Authors: Paul Carson
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Crime
It seemed as though Harry O'Brien could do nothing wrong, he had the golden touch. But all that ended on 20th December 1991. On a trip back from Dublin to the family residence in North Wicklow, the Lexus Eleanor O'Brien was driving collided head on with a sand truck. She never stood a chance, nor did her three children. That fateful afternoon Harry O'Brien lost his family. Within a month he was fighting for his own life in an exclusive London private clinic, having taken an overdose of drink and tranquillisers. He spent months in recovery and was a shell of his former self when he finally returned to work in the autumn of 1992. There followed eighteen very lonely months as he struggled to keep off the booze and get his life together again. But finally a new beginning came in the alluring shape of Sandra Greene, one of Ireland's top fashion models and twenty years younger than himself. Sandra, a long-haired blonde, had the style and grace of a Greek goddess with a quick wit and infectious laugh. They were introduced at a cocktail party and practically fell into each other's arms. They were married within a month, in February 1994.
As Dempsey watched the new family unit a sense of unease stirred inside him. He stepped back into the corridor, closing the door quietly behind, and sat down on a chair in the corridor. A nurse walked past pushing a perspex open-topped cot in which lay another newborn baby. Behind followed the mother, walking slowly, the bulge of her shrinking womb still obvious underneath her dressing gown. Dempsey smiled and she smiled back. He settled in the chair, picked
up a discarded newspaper and began to read. The lead story was all about his boss and the birth of his son. As he read Theo Dempsey's sense of unease increased. He wasn't at all happy so much of Big Harry's personal life was being made so public. He wasn't happy about it at all.
Theo Dempsey's unease matched that of Luke Conway.
'Cancel all incoming calls to me,' he directed his secretary. 'If there are any media queries about the O'Brien baby refer them to Central Information.'
He replaced the phone and gazed at the names of the Masters engraved on the huge brass mount on the wall in front of him. To be head of this hospital was a rare honour indeed. The Central Maternity Hospital had a worldwide reputation for research and development in obstetrics and gynaecology and was often visited by eminent international gynaecologists wishing to see at first hand one of the oldest maternity hospitals in the world.
During the 1790s, a Dr Matthaeus Goldsmith had been so moved by the plight of the expectant mothers he had come across in the inner-city slums he founded a 'Lying-in' hospital, a hospital for pregnant women, seeking to safely deliver them of their offspring and see that they and their children left in as fit and nutritious condition as could be afforded. The first child, one Patrick Michael Joseph O'Leary, was safely delivered on 27th March 1798 and the hospital went from strength to strength from then on. The two hundredth anniversary of the opening of the building was to be celebrated in the following spring and Luke Conway had the responsibility to see the institution up to and past that landmark date.
He was aware that slack discipline had crept into the
hospital over the last few years and now threatened its standards and reputation. So he'd had to swallow his pride and accept the strict government guidelines on new consultant appointments. When the vacant position in the public sector had been advertised in the medical press only one suitably qualified candidate, Dean Lynch, had applied. And Luke Conway had snapped him up before he could change his mind. He was beginning to regret it.
He picked up the
and read again the minute-by-minute breakdown of the previous day's events. Fortunately all the newspaper reports had painted the hospital in a favourable light with not the slightest hint of the conflict that had surrounded the emergency birth.
Luke Conway stood up and walked slowly to the window at the back of his office and looked out. It's time to get this house in order, he thought as he watched the traffic below. It's time to rattle a few cages.
Dean Lynch's whole body shook.
He sat at the desk in his consulting room, empty apart from himself, the outside corridors quiet during lunch hour. He looked again at his hands and tried to steady their agitated tremble. He could feel drops of sweat forming on his forehead and he wiped the sleeve of his white coat across it. Slowly, unsteadily, he stood up and went back to the mirror above the hand washbasin in the corner. He opened his mouth wide again and shone the light from a pen torch inside and stared wild eyed at the view reflected in the mirror.
There was no mistaking what he saw.
This was the third time in the past half-hour he had inspected his throat and he still could not believe what he had discovered. But it made so much sense. The sore throats, the rawness in his mouth, the lack of improvement from penicillin. He had been self-medicating for what he thought
was a straightforward throat infection. But he had a very different type of infection altogether, one that would never clear with antibiotics and one which had disastrous medical implications.
