was worried. Then the door they were watching opened and Paddy emerged holding in his hand what appeared to be an envelope.
“He’s got it.” Tommy was excited.
But Brian didn’t move. “Better wait ‘til the cops pass,” he muttered.
The policemen, much to Brian and Tommy’s relief, seemed to show no interest in the car or it’s occupants. Their only interest appeared to be in identifying a house. They did however stop in front of the car to have a word with Paddy, who had been walking towards the car.
Unable to hear the conversation, Brian, slowly and silently wound the window down, wary of making any sound that might draw the policemen’s attention.
The words were still unclear, but Paddy’s pointing to the door he’d left open told Brian all he needed to know.
“They’re going to his house,” observed Tommy.
The policemen headed towards the house. Brian, staying put, simply stuck his arm out of the window and silently beckoned for Paddy to come to him.
Obediently Paddy headed towards them. Brian started the engine, noting that the policemen had entered the house and would not be alerted by the sound.
“It’s a bit of a mess, I’m afraid, ” Paddy apologised, offering a very crumpled envelope.
“Don’t worry about that.” Brian snatched the envelope while depressing the clutch and putting the car in gear.
“Thank you Paddy.” Brian drove off leaving Paddy standing there looking even more puzzled than usual.
As they drove off Tommy observed, “She’s out again, having another look.”
“Don’t worry. We got what we came for.”
“What’s going on?” All that was going on had got Paddy confused. Mary, stood in the doorway blocking his way, was holding a notebook and pen. “Why are the police here? And what are they doing?”
“Why?” Paddy stepped to one side and turned to watch the car speeding away.
“I think I got it,” said Mary writing in her notebook. “He was in a hurry to get away. What did you do to him?”
“I just gave him the letter.”
“The one for Michael O’Malley.”
“Oh! You idiot.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“I do. He was an insurance man.”
“Was he? Said Mary sarcastically. “ Did he say what it was about?”
“It was about an insurance policy that Michael had. There was a document in it that his widow will need to make a claim.”
“Why not! I’ll tell you why not. I wouldn’t trust him. He might be doing her out of what she’s entitled to.”
“I didn’t think of that.”
“No. You never do. You should have said you’d give it to her yourself.”
“Well it’s too late for that now. Arra don’t worry about it,” added Paddy dismissively. “I’ sure she’ll get it anyway.”
“She might.” Mary was dubious. “If that’s what it was. We don’t know. Sure that man could tell you anything and you’d believe him. Was it the same man that gave you the letter?”
“No. It was a young man that gave it to me. That man was older.”
“Would you know him again? The police will be asking you.”
“I think I would, but why would they be asking me that?”
“They were asking me if there were any strangers here lately. I told them about that man giving you the letter. They said they would need to talk to you about it.”
“Let them talk away. I don’t care.”
“Be careful. They’ll be interested in that letter. It’s a pity you gave it away and just as they came and all. They might think there’s something funny going on with the letter addressed to Michael O’Malley. It’s a murder enquiry you know. They’ll be suspecting all sorts.”
“No. Just tell them the truth. They know about it anyway. If you start telling lies you don’t know where it will end. You could get yourself in all sorts of trouble.”
“I’d better check on the pans.” Mary hurried to the kitchen. On her way she placed the notebook on the chest of drawers in the hall. Paddy followed her into the kitchen. “What are you going to do with that number,” he asked.
“I think I’ll give it to the police. Do you know what make of car it is?”
“No. What do I know about cars? Where are the police anyway?”
“They’re in Martin’s room. They’ll be going through everything. Martin wouldn’t like that, but what can you do?
Paddy shook his head. “I’m going for a wash.”
“Don’t be long. The police will want to talk to you. They might want to talk to everyone in the house. Let’s try and get the meal over first. It’s ready now. Will you tell the others? I think they’re all in.”
