Authors: Paul Carson
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Crime
'I'm with you all the way'
'Right. So who's going to turn up in the Central Maternity Hospital laboratory at near eleven at night that she doesn't feel threatened by?' Dunne looked McGrath straight in the eyes again.
McGrath returned the gaze. 'You tell me.'
'I'm not telling you anything, Detective Inspector. But my gut instinct tells me that you shouldn't spend too much time looking for our murderer outside the hospital.'
'You think he actually works in the place?'
'Anything else you feel I should know about or look for? You're the doctor. You know how these places work.'
'Look for the foil that held that blade. Take this one and look out for one similar.'
Dunne reached into his pocket again, producing a small foil. He handed it to McGrath who turned it over two or three times, noting packet size and lettering.
Paragon Sterile Stainless Steel Blade: Sterilised by Gamma Radiation: Sterility Guaranteed if Package is Unbroken: Blade No. 23: Made in Sheffield England.
'The blade came from a foil like this. It may still be in the lab or even one of the examination rooms along the corridor
leading up to the lab. Look for any room on that level or any other level that has an old sterilising unit. Check also for any surgical glove wrappers. Check wastepaper baskets, sink units, anywhere our man might have got careless and dropped the blade foil or glove wrapper.'
McGrath looked at Dunne with obvious dismay. 'I hate hospitals. I was hoping this was going to be a simple case, like some guy looking for drugs or something. The more you tell me the more I don't like what I hear.'
Dunne grinned. He hadn't seen McGrath so uneasy before, and he knew the forensics were loving every minute of his discomfort.
'Did you find anything more about how our man got in and out of the hospital?' Dunne asked.
'Security says he could only have got in and out through the basement or the wards, certainly not the main entrance or he would've had to go past them. He could've sneaked down through the wards and back out that way again. But so far nobody's seen anything.'
Dunne thought this over for a minute. 'I'd say he used the basement. I can't see anyone doing what he did and then ambling back through the wards as if nothing had happened. I'd bet on the basement.'
McGrath stroked his moustache. 'Then he must know that hospital fairly well. He must know how to get in and out without being seen. That's worrying.'
Dunne nodded slowly. 'Now, Detective Inspector, you know I'm not the sort of man to get overly dramatic about murder cases.' McGrath looked at him sharply. 'And I have no great desire to sound overly dramatic this morning—'
'But…' interrupted McGrath.
'Indeed. But I have a feeling this isn't one of your ordinary run-of-the-mill murders. This man is too well organised for my liking. He's covered his tracks carefully. He could easily strike again.'
The room went deathly quiet. Outside a car horn blared, nearly lifting Garda Phelan out of his skin.
McGrath slipped the scalpel blade foil into his pocket and
stretched his cramping legs. He looked around at the green cloth covered body on the central autopsy table. 'I hope you're wrong, Dr Dunne. I hope you're wrong. I hate bloody hospitals. I'd like to sort this one out quickly.'
'You'll have my full report this afternoon,' said Dunne standing up. He began to put away instruments.
McGrath walked slowly past the body on the table. A lifeless hand, wax-like, showed from beneath the drapes. I hope there's gonna be no more like you, he thought as he left.
Tommy Malone sat in one of the front rooms of Hal's Snooker Emporium waiting for his A-team to arrive. As he waited he puffed smoke rings into the air.
Hal's Snooker Emporium was a favourite meeting place for a number of small time Dublin criminals and was situated above a group of three shops along a side street in the south Dublin suburb of Monkstown. One of the shops was a hairdressing salon run by a girl called Eileen ('Late of New York'), the second a dry cleaners, while the third was occupied by a solicitor who specialised in personal injury litigation. His business was booming.
The entrance to the emporium itself was a reinforced steel door at the top of a concrete staircase to the side of the building. Just inside the front door Hal had positioned a chipped formica-topped desk and stacking chair where one of his henchmen sat, ostensibly checking membership status, but in reality keeping an eye out for police raids. The emporium was divided into a main hall which held eight full-size snooker tables, and three small rooms to the front of the building which overlooked the road outside. The hall was in almost constant use, mainly by the unemployed and hopeless youths of the surrounding areas. The air was usually heavy with the smell of cigarette smoke and stale beer, peaking on dole day, and occasionally was laced with the sweet aroma of hashish.