Dean Lynch had oral and pharyngeal thrush.
The first time he looked he could barely make out the white plaques, but as the torch lit up all areas of his mouth and throat there was no mistaking the patches of white, cheesy-looking material formed in wavy layers along the inside of his cheeks and back of throat.
The three medical terms for the same type of yeast infection sprang at him and rushed through his brain like express trains, whooshing and hissing, rocking his head from side to side. He sat down again, trying to control his agitation and trembling.
He knew only too well the implications of someone like himself developing thrush. His immune system must be compromised in some way. The part of his body's defence system that fought and controlled infections wasn't working. Thrush infections just did not develop inside the mouth in healthy males. While there might be a few simple and uncomplicated reasons in certain situations, Dean Lynch knew only too well they did not apply in his case.
Dean Lynch knew he had AIDS.
It was just after two o'clock and the afternoon's outpatients would soon be starting.
Outside he could hear the familiar sounds of chairs in the waiting room being moved and the occasional cry from a child accompanying his mother to the clinic.
Think fast, he urged himself, you've always been a fast thinker. Think, think. What are you going to do?
He slipped the lock closed on his office door and quickly washed his hands and face in the basin, eyes avoiding the mirror. He dried himself slowly and deliberately with a hand towel, taking great care to remove all traces of sweat from
his brow. Then he straightened his tie, buttoned up his white coat and unlocked the door.
Walking slowly and deliberately past the early arrivals he made his way to the medical library and checked inside. It was empty. He closed the door behind him and propped a chair against it so that anyone trying to come in would first have to push it aside, giving him a few seconds' grace. He quickly scanned the shelves lined with text books of obstetrics and gynaecology, until he came to the section dealing with infectious diseases. He flicked through one or two until he found what he wanted. In one large tome there was a detailed and comprehensive chapter on AIDS. Checking to make sure no one was about to suddenly disturb him, he ripped the pages out, folded them in two and slipped them inside his coat pocket. The textbook was carefully placed back on the shelf, its spine pushed slightly inwards so no one would see the title easily.
Back outside again he made an excuse to be alone. 'Nurse, would you ask Dr Sharif to look after this afternoon's clinic? I'm going up to the wards to check on one of my patients. You can page me if you need me.'
He made his way along the back stairwell to the 'on-call' bedroom where he sat on the edge of the bed, the pages from the textbook spread out in front of him. The 'on-call' bedroom was located in an inaccessible corner of East Wing and was never used during the day. As he read his hands shook. He felt slightly nauseated. The more he read the more his insides churned and heaved. The textbook set out clearly the staging of AIDS, the steps of disease progression.
By his reckoning he was already at stage IVcl, HIV related secondary infections:
There were only two further stages.
As he read details of the symptoms it was like a jigsaw coming together in front of his eyes. The recent night sweats, the bouts of nausea, the unexplained recurring diarrhoea he had put down to eating from unhygienic takeaways.
All these reflected earlier features. He was by now convinced the AIDS virus had totally destroyed his body's
defence system. And in his already tormented mind he decided he was dying. He didn't know when, he didn't know how, but he decided there and then he would soon be dead.
He finished reading and stood up slowly, mind racing, heart pounding. He knew what he should do, but equally knew there was no way he would inform Luke Conway of his suspicions. If he went along the orthodox and correct route his whole underlife would be revealed. He would immediately be suspended from working and almost certainly dismissed from the hospital. Next would come a Medical Council enquiry. There was no way he would allow the medical establishment, the very bastards he hated and despised, to look at the darkness under his stone.
They would have a field day.
He folded the textbook pages into his pocket again and set off along the corridors of East Wing, face rigid, jaw set in determination.
First find out if you really have AIDS, he told himself, then decide how to handle everything else.
Get the facts.
Find out exactly.
He walked as casually as he could, past a room where three newborn babies cried with hunger while their mothers padded around in slippers, watching as a nurse showed them how to prepare a milk formula feed.
Maybe you won't be positive, he tried to convince himself, maybe this is a simple infection you've picked up from some patient.
He heard the real Dean Lynch.
Fuck off, you've got it!
He slipped out of the hospital through the basement so that no one would notice.
