Authors: Paul Carson
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Crime
Tuesday, 11th February 1997
The light was on. Lynch was sitting over the side of the bed, gasping for air, suffocating, shaking, knees trembling. One hand wiped his face clear from dripping sweat, the other grasped tightly onto the locker for support. He felt sick and struggled to the bathroom, leaning heavily against the basin, waiting to vomit. But though his insides heaved nothing came that might have eased the waves of nausea. Groping his way around, he found the shower, turned it on and played the spray of water across his face and body, turning it slowly to icy cold to wake himself up.
He sat on the wooden chair in the kitchen staring out at the early morning sky. The nightmares were becoming more frequent, so frequent that he now dreaded the dark and sleep. Daylight usually found him lying on sheets soaked with sweat. He was turning more and more to heroin for comfort and he knew only too well its danger.
Dean Patrick James Lynch had been born on 20th April 1951 in a maternity hospital in Portlawn in the Midlands of Ireland. That was all he knew about himself. The only physical evidence he had of his early existence was a tattered and grubby birth certificate confirming those basic details. There were no photographs of the young Dean Lynch, no letters or postcards to remind him of his childhood. They simply did not exist. The birth certificate was the only confirmation that he had a past, that he had been a child once.
He had grown up with nothing, no material possessions to call his own and he had continued throughout life that way.
Even as an adult, apart from a second hand car that was necessary for work and a few basic pieces of furniture, he owned nothing. Nor did he want anything. Growing up always wearing someone else's hand-me-down clothes, sleeping always in a bed someone else had vacated because they had been moved on elsewhere, struggling to fit into somebody else's cast off shoes, left him with an instinctive feel he would never have anything of his own. Every vest, every shirt, even the threadbare socks that barely kept the cold out during the long Irish winters he knew would one day be taken from him and passed on. And he knew why. He was a nobody.
Like the rest of the children in the orphanages he'd lived in over the years he was part of the flotsam of life in Ireland in the 1950s, abandoned, discarded and avoided because they represented sin, the sin of being born out of wedlock. The staff in charge of the institutions were often a mixture of religious orders and local authority appointees, most of them imbued with the religious fervour of the time. Inadequate state finance often led to harsh, strictly disciplined regimes to save on day-to-day running costs. There was no small change in the orphanage budgets for toys or food treats that might have made the children's lives more pleasant, their lifestyles more endurable. And if the children ever looked for any form of affection, any cuddle, any simple caress, any kind or consoling word to help at a difficult time they were rebuffed, often angrily, occasionally violently.
Dean Lynch was rejected so often he learned not to seek attention, not to expect any comforting embrace. He learned, too, how to avoid the beatings so often handed out for even the most trivial offence. In the orphanage he spent the years between his fifth and sixteenth birthdays becoming a master of self-control, of containment, of self-protection. Even at that early age, Dean Lynch's make-up was different from that of other children. He watched when other children were beaten and learned which of the staff were the most
dangerous, the ones with the shortest tempers. He made notes of when they were on duty and avoided them accordingly. It was in this orphanage that Dean Patrick James Lynch's personality was shaped. It was in this orphanage that he learned the art of apparent submission, of expressionless compliance.
And it was in this orphanage that he learned the art of carefully planned revenge.
He looked at his watch. It was 6.30 am. He pressed the replay button on the answering machine on the kitchen counter. 'You have one message, please wait,' spoke the mechanical voice. It was unusual for him to have any messages, unusual for anyone to telephone him at home, ever. But he knew what this message might be and wasn't surprised to hear Luke Conway's voice.
'Eh, Dean, I tried to contact you this afternoon but no one could track you down. Look I heard all about the carry-on in theatre today and I'd appreciate if you would call in on me tomorrow just to go over the events. Shall we say about ten o'clock? Thank you.'
Lynch poured himself a cup of coffee and went back to staring out the window, urging the morning light forward. For the tenth morning in a row he had no appetite for breakfast, the only meal he ever cooked for himself, the one meal he usually enjoyed. The coffee burned his mouth and throat. He swallowed another penicillin tablet.
At exactly the same time, in another part of the city, another pair of eyes was also staring at the daybreak.