The middle of the three front rooms had a specially
strengthened door with strong bolts inside. A fire burned most days, even at the height of summer, in a small cast-iron fireplace and in the middle of the floor stood a half-size snooker table. The fire was kept well stoked by Hal himself, a small weed of a man with a row of nicotine-stained teeth and greasy hair. Hal rented the middle room out on an hourly basis and charged top rates. The strengthened door and strong bolts prevented quick entry to the room in the event of a raid, while the burning fire allowed incriminating evidence to be destroyed. Tommy Malone had used Hal's Emporium on a number of occasions in the past. He had a feel for the place, believing it was lucky for him. No job planned there had gone wrong.
He warmed his bottom in front of the fire, still blowing smoke rings into the air.
'Moonface' Martin Mulligan was the first to arrive. Six feet tall and fifteen stone. Although only in his early thirties, Moonface was almost bald and had the unfortunate habit of dragging his remaining Weetabix-like hair across his pate. His round face added to a final unattractive result. Moonface was a strongman with a vicious temper. No one had ever been known to call him Moonface to his moonface. He was dressed in a Manchester United tracksuit with a red and black scarf around his neck. Moonface was a big soccer fan. While Manchester United was his favourite English premier league team, he reserved all his passion for the Ireland soccer team. He followed Ireland wherever they played and tried to arrange his 'work' around their fixtures. When Ireland played in the 1994 World Cup in the USA, Moonface had robbed three bookies inside two weeks to get the money for the trip. When they had progressed further than even Moonface predicted, he robbed an all-night pharmacy in Orlando, Florida, where the team were playing, to keep his cash flow going. Moonface would die for Ireland if he had to. So far that hadn't proved necessary. Despite his hard-man reputation and activities, Moonface still lived at home with his mother in a corporation housing scheme in the Dublin suburb of Rathmines. To Ma Mulligan, Martin was
still her baby - she continued to do all his washing and ironing and fretted when he wasn't home at a sensible hour.
'Howya Tommy? Fuckin' freezin' outside,' said baby Mulligan.
'Howya Martin? Hit a few balls around till the others arrive.'
Next to arrive was Sam Collins, dressed as usual in black. Black trousers, shoes and socks, black turtleneck sweater under a black corduroy jacket. His jet black hair was pulled into a short pigtail at the back. The only break with the colour scheme was a silver ring in the top of his left ear which Collins had the habit of fingering at when he was nervous or excited.
'How's about ye Tommy?' Sam Collins came originally from Newry in Northern Ireland and even though he had been living in Dublin for eight years had never lost his strong Northern twang.
Collins spotted Mulligan and tipped his rolled-up copy of the
'How's about ye Martin?'
Sam Collins was an edgy, shifty character. He slipped over to the window and squinted out as if he expected the place to be surrounded by police. This wouldn't have been surprising for Collins was an ex-IRA explosives expert who had seen his fair share of house-to-house searches by the RUC. He knew what it was like to be on the run. In fact he was so used to it, it had become second nature. When the IRA declared a ceasefire on midnight 31st August 1994, Sam Collins quickly realised he would have to do a bit of freelance work to make ends meet. Since he didn't know anything other than guns and explosives, he quickly drifted into the Dublin underworld as a hired hand. When the IRA resumed hostilities with a massive bomb in London's docklands on 8th February 1995 Collins eased himself away from their activities and paid only a token lip service to 'the cause'. He held on to his small cache of weapons and explosives and rented them, or himself and them, to the
highest bidder. When the IRA command learned of this the word was put out that Sam Collins was a traitor to the cause and would be eliminated if he continued with his antisocial activities. Collins went into hiding, not keen to present himself for a trial and almost certain execution. Like Tommy Malone, Sam Collins was looking for a 'big job' with a big reward and the chance to get out of the country.
'Have a seat, Sam,' suggested Malone. 'There's wan more to come.'
Collins sat down on a long wooden bench that ran along one wall and flicked open the paper, pretending to read. His eyes took in the scene behind the pages.
Only the crack of billiard ball against billiard ball broke the silence.
After about fifteen minutes a faint tap set Malone to his feet. The door opened slightly and a small, dumpy woman dressed in a cheap fake leopard coat peered inside. 'Is that ye Tommy?'
Malone opened the door further. 'Come on in Peggy.' He closed the door and slid the bolts across, then pulled a chair against the handle, jamming it tight. Mulligan and Collins looked at each other, puzzled. Collins shrugged his shoulders and turned back to the paper.
'How's Monty?' asked Malone.
'Not grea', Tommy. He's not doin' at all well this time.'
'Peggy, this is Martin Mulligan and Sam Collins. Ye remember Sam, he was on that job we pulled with Monty down in Cork a while ago.'
'Howya Sam? Freezin' out.'
Collins nodded. If he was aware of the weather he gave no sign. The woman's presence unsettled him.
'Sit down Peggy. Martin, would ye sit down now? I told Hal we'd be outa here by four.'
Mulligan joined Collins on the bench, sitting about five feet away. Peggy Ryan sat on a chair Malone had pulled up for her.
'This is Peggy Ryan. She's Monty Ryan's wife. Monty's in Mountjoy doing a twelve-year stretch for armed robbery.'
Malone was setting out Peggy Ryan's background. He could sense the two younger men were unhappy at her being there.
She looked at them and said, 'He's not copin' with this stretch at all. He's not copin' at all.'
Neither Collins or Mulligan spoke.
Malone sat up on the billiard table. 'Peggy's an important part of this job. In fact if she doesn' like what I'm gonna say the whole thing's off.'
Collins slowly lowered the paper. He looked again at the woman, this time with more interest. Collins was a bit of a loner and didn't socialise well with women. He sensed he had better take an interest in this one, though.
'I'm gonna set out the background first,' began Malone. 'If anywan doesn' like what he hears then stop me. I don't want anywan pullin' out at the very end. This is the last big job I'm gonna do for a long time and I don't want it fucked up from the beginnin' by somewan backin' out and then shootin' his mouth oft'
Nobody spoke. Peggy Ryan looked at Malone with almost hero worship.
'There's six hundred grand for each of youse within five days of the start.' He paused to let this sink in. 'Anywan want out now?'
Nobody spoke. Moonface picked at his nose and inspected the result.
'It's a kidnappin'.' Pause, long pause. 'Anywan want out now?'
Nobody spoke. Sam Collins rolled up the
and stuck it behind his back. This was sounding interesting.
'It's gonna be a big job and I'm askin' three million. That's six hundred thousand big wans for each of youse and twelve hundred grand for me. That's 'cos I've got all the know how and the perfect hideaway.' Malone shifted slightly on the billiard table. 'Anywan want out now?'
'No, Tommy,' whispered Peggy Ryan. Six hundred thousand big 'wans' was hard to walk away from. She was scrimping and saving desperately now that Monty was back inside.
Still neither Collins nor Mulligan spoke, each trying to take in what Malone was unfolding.
'We're gonna kidnap a baby.' He let this one sink in for much longer. 'Anywan want out now?'
'I need to know now if youse is in from here. Nothin' else comes outa my mouth from here on unless youse is all in. Are ye in Martin?'
'Fuckin' sure. It beats robbin' bookies any day of the week.' Moonface laughed at his own little joke. No one else did.
'What about ye Sam?'
'I'm in, Tommy. It sounds okay to me.' Sam Collins' brain was ticking away in overdrive. This sounded just the sort of job he had been looking out for for a long time, this sounded ideal. What he didn't like about it was Tommy Malone. Even though he had been on two small robberies with Malone that had gone all right, he knew of Malone's reputation as a loser. He decided to hold tight and listen to what else might pan out. But he wasn't sure Malone was the right one for a big job.
'What about ye, Peggy? Now ye know why ye're here.'
Peggy Ryan had eleven of her own children and four grandchildren. Monty Ryan might have spent most of his life behind bars but he'd had an active sex life when outside.
'Sure, Tommy. Whatever ye say, whatever ye say. I could sure do with the money.'
Malone looked at them each again, and then continued.
'Harry O'Brien is a multi-millionaire Christ knows how many times over.' Malone began unveiling his plan. 'He's president of the O'Brien Corporation and it's worth a fuckin' fortune. He married a young wan a while ago and she's just popped a baby. The papers say he's promised to put up two million for the Central Hospital to mark the occasion. If he can put up two million just to mark the occasion he can fuckin' well fork out three to get him back. We're gonna kidnap Harry O'Brien's young fella.'
His co-conspirators listened impassively. Tommy Malone
might have been relating a plan to put Shamrock Rovers back in Milltown for all the expression they showed.
'Look at it,' continued Malone enthusiastically, 'we won't have to go round wearin' masks to stop the young fella from seein' our faces. We don't have to worry about him tryin' to escape. We don't have to worry about movin' him around. We don't have to worry about him pickin' us out in an ID parade. We don't have to worry about leavin' him back when Big Harry's paid over the ransom. He can be dumped outside any hospital. All we have to do is feed the little bollox and change his nappy.'
Both Collins and Mulligan started to protest. They could handle a kidnap, even a bit of heavy muscle if it came to that. But changing nappies was way out of bounds.
'That's where Peggy comes in,' Malone interrupted. 'Peggy knows all about babies, don't ye, Peg?'
'I do Tommy, I do.' Peggy Ryan was delighted. 'Jaysus, all those years of rearin' children might actually come in useful, after all.'