“We should turn right here for the M6.” Tommy noted that they were in the wrong lane for turning right. Tommy was hungry and wished to waste no time in getting to the motorway services where they’d planned to eat. Without comment, to Tommy’s relief, but almost too late, Brian indicated and moved to the outside lane.
Brian wasn’t concentrating on his driving, concerned only, Tommy though, on putting as much distance as possible between them and Broadfield. Tommy could see that, although he tried to hide it, Brian was still in an anxious state. He had driven for an hour without saying a word: not at all like Brian.
But, why? They got the letter. They got what they came for. He’d said so himself. Everything, as far as Tommy could see, had gone well. It must have been the police presence that had got him rattled. But, the police had hardly looked at them. As they approached the motorway Tommy ventured breaking the silence.
“The police showed no interest in us at all,” he said.
“Why should they?” growled Brian.
“Yeah. Why should they?” repeated Tommy. “We’ve done nothing wrong.”
Who was he trying to convince? The remark only got a disdainful glance from Brian. Tommy said no more leaving Brian to concentrate on his driving as they joined the motorway traffic.
On the Motorway Tommy detected a silent sigh of relief from Brian. “Right,” he said. “It’s a straight road now.” He was visibly more relaxed.
Brian put his foot down and moved to the fast lane. They passed a sign saying ‘services 1 mile.’ Tommy, getting hungrier all the time, feared that Brian had either not seen the sign or in his hurry to get back had decided not to stop.
“The services are coming up,” he ventured, unsure what to expect. The response from Brian, however, left him pleasantly surprised. “Yes. I’ve seen the sign. Don’t worry. I know you’re hungry.”
The restaurant was not too crowded. They found a table some distance away from other diners where they ate mostly in silence. After swilling the food down with a beer, Brian patted his belly. “I enjoyed that,” he said. “Just what we needed after a successful afternoon. I hope you watched and learned Tommy.”
Tommy smiled. Brian needed recognition. “Yes you did well.”
“Full marks to you too Tommy for remembering the man and the house. You had your wits about you.”
“Yes. I have a good memory.” Tommy was relishing the praise. He didn’t expect it from Brian. Brian’s comments were usually derogatory. “Dave will be pleased,” he added.
“He’d better be. We stuck our necks out for him: you going back to the scene of the crime and me dodging the police; all because of his cock up.” Brian took the crumpled letter from his pocket and placed it on the table. He tried to smooth it with his hand, to little effect.
“It’s very creased,” Tommy remarked.
“That’s all right. It’s what’s inside that matters. Should we have a look?”
Tommy nodded enthusiastically.
Brian carefully peeled back the flap. Luckily, it came away without tearing, but then his face dropped.
“Fucking marvellous!” he exclaimed; “an empty bloody envelope.”
“But, how?” Tommy was puzzled.
“Fucking Dave!” exclaimed Brian, “all that for an empty bloody envelope.
“But, How can that be?” Tommy was baffled. “I don’t understand.”
“How the fuck do I know?” cried Brian, his face bright red.
Tommy noticed that people at a table behind Brian were staring.
Tommy tried to gesture to Brian to keep his voice down
“People can hear you,” he hissed.
“Fuck them.” Brian stood up. “Let’s go.”
It was about ten o’clock when the two weary travellers got out of their car outside The Queen. “Dave will be getting worried,” said Tommy. They had arranged to meet at nine.
“Good.” Brian was in no mood to care. “I hope he’s bloody sweating”
As they approached the bar they saw Dave stood on his own looking gloomy. “He’d better not complain about us being late or I’ll blast him,” said Brian.
Dave didn’t complain. Seeing Brian and Tommy cheered him up “Traffic bad?” he asked sympathetically.
“You could say.”
“Two pints of bitter,” Dave called to the landlord. He knew their drinks
When they got their drinks Dave led the way into one of the rooms. Even at that time on a Friday night the room was empty. “It’s quiet in here,” said Dave guiding them to a table at the far end of the room.
“Dead, more like.”
“Well?” asked Dave, when they were sat down. He could wait no longer. “Did you manage to get it?”