Tommy Malone was sitting at the breakfast table in his red-bricked terraced house on Anderson's Quay, the morning papers spread in front of him. The kitchen window looked over the river Liffey with its collection of Guinness barges and container ships moored at the quayside, waiting to be loaded or unloaded. Tommy often spent hours on end watching the grey light break through in the morning, smoking cigarette after cigarette, observing the river traffic
struggle awake. Malone's kitchen window had one of the best views of Dublin port and docks, a view that was rarely dull. Every day, just as he sat down to listen to the eight o'clock news on the radio, he would open the window slightly to savour the salt and seaweed smells of the morning air, often mixed with the heady aroma of roasted malt that blew down the river from Guinness's brewery in St James's Gate. But that morning Malone's mind was elsewhere, the river traffic ignored.
He looked again at the headlines. O'BRIEN'S BABY! and THE £2M BABY and HARRY'S BOY and A BOY FOR HARRY! All the morning papers carried Gordon O'Brien's birth as their lead story. Inside, under an 'EXCLUSIVE' banner, the
featured a four-page spread accompanied with photos of Harry O'Brien, his family and home. The
had scooped the other dailies with a well researched and detailed reporting of how the previous day's drama had unfolded. The report even had a minute-by-minute breakdown of the emergency developing and how it was handled, naming the main participants.
Tommy read the
story for the fourth time. Then he folded the other three papers and pushed them aside. He pulled open a drawer in the table and rustled inside, finally producing a pair of scissors. He carefully cut out all the reports about the birth and background details of Harry O'Brien himself, studying the clippings carefully. Reaching inside his shirt pocket he tapped out a cigarette from a pack he kept there. Outside a horn sounded on one of the barges, sending seagulls squawking into the air as if cursing with fright. Oblivious to their raucous screeches Malone leaned back in his chair and lit up an untipped Sweet Afton, watching the hazy blue smoke drift slowly towards the ceiling.
He was hatching a plan.
Thomas (Tommy) John Malone was an ageing and failed criminal. Aged fifty-eight, his once five foot nine frame had lost an inch to advancing years. His fingers were almost
chocolate brown from nicotine staining and his eyebrows and eyelashes also showed smoke staining. Lack of money, lack of attention and years of drawing on cheap cigarettes had left him with stained and slightly crooked teeth. To cover this he had let his moustache grow thick and bushy so that it overhanged his upper lip slightly. He did wear decent clothes and kept himself clean and tidy, lessons he'd learned the hard way in gaol where poor personal hygiene could cause trouble in confined, shared cells.
He had grown up in the squalor of one of Dublin's inner-city flat complexes on Steevens Street, only minutes away from Whitfield Square and the Central Maternity Hospital. Tommy Malone had been born there in 1938 and was fifth of the eight children his mother had carried. Like most of the flats' residents he knew nothing else but crime from childhood. From as early as he could remember he had been robbing and stealing, hand bag snatching, smashing car windows and grabbing whatever was on view.
At his mother's knee he was taught that the Gardai were bolloxes, big culchie bastards from the country with big thick heads inside big thick caps. And they all had big red ears to stop their caps falling over their big stupid eyes. His father and uncles and older brothers were all involved in crime, all coming to sorry ends one way or the other, either ending up in gaol or in early graves from the ravages of drugs or criminal vendettas. Malone's father had been a pathetic alcoholic who'd staggered from one bungled robbery to the next and usually into the arms of the law at the end. It wasn't long before the young Tommy Malone. came to the attention of those same big thick culchie Gardai he had been taught so much to hate.
By the age of eight he had been before the juvenile courts no fewer than six times for petty theft. By sixteen he had been in and out of juvenile detention centres so often he'd lost count. He spent his twentieth birthday inside Mountjoy gaol on a three-year stretch for armed robbery and was back in again for his twenty-sixth birthday, this time for six years. By the time he was in his thirties Malone had moved into
buying and selling drugs for distribution among the many tenements around the inner-city areas. But the Dublin drug scene was in the process of changing dramatically; a number of small time criminals had decided to go big by carving out territories for themselves and now controlled the distribution for the entire area. Police statistics were now confirming what almost everyone in the capital knew, that as much as eighty per cent of all crimes in the Dublin Metropolitan Area was drug related. Official Gardai figures suggested there were approximately seven thousand heroin users in the city, each requiring up to sixty pounds a day to feed their habit. Tommy Malone quickly discovered he was on the outside of this drug business looking in and with no chance of a share in the action.
Over the next few years, he became known as a loser, a hit man with nothing to hit, a gangster without a gang. 'Tommy,' one of his long time buddies had advised him as he reached his fortieth birthday with yet another court appearance looming, 'get outa this, will ye? Yer fuckin' bad news. Ye can' even walk down O'Connell Street withou' the rozzers itchin' to pick ye up just for breathin'. Nobody wants to work with ye. The word's ou', yer a fuckin' loser.'