Tommy Malone had spent most of the morning sitting at the breakfast table, deep in thought. Around his feet screwed up balls of paper lay scattered, all torn from a simple lined exercise book. By two o'clock he was left with only one page. On nine lines of the page he had written a name. A black felt-tipped marker scored out six. This left only three names and in his mind Malone had gone over as much of the personal details of each as he could remember. Finally, just before three o'clock he slowly stood up, stretched and gazed at the drizzle misting the view outside. He felt in exceptionally good form and a little hum hovered on his lips as he pulled on his raincoat. Checking that he had enough small change, he set off for the public telephone box beside the Esso garage. Malone never trusted private telephone lines, very much aware of their potential for bugging by the police. There's no doubt about it, thought Malone as he buttoned his raincoat tightly against the rain, there's nothing like planning a really big job to lift your spirits on a wet winter's day.
After a few false starts when the telephone numbers had been engaged or suspicious voices at the other end of the lines denied the existence of anyone by that name, Tommy Malone finally managed to contact all the members of his A-team'. It wasn't the 'A-team' he would have liked but the ravages of drugs, gaol, and a crack down by Gardai on organised crime had taken its toll on the Dublin underworld.
The only people he knew would work with him had listened and finally agreed to meet the following afternoon. Each had been sworn to absolute secrecy and he knew they could be relied on to keep their mouths shut. That's why he'd selected them. They were tough and hungry. More importantly, he knew they were clean from drugs, vital in what he was planning. Experience had taught him one lesson in crime, never work with anyone on drugs. He knew full well all they thought of was the next hit. This job would require clear and experienced heads. After he ticked them off one by one he made one last call.
'Is that ye, Tommy?'
'Aye. Listen, I won' be around for the next week or so.'
'Where are ye goin'?'
'I was thinkin' of goin' on a business trip.'
At the other end of the line he heard Betty snigger. 'Business me arse. I don' wanna know anyway, Tommy. Gimme a shout when ye're back.'
'Nah, Betty, I was wonderin' if ye'd come with me.'
'I can't tell ye now. Could ye meet me in Mooney's pub in an hour?'
'What are ye plannin', Tommy?'
'Can't tell ye, Betty. See ye in Mooney's, righ'?'
Betty Nolan was Tommy's current girlfriend and one of the few women he'd ever allowed himself to get close to apart from his late long-suffering mother. She and Malone shared beds at weekends when he wasn't plotting or involved in some crime.
Betty was the widow of one of Dublin's petty criminals, dead many years previously, but not by natural causes. Her marriage was doomed from the start as her husband-to-be had to pull an off-licence robbery on the morning of the wedding to pay for the reception. They'd had one child, a girl called Sharon, before Betty became a widow at the age of twenty-three. A robbery planned to pay for a holiday in
Spain went horribly wrong and her husband was shot dead trying to escape. Betty Nolan went back to scrimping and saving to make ends meet.
Tommy Malone muttered to himself as he walked towards the buses on D'Olier Street in the misty rain. This job's just gotta work out. This is the last chance for a really big wan. If I pull this off I'll clear off outa the country somewhere with Betty. It's just gotta work out.
Coat collar pulled up, drizzle misting his face, Tommy Malone waited for a bus to take him to Mooney's pub in the south Dublin suburb of Blackrock.
Tommy Malone had almost gone for the 'big wan' two years earlier. There had been a lot of hype in the papers about a famous painting being discovered in a Jesuit house in Dublin's Leeson Street. Tommy Malone had taken a keen interest immediately, relating the newspaper reports to a fellow hood one morning.
'It's real big stuff. There's some undiscovered treasure that's bin hangin' on the Jesuits' wall for years, and them not knowin' a thing about it all that time. Stupid bastards. Anyway, didn't they go and give it to the National Gallery in Dublin for the people of Ireland to enjoy' This made them even stupider bastards in Tommy Malone's eyes. 'I mean, it's worth a fuckin' fortune. They're talkin' millions, fuckin' millions. Some eejit on the telly said it was invaluable. Shows ye how much he fuckin' knows.' Tommy Malone didn't know much about painting, neither painting as in painting and decorating, nor painting as in art. But he knew when something was that valuable it would be worth a look at.