“Oh, I got it all right, for all the good it did.”
“What do you mean?”
“This is what I mean.” Brian took the envelope out of his pocket and threw it on the table.
Dave picked it up. “It’s empty. Did you open it?”
“Yes. I opened it.”
“Where’s the note?”
Don’t ask me. That’s what I found: an empty bloody envelope.”
“You didn’t take it out?” Brian looked from Brian to Tommy. Tommy was shaking his head. “No I bloody didn’t,” answered Brian. “Was there ever anything in it, or was I sent on a bloody wild goose chase?”
“Of course there was something in it. I put the note I myself.” Dave examined the envelope. It just had the name Michael O’Malley written on it. “It’s the envelope all right,” he said. “Someone’s playing games with us. Let’s hope it’s not the police.”
“The police were there, two of them,” Brian informed him, taking pleasure in Dave’s fear, which he was in no hurry to allay.
“Did they see you?”
“Yes. They must have. They walked right past us.”
“We were sat in the car,” Tommy intervened noting Dave’s concern. “They took no notice of us.”
“You were sat in the car?” Dave turned from Tommy to Brian.
“What about the car? A strange car outside the house should have interested them.”
“Yes.” Brian decided to stop playing games. “We were outside waiting for that man, Paddy. Like Tommy said, the police walked past on their way to the house, but they took no notice of us.”
“They didn’t see your faces then.”
“No. No worries. They didn’t see us.”
“It wasn’t right outside the house. I parked a few doors away. I’m not that daft.”
“At least you did one thing right.” Dave sounded relieved.
But Brian was furious. “One thing! One thing! I did everything bloody right. I got what I went for. What more could I have done? You can’t blame me if it was an empty bloody envelope. This is all down to your cock up anyway.”
“O k Brian. Calm down. I didn’t mean it like that. Just when did you find out that the envelope was empty?”
“When we were at the service station. We were fifty miles away then. No way was I going back, especially with the police there
“OK Brian. I understand. We’ll have to leave it at that. Forget about the letter. Let’s just hope it not in police hands.”
“You hope you mean.”
“Whatever you say Brian.”
It was about two O’clock on Saturday afternoon when Brian King arrived home. His wife greeted him with “The police were here. They want to talk to you.”
“Oh!” He was taken aback. “What did they want?”
“I don’t know. They just said they wanted to talk to you. They’re calling back.”
“Did they say when?”
“No. They asked when you’d be back, but I couldn’t tell them. I didn’t know. You seem worried.”
“I’m not worried. Why would I be worried?”
“I don’t know. You never tell me anything. Why do you think they want to talk to you?”
Brian shook his head.
“Is there something you’re not telling me?” his wife asked.
“No,” he replied angrily. “Just leave me alone. I need to make a phone call. I need to be on my own.”
His wife left the room. Brian immediately picked up the phone and dialled.
“Dave, what’s going on?
“What are you on about?”
“The police want to talk to me.”
“Well, don’t panic. It’s probably nothing. You haven’t talked to them yet?”
“No. They were at my house when I was out. They’re coming back.”
“Like I said, don’t worry. It’s probably nothing.”
“Do you think they’ll know were I was yesterday.”
“I don’t see how. You said they were there, but they didn’t see you.”
“I did. I’m sure of that.”
“No worries then. You didn’t break any traffic rules: speeding, jumping light, or anything like that?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You don’t sound too sure. Maybe your number was taken for some reason. Don’t tell them where you were unless you have to, but if they’ve got your number you can’t deny it. They might want to know what you were doing up there. Have you any relatives you might be visiting?”
“That could be a problem. You’d better come round here. We’ll think of a story. Get out of the house before the police come back.”
“Jesus Christ. If you think I’m carrying the can for this….”
“Brian, I don’t think anything. Just come round and we’ll talk about it. OK.”
Brian put the phone down. “I’m going out,” he called to his wife.
“Again! Where are you going?”
“I have some business to se to.”