Malone had no intention of getting out, he knew nothing else. But the next gaol sentence, six months for receiving stolen goods, brought him abruptly to his senses. 'You're a season-ticket holder,' one of the prison guards laughed as Malone was driven from the courthouse after sentencing. It was there that it suddenly hit him. The total waste of his life, almost a third of it spent behind bars and the rest spent on the run from the police. He'd shared a cell with one of the real 'lifers', Harry O'Neill, a small time crook from the border who had shot and killed a Garda while robbing a bank. While a life sentence for most usually meant eight years, O'Neill was in for the rest of his natural life. And that wasn't very long, as Malone learned one day after his cell mate came back from the prison doctor. O'Neill died within a month from cancer, three weeks before Tommy Malone was released back into society. The prison sentence,
the gradual dawning of the waste of his life, the knowledge that the guards considered him a 'season-ticket holder', all rocked Malone. Watching Harry O'Neill being carried out on a stretcher from the cell was the final straw. 'There's no way I'm gonna be carried outa this place on a stretcher,' Malone muttered to his new cell mate the day before he was released. 'No fuckin' way.'
Now, he stubbed the butt into a tin ashtray, poured himself another mug of strong tea and rested his chin on his hands. He had split the clippings into three pieces. One read O'BRIEN'S the other BABY, while the third was £2M. He put the three clippings side by side. O'BRIEN'S… £2M… BABY. He rearranged them again. This time the £2M was put to the right of the table while O'BRIEN'S and BABY lay in the middle. Next he slid BABY to the left so that the three clippings were spread out across the table in a line. He leaned back in the chair again, lit up another cigarette and gazed out at the dark rain clouds as they swept in across the river. The weak winter sun had disappeared.
The Master's Office
'Have a seat, Dean.' Luke Conway pointed towards a hard-backed chair to the right of his desk.
Sitting only a few feet away and looking distinctly uneasy was Tom Morgan, dressed as usual as if he had walked straight out of the latest Armani catalogue. His navy blue suit was carefully cut to show off his tall, slim frame; his shirt faint pink with a white stripe. His tie was fashionably loose. His curly hair showed just a hint of grey around the temples.
Luke Conway studied both of them for a brief second over his half-moon glasses. There could have been no greater contrast than between the two men on the other side of his wide, leather-topped desk. One was tall and slim and dressed like a male model awaiting a photo call. The other smaller and stockier man looked as if he had thrown on the most ill-fitting, uncoordinated clothes possible to find in an Oxfam shop.
As Master of the hospital Conway had seniority over them. And as Master he was also in charge of discipline within the hospital. Even though Tom Morgan had been on the hospital staff longer than Lynch, they were of equal importance in the hospital hierarchy as consultant obstetricians/gynaecologists.
Conway's first instinct on hearing about the previous day's fiasco had been to suspend both doctors, but he knew such a move would have been splashed across the newspapers.
The emergency birth of Harry O'Brien's baby was the hottest news story of the day, even taken up by outside networks. If word filtered out that two of the consultants involved were almost at each other's throats while the operation was in progress there would have been uproar. Apart from the media having a field day, Conway knew that Harry O'Brien's two million pound donation would have disappeared like the snow in the ditch. And Luke Conway wanted that money so much.
'Dean,' he began, 'I have just had a long discussion here with Tom about yesterday's events in Theatre Two.' He paused and shifted in his chair as if trying to decide the best way of proceeding. 'First of all I want to thank you for the speed with which you responded to the emergency call and the manner in which you delivered that child. I'm quite certain you saved his life.'
Dean Lynch sat impassively, his gaze fixed at some distant spot slightly to the right of Conway's glasses. He might have been meditating for all the expression he showed.
'However,' continued Conway, his voice taking on a sharper tone, 'to abandon an operation half way thr—' He stopped in mid-sentence as a manilla folder was suddenly pushed onto his desk in front of him.
Lynch had produced it from inside his jacket and made an exaggerated show of opening it, revealing a sheaf of papers stapled together.
'You probably have a copy of this,' he interrupted, his voice slightly raised but carefully controlled. On the other chair Tom Morgan shifted forward.
'This is my contract with the Eastern Health Board. I spent a full hour reading and re-reading it before I came in this morning.' He looked straight at Conway and held his gaze. 'My contract is with the Eastern Health Board and the Eastern Health Board only. I have no contract, let me repeat that, no contract with this hospital whatsoever. I am answerable to the Minister of Health and his appointees on the Eastern Health Board for all matters, and that in particular includes matters of discipline.'
