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Authors: Bartholomew Gill

The Death of an Irish Sinner

BOOK: The Death of an Irish Sinner
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Bartholomew Gill
The Death of an Irish Sinner

A Peter McGarr Mystery

For JONNA, whom I hear in the deep heart’s core

Contents

Prologue

A GREAT WRONG was righted on a bitter spring day…

Chapter 1

TWO WEEKS LATER in Dublin, the same woman who had…

Chapter 2

LITTLE COULD CHIEF Superintendent Peter McGarr have known that the…

Chapter 3

SO, IT CAME TO PASS that spring arrived with the…

Chapter 4

LIKE ILNACULLIN, BARBASTRO—as a brass nameplate declared—was a…

Chapter 5

CLIMBING OUT of the Rover in front of the house,…

Chapter 6

AT THE LAST flight of steps up to what amounted…

Chapter 7

A CAR WAS blocking the drive in the street outside…

Chapter 8

AT ILNACULLIN, MCGARR turned the car down the avenue of…

Chapter 9

BUT PARMALEE was gone by ten the next morning when…

Chapter 10

THE DAY WAS a spring ideal with wind and sun…

Chapter 11

BY LUNCHTIME, Ruth Bresnahan had returned home to Dublin to…

Chapter 12

RUTH BRESNAHAN knew from the moment she walked into the…

Chapter 13

FROM HIS LONG career as an amateur boxer, Hugh Ward…

Chapter 14

HUGH WARD’S ANGER had waned after his rousting of Dery…

Chapter 15

NOREEN MCGARR WAS in the kitchen of Ilnacullin early the…

Chapter 16

THE DOOR OF THE chemist shop in Dunlavin was standing…

Chapter 17

AT THE HOSPITAL, the most that the resident physician in…

Chapter 18

UNUSED TO THE mobile phone, Nuala fumbled with the device…

Chapter 19

BUT McGARR DID not proceed directly to Dunlavin. Instead, he…

Chapter 20

FOR TWO DAYS, Ward, Bresnahan, and McKeon followed Manahan, who…

Chapter 21

ON THURSDAY, day two of Noreen’s coma, McGarr received a…

Chapter 22

DR. WICHMAN, the American surgeon who had operated on Noreen,…

Epilogue

THE MORNING OF Noreen’s burial was stormy.

1990

A GREAT WRONG
was righted on a bitter spring day in 1990 when the German people rose up in outrage and sacked STASI headquarters in East Berlin.

For over three decades, 89,000 operatives of the
Staatssicherheitsdienst
—the State Security Service—and 170,000 informants had pried into the lives of East Germans, creating what many believe was the ultimate police state.

Children were paid to spy on their parents, householders were coerced into recording the comings and goings of their neighbors.

STASI records were so complete that body swabs were even collected from citizens and stored in her
metically sealed glass jars in case, later, fugitives had to be tracked down by dogs.

Most of the estimated 20,000 who stormed the hated fortress on that frigid day after reunification came to retrieve and destroy the data that had been compiled about them. Few entered the vast complex for any other reason.

One who did was not a German citizen, although she spoke and read the language well. A fit young woman of average height but powerful build, she spent three days inside STASI headquarters, making sure she had located and destroyed every last reference to a certain Josefina Maria Stanton-Hopf.

She also noted down the name of the only other foreigner who had requested and been allowed to view STASI files, nearly a decade before, undoubtedly for a price.

On her second and final night in the STASI complex, the woman was accosted by two men who tried to rape her.

She left one dead and the other paralyzed from the neck down.

PART I
IMMANENT JUSTICE

Christians, even as they strive to resist and prevent every form of warfare…have a right and even a duty to protect their existence and freedom by proportionate means against an unjust aggressor.

P
OPE
J
OHN
P
AUL
II

Our life is a warfare of love, and in love and war all is fair.

J
OSEMARIA
E
SCRIVÁ DE
B
ALAGUER (FOUNDER OF
O
PUS
D
EI
)

Dublin, 1990

TWO WEEKS LATER
in Dublin, the same woman who had visited STASI headquarters used a master key to enter the office of Francis Xavier Foley in fashionable Fitzwilliam Square.

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, and she assumed nobody would be about.

But she had only begun her search when she heard a key in the lock and in stepped Foley himself, she knew from the photographs she had been given of the man.

“You there!” Foley roared. “What the devil are you doing in my files?”

“What does it look like to a devil?” she replied, continuing her search as though his presence did not matter. “Aren’t you supposed to be on holiday?”

“Get out of that! Get out of that now!” A big man who weighed over seventeen stone in his fifty-second year, Foley rushed across the small room and lunged at her, only to find himself quickly down on the carpet with her foot on his throat.

“I could kill you now, but I need you to answer a few questions. Pick yourself up, close the door, and sit in that chair.” The foot came away.

“Those files are protected by law,” Foley complained as he rose to his feet unsteadily. His groin and neck were now galling him. “I’m a solicitor.”

“No, you’re not. You’re a blackmailer.”

“I should call the police.” Foley managed to reach a chair.

“Go ahead. Here’s the phone.”

It landed on the floor by his feet.

“Wouldn’t they be interested in what’s in here?”

As the pain eased, Foley took in the woman—late thirties or early forties with close-cropped blond hair, blue eyes, and a brace of gold rings pierced through the edge of one ear.

It was hot in the tiny office that Foley leased mainly for the upmarket mailing address, and she had removed her jacket.

Wearing only a tank top and tight slacks the same pale color as her eyes, the woman was either an athlete or some class of weight lifter, he judged. Her shoulders and arms were taut with muscle, and the rest of her looked just as fit.

Not a stupid man, Foley quickly considered his options. He could ring up the police, and surely they would arrest her for illegal entry. But she could—and
probably would—bring Garda investigators down on him as well. Foley did not want that.

It had taken much hard digging into the private lives of the country’s elite to get him where he was. Now Foley had a house on Killiney Bay, another in the Azores, a trophy wife and two young children, a mistress, and the sure knowledge that a steady flow of untaxable readies would come