“When will you be back?”
“I don’t know.”
“What about the police?”
Without replying Brian left slamming the door after him. He needed to get out of the house fast.
On the road Brian thought about his problem. If the police were aware of where he was yesterday and questioned his reason for being there he didn’t know what to tell them. He hoped Dave could help there. He’d better. This was all down to Dave. Bloody Dave. But, could he trust him? Dave would only be interested in keeping his own name out of it. Was he Dave’s fall guy? Was that Dave’s plan all along? The more Brian thought about it the less he trusted Dave. His anger was rising by the minute.
As he turned down Ivy street where Dave lived, this time Brian was determined to stand for no more nonsense.
The house was in the middle of a row of fairly large terraced houses. Brian was pleased to see Dave’s Ford transit in the street in front of his house: at least he was home. As he drew level with the van he slowed down intending to park in front of the van. There was always a parking space there.
Not this time. Hidden from view by the van were the two police cars. Brian’s first reaction was to panic. He had many brushes with the law resulting in having an intense hatred and fear of the police. He knew his fear, which was bordering on paranoia, was irrational, but he couldn’t help it. It was a weakness, which he tried to hide from others by pretending to be indifferent the police.
This time, however, getting away was all he could think of. Brian immediately speeded up again. He didn’t know why the police were there, but he wasn’t staying around to find out. With no more than a surreptitious glance at the cars he continued to the end of the street. He turned left up South road where he stopped and took some deed breaths.
After a while he calmed down and managed to access the situation. One good thing was that no one witnessed his panic. It then occurred to him that he might even have jumped to the wrong conclusion. The reason for the police being there might have nothing to do with Dave. The cars weren’t even in front of Dave’s house, although they couldn’t be because the van was there.
Brian needed to know. But, how? Calling at the house was too dangerous. He considered finding a phone box and phoning, but he didn’t feel comfortable with that either. Eventually he decided to drive back to the street and, without getting too close, see what he could see.
He stopped the car at what he considered to be a safe distance from Dave’s house on the opposite side of the street where he had clear view of the house and if the policemen were in he would be able to see them when they came out.
Not wishing to draw any attention to himself he shut the engine down, although he could have done with it running for warmth. It was a cold day. The heating was poor at the best of times and without the engine running non-existent.
However, he didn’t have to wait long until two policemen emerged from the house followed by Dave who was followed by two more policemen.
What was going on? Was Dave being arrested? It certainly looked like it. Four policemen wouldn’t be there just to talk to him, but if he resisted arrest it might take that many to restrain him: he was a powerful man.
However, he seemed to be going quietly. One of the policemen opened the rear door of the front police car and Dave with his head down appeared to meekly get in. A policeman joined him on the rear seat while two others got in the front. The fourth policeman got in the other car and both cars were driven away.
Brian shuddered. It was cold, but it wasn’t that. He was dreading what might happen next. Things had suddenly got extremely serious. Would the police come for him next? What was it they wanted to talk to him about? He had assumed that it was about where he was on the previous day, but seeing Dave arrested made him fear that it was about something far more serious.
Dave was involved in a murder, maybe two murders. Did the police know?
It looked that way. Brian’s thoughts were running wild. Was he too a suspect? Was that why the police were after him? Neither of the murders, if that’s what they were, had anything to do with him, but could he prove it? Dave had said they were all in it together. Sod that. Sod Dave. He was not having it. What Dave did was down to Dave. However, sooner or later Brian must talk to the police. He couldn’t keep running away.
Ten minutes after the police cars left, and seeing no more comings or goings at the house, Brian concluded that there were no more policemen there. He wondered if Dave’s wife was in. She should be able to tell him something.
Alarmed by the ringing of the doorbell, Teresa felt herself tense up. In spite of her efforts to move on her nerves were still in a state. She rested the book she had started to read on her lap, but remained seated. Maybe whoever it was would just go away.
“It’s only me. Open up.”
“Joe. What do you want?”