Luke Conway's mouth opened slightly as if he was trying to say something that would allow him to regain the initiative.
'If you care to read your copy you will see that I have agreed to provide specialist obstetrical and gynaecological services to the public patients who choose to attend the Dublin Central Maternity Hospital. Further on you will read that I am specifically precluded from the rights of private practice for as long as I continue to be employed by the Eastern Health Board.' He paused to let these words sink in.
Tom Morgan slunk back into his seat and studied the ground in front of his carefully polished Gucci loafers. Conway slipped off his glasses and leaned forward, taking every word in.
'In other words, Dr Conway,' the words were spat out angrily, the even temper replaced with an icy edge, 'my job is to look after the public patients in this hospital and the public patients only.'
Lynch closed over the manilla folder, stood up and leaned slightly against the desk so that he towered over Conway. He could not conceal his anger, or his contempt.
'Four times in the past four months I have had to perform emergency procedures in the private wing here.' He reached into a side pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small notebook which he flipped open at a marked page. 'I have done two high forceps and one Caesarean section for Dr Tom Morgan and dealt with a retained placenta for Dr Matt Grogan. All of these were their private patients. Where the treating doctors were on these occasions I do not know, nor for that matter do I care.'
He slipped the notebook back in his pocket, picked up the manilla folder, turned slightly as if to go out, then paused.
'I came here this morning out of common courtesy and nothing else. My days of being called before the headmaster are long gone, Dr Conway. If you have a problem with my performance or technical skills then I suggest you take it up with the Minister for Health directly. I'm sure he would be very interested to learn how much of my time is spent
looking after the interests of the one or two consultants here who can't even bother to turn up for their private patients.'
He was out the door before Conway could draw enough breath to reply.
The room was silent. Tom Morgan continued to stare at the floor. Finally Luke Conway spoke, his voice clipped, razor sharp.
Tom Morgan looked up to find the older man's eyes boring into his own.
'Dr Morgan, if it wasn't for the fact that this hospital can't take any more bad publicity I'd have you run out of here.' He tucked his glasses into his breast pocket. 'But there's more than just yesterday's fiasco I want you to know I'm aware of and prepared to act on if it doesn't stop.'
Tom Morgan's brow furrowed and he pulled at the knot on his tie nervously.
'I know that you have been having sexual relationships with at least two of your patients. For all I know there may be even more. While I can't exactly prove this I can tell you it's more or less common knowledge in the house.'
Morgan twisted awkwardly in his chair but said nothing.
'I'm warning you, Tom Morgan, and I'm warning you this once only. If you bring one whiff of scandal to this hospital or the staff here, I'll open such a can of worms you'll never practice in this city, or any other city, again.'
The subdued figure of Tom Morgan heading back along the hospital corridors was in stark contrast to the beaming and bustling Harry O'Brien as he strode through North Wing clutching enough flowers to open a small shop.
'Good morning, Sister; good morning, Nurse,' he boomed at anyone in uniform. Behind followed Theo Dempsey gripping tightly onto a bottle of champagne and grinning from ear to ear as he watched his boss's antics.
Big Harry had made a point of stopping and thanking anyone and anybody, from kitchen staff to hospital porter
to nurse's aide, from the moment he'd entered the hospital. He handed out cigars to expectant fathers, doctors, even the little grey-haired tea lady whose trolley he pretended to hijack. As she tried good humouredly to wrestle it back from him, he pinched her bottom and managed to slip a long-stemmed red rose down the front of her blouse. She crimsoned and clasped a hand over her mouth to stifle a fit of giggling.
June Morrison was just leaving room three when Big Harry spotted her.
'Sister Morrison,' he roared from down the corridor. 'My one and only Sister Morrison.' He rushed forward, a bouquet of twenty red roses clasped in his extended right hand. Before she could speak or resist he had planted a wet and sloppy kiss firmly on her lips. She blushed furiously and tried to regain her composure, aware of the giggles of the younger nurses watching on.
'Mr O'Brien,' she protested but Big Harry moved in again and grasped her in a bear hug.
'Sister Morrison,' he laughed. 'Sister Morrison, I love you to bits. Thank you for looking after my Sandra. Thank you for everything you did yesterday.'
Before Morrison had time to draw breath the big man had slipped past her into the room.