“That’s a nice welcome.”
“Sorry. Come in.” Joe followed her into the living room. “Sit down. Would you like a drink or something?”
“No. Thank you. I’m all right.” Joe sat on the settee. “I thought you weren’t going to let me in. On your own then?”
“Yes. Tom has a parents evening.” Teresa sat on the chair facing Joe. “I wasn’t expecting anyone this late.”
“It’s only ten o’clock. Are you all right? You seem a bit on edge.”
“I’m just tired,” she said. “It’s been a long day.” To Joe’s curious look she explained. “I brought work home to mark.” She nodded towards a pile of papers on the table. “I just finished before you got here. Anyway, don’t keep me in suspense. Why are you here?”
“I’ve got some good news.”
“You’ve won the pools?” Teresa’s eyes lit up. She was starting to relax.
“You’re getting married?”
“No. Listen. You’re being silly. Remember that note that was put through your letter box; threatening you?”
“Well,” Joe continued, “you needn’t worry about it any more.
“Why? What happened? What do you know?”
“The man that sent it is in prison.”
“Oh! Who’s that?”
“You know that he is the one that sent it?”
“Yes. Maybe not personally, but he’s definitely the one behind it.”
“You say he’s in prison.”
“Yes, and he won’t be out for a long time.”
“How do you know all this? Have you inside information?”
“You could say that.”
“I worry about who you associate with. Go on then. What do you know?”
“It was Dave that assaulted Martin and almost killed him. Dave was also behind the assault on the man in Broadfield that resulted in his death. The two boys did it, but it was Dave that sent them.”
“Has he been charged with those crimes?”
“No. Not yet. But, he will be. He’s in custody; helping the police with their enquiries I think they call it. They’re still gathering evidence. I’m certain he won’t be out for a long time.”
Teresa was still sceptical. “How do you know all this? She asked
“It’s a long story. Alan, one of the boys that Dave sent has worked with me for the last few weeks. It was the other boy Tommy that actually did the deed. Alan pulled him off the man.”
“That’s what he told you.”
“I believed him. I’ve known Alan for a long time. He’d never do anything like that. I was surprised that he agreed to go in the fist place, but we all make mistakes, and Dave can be very persuasive. He needed Alan to go: he’s smarter than Tommy. Dave could rely on him. But, of course, it all went wrong. They got the wrong man. While I know Dave is capable of murder I don’t believe the plan that time was to kill the man; just scare him; make him leave town again; preferably force him back to Ireland.”
“Alan was there when Dave assaulted Martin. He saw it all. It all happened so fast there was nothing Alan could do about it, but he was so disgusted with Dave he wanted no more to do with him. He left the job. Oh, I didn’t say he worked for Dave up to then; they both did, him and Tommy. You’ve met Tommy; that evening in The Antelope.”
“Yes.” Teresa nodded. “I met him again since then.”
“At our mum and dad’s house. He called one evening when I was there. He said he was after you. Don’t worry, we didn’t tell him were you lived.”
“Good, but with Dave out of the way I’m not bothered any more.”
“What about his cronies?”
“Ah, forget them. They’re all shit scared. I used to think he had a lot more influence than he actually had but one or two things I’ve seen lately has made me change my mind on that.”
“Dave liked to give the impression that he had a lot of mates that would stand by him no matter what: no one would grass on him for fear of what those mates would do. I believed it too, but now I’m sure that it was a load of rubbish. His so-called mates are all shitting themselves. I met Brian king today. He liked to think he was Dave’s second in command. He’s too scared to go home. He’s terrified, thinking he’ll be arrested next. I didn’t think he’d even talk to me again after our last encounter, but he was trying to be palls with me today and he was trying to distance himself from Dave saying he was never one of his associates.”
“But, about Alan; he’s also in custody. He went to the police voluntarily. I advised him against it, but he wouldn’t be told. He couldn’t live with the guilt of what he did any longer, he said. I managed to get to see him today for the first time. He’s not happy in prison, but at the same time he’s relieved that he has got it all off his chest. He has told them everything. That’s what got Dave arrested. Like I said I was against him going to the police, but after seeing him today maybe he has done the right thing. I haven’t heard yet, but I’m sure Tommy will have been arrested too.”
“You’re saying there’s something you don’t know. I’m surprised, but seriously would he tell on his mate?”
“I think he told everything, although he’s not blaming Tommy so much. It’s all Dave’s fault he says. Alan knows a lot about Dave; a lot of other things that the police are interested in. Tommy too. He might think he’s loyal to Dave, but in police custody he’ll crack.”
“I couldn’t get him to crack.” Ops. Teresa immediately regretted the remark.
“What do you mean? What have you been up to?”
“It was nothing. Forget it.”
“Tell me,” Joe insisted, “I want to know. I worry about what you get up to too.”
“OK. It was the evening that I met him at our mum and dad’s. I gave Tommy a lift home. I asked him a few questions about why he wanted to see you and about Dave Campbell. I got nowhere with him. In fact when I stopped the car he suddenly got out and ran away.”
“Yes. He’ll have been told to say nothing by Dave: threatened more like, but in police custody it will be different. He can’t run away from there.”
“ Yes. You’re probably right. I got the impression that if I had more time with him I would have got something from him. I’m afraid I didn’t handle it very well.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter now.”
“I don’t understand. You say Dave sent those boys up there to scare Martin. Why? What was in it for Dave?”
“Money. There was money in it. Somehow Dave has got involved with an anti IRA group or organisation. It’s very secret. No one knows who’s in this group. There might be Irish connections: I’m not sure. I don’t think even Dave knows much about them, but they have a lot of money. That’s all he cares about. He got money for that job, probably a lot more than he gave the boys that he sent to do it.”
“Why did the boys agree to do it?”
“I think they saw it as a bit of an adventure, and Dave, like I said, can be very persuasive. He told them it was fool proof: nothing could go wrong.”
“How did he know about Martin being involved in the IRA?”
That was the question that Joe was hoping would not be asked. It was he that made Dave aware of Martin’s past, or what he thought he knew of Martin’s past. But, he had no wish to talk about that.”
“I don’t know,” he answered, shaking his head.
Teresa didn’t pursue it. Relieved Joe moved the conversation on. “Do you know how Martin is now,” he asked
“Yes. I went to see him yesterday. He’s much better. He says he feels fine now. He’s even talking of going back to work. He’s certainly much improved, but,” Teresa shook her head. “I think he’s a long way off being ready for work. He still looks frail to me and he has a bandage on his head. He said jokingly that no one would see it with his cap on. At least he’s got his sense of humour back.”
“Maybe the bandage will be removed soon. A doctor I talked to said he was very pleased with his progress and that he could be discharged anytime. The problem is where to send him. He could go to a convalescent home, but Martin wants to go back to his old lodging house, ‘Mary’s’. He promised her that he’d be back he said.”
”I told him not to worry about that: Mary would understand. I think I told you that I met Mary when I was up there. She’s a lovely woman and, I’ve no doubt, she would welcome him back, but there’s a question of the suitability of the place. It’s a rough and ready house for working men. Martin needs somewhere more restful, for a while anyway.”
He wouldn’t be told
“Andy!” She exclaimed.
“This morning, in the early hours. I’ve been to bed. I’ve just got up.”
“You look great.”
“So do you.”
“We were neighbours,” explained Andy.
“No.” He’d almost forgotten what he was there for.
“Well, they’re taking the body to the church at seven o’clock this evening, and the funeral Mass is at eleven tomorrow.”
“Thank you Maggie. Where will I be sleeping?”
“In the same room as you had before.” She might have added, I couldn’t let anyone else have it. “Take your stuff up when you’re ready. I’ll be making a meal later, but, for now, I’ll make a sandwich. You must be hungry, and you Mary.”
“Don’t go to too much trouble.”
“No trouble. No trouble at all.”
“Can I help?” asked Mary.
“No. Stay there and talk to Andy. I’m sure you’ve a lot to catch up on.”
“Alone with Mary, Andy was still almost speechless. Although trilled, the situation seemed unreal; like in a fairytale; a dream come true. It was even better than in his dreams. Mary had been asking about him and was clearly overjoyed to see him. Sad as it was about Martin this was a funeral Andy would enjoy.
“I.. di..didn’t know you were coming.” Andy was stuttering and felt awkward.
“Not good.” She didn’t elaborate but went on to say, “I met your mother the other day. She’s great, and the family. She didn’t know if you’d be able to make it to the funeral, but she sent her love anyway.”
“I’ll do that.” Andy agreed. Then, turning to Mary, Maggie said, “go with him if you like Mary. He can show you around; introduce you to people.”
“I’d like that.”
“There’s no rush is there?” asked Mary as they approached a bench.
“No rush at all.” They both sat on the bench. The bench was facing a little pond where ducks were swimming. Still lost for words Andy was staring at the pond when Mary nudged him. “I should be annoyed with you Andy,” she said. “You never wrote to me.”
“I wanted to. I just didn’t know if I should.”
“Of course you should have.”
“Andy silently pondered her words. Then Mary turned to him. “I missed you Andy,” she said.
“I missed you too.”
“I can see you two get on well,” she told them. It was Saturday evening and Mary and Andy had spent the day in each other’s company. Another time Andy would have resented Maggie’s interference, but not then, even when she went on to ask, “What are your plans for the future?”
“Wouldn’t it be nice if you both lived here,” she said. They both nodded, unsure where she was going, although Andy was starting to guess. Looking at Mary Maggie went on “you finish school soon Mary?”
“College,” Mary corrected. “Yes. I finish this spring.”
“What are your plans then?”
“I’m not sure. I’d like to train to be a nurse. Castlebar is the nearest hospital. It a long way from us and I’m not sure if I could get in there anyway. There are some vacancies, but there are lots of applicants for each job.”
“Think about it Mary.” Maggie turned to Andy. “And you Andy, you’d have no trouble finding work around here if you wanted to come back. I’ve heard the building trade is picking up too. I saw you talking to John Mountin. I’m sure he’d find you work.”
“Yes. He said he would.”
“Well there you are.” Maggie turned back to Mary who was pondering what she was just told. Maggie didn’t give her time to sit on it. “The hospital is just a short bus ride away. I was a nurse there myself. I’ll take you there Monday: show you around; see what you think.”
“I’m going back Monday.”
“Can you delay it until Tuesday?”
“I would if I could let my parents know. They’ll be worried if I’m not there when I said I would be.”
“Yes. I understand. O K. Never mind. Instead, if you like, I’ll get you an application form and post it to you.”
“That would be great.”
It all went, more or less, to plan. Within a couple of months Mary was training to be a nurse at the hospital and living at Maggie’s. Andy also moved up to the area, but he stayed at Mary’s lodging house. Maggie didn’t think it right that they both stay under the same rook until they were married.
That wouldn’t be long. Within a couple of months they announced their engagement and were making plans for their wedding, which was sooner than they had originally planned. They planned to wait a year and then to be married by Father Downey in Broadfield. Then, thinking ahead, they realized that it would be difficult for Andy’s mother to attend and impossible for Mary’s parents. Mary’s mother, in spite of her failing health, expressed a wish to be at her only daughter’s wedding.
They returned to their home village to get married in their local church.
Martin Prendergast was not guilty of the crime he was blamed for, but there was no way to prove his innocence. Instead he has to flee to England for his life, never to return to the country and friends he loves. Forty years later Andy Horan also has to leave his family and girlfriend behind and go to England to find work. By chance he meets Martin and is delighted when he discovers that he and Martin grew up on neighbouring farms in the West of Ireland. However, he is baffled as to why his attempts to get to know Martin better are rebuffed.