Inside Sandra O'Brien was lying back on a pile of fluffed-up pillows, her long blonde hair trailed to one side. Even without make-up and subdued by painkillers she still looked beautiful. Harry O'Brien paused at the door and just gazed at her, as if he had just seen her for the first time. A nurse sitting to her side made a quiet shushing noise but beckoned the big man in further. He tiptoed slowly towards his wife and laid a gentle kiss on her forehead. Sandra opened her eyes slightly and smiled. They held hands for a short moment but Sandra could sense Harry was itching to get over to his son and she released her grip.
'Don't wake him, I'm warning you,' she whispered, holding onto the thick padded dressings that protected the
long operation scar on her stomach. 'We've only just got him back to sleep.'
While Sandra and the nurse watched, Harry O'Brien, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Ireland, melted in front of the sight of his newborn baby lying fast asleep inside the same Moses basket he himself had lain as a baby. He stroked a finger hesitantly across the baby's left cheek, pulling back quickly as the tiny face grimaced, then sneezed. As he stared down, tears welled and he was unable to stop one plopping onto the blue babygrow beneath.
'What weight is he?' he whispered over his shoulder. 'Have they weighed him yet?'
'Seven and a half pounds,' Sandra whispered back.
'Oh, that's a good weight,' muttered Big Harry proudly. 'That's a good weight for an O'Brien.'
Through the partly open door Theo Dempsey watched and waited. And as he watched he couldn't help but think back to the bad days and nights he'd sat with Big Harry when he'd gone off the rails.
Harry O'Brien was chairman and majority shareholder in the O'Brien Corporation, one of Ireland's few multinational companies. Founded in the 1940s by his father, O'Brien's Herbal Cures, as it was known then, was one of the first companies to become involved in the developing pharmaceutical industry. Dan O'Brien, Harry's father, began dabbling in a range of herbal remedies and was soon able to produce them in modest quantities for sale to the public. The steady sales persuaded O'Brien Senior to look closely at the possibility of processing and distributing them on a nationwide basis. Never a man to rest on his laurels, he soon began looking for a partner and entered into negotiations with BPP, British Pharmaceutical Products. Selling a thirty per cent share in his company, O'Brien received close to a quarter of a million pounds, a fortune in 1947. The extra cash, the pharmaceutical research and development, and the distribution network that BPP provided ensured O'Brien's Herbal Cures were sitting on the shelves of almost every
chemist shop in Britain and Ireland. Dan O'Brien became one of Ireland's first millionaires in 1953 and the family became national celebrities as O'Brien sought to promote an entrepreneurial spirit among Irish businessmen.
Through it all his only son Harry grew up comfortable and secure, occasionally being caught in the media glare of his father's success. But young Harry realised early on in life that he would have to excel personally to match his father's record. And excel he did. While not academically brilliant, Harry O'Brien was a gifted athlete, representing Ireland in both track and field events and collecting gold medals at many European meetings. His progress through boarding school and on to university at Trinity College Dublin appeared effortless but was marked by hard work and extra tuition. Young Harry soon became Big Harry, as his six-foot-three-inch frame filled out, topped off by a mass of dark curly hair. He had an awkward, almost self-conscious look about him but he had a beguiling smile that won the ladies easily. However Dan O'Brien had young Harry well primed to the wiles of women. 'Some of those hoors are only gold diggers, Harry,' he'd warned repeatedly. So while Big Harry's hormones often urged him forward, his father's repeated warnings kept him in check most of the time. That is until he met Eleanor Dixon, a twenty-year-old raven-haired beauty from Cork city. She was studying French and Italian at Trinity while Big Harry was studying her. Eleanor Dixon led Harry O'Brien on a merry chase, refusing all overtures and only agreeing to a visit to the theatre after many months of dogged persistent requests. But Eleanor had as much of an eye for Big Harry as he had for her and romance soon flourished. They married in secret to escape the media and the suffocating attention of both families. Their first child, Mary, was born two years later in Denver, Colorado, where Harry had moved to study business and marketing.
Returning to Ireland in 1982 after the sudden death of his father, Harry bought out his mother and two sisters and became managing director of the business. He also bought
back the thirty per cent shareholding from BPP, even though his bankers almost gagged when they learned the price he was asking them to support. Within the first year he had taken over a small electronics company based in the Midlands and turned it round from just breaking even to showing healthy profit by specialising in the manufacture of medical equipment. By the time his next two children were born, Harry O'Brien had changed the company name to the O'Brien Corporation and expanded its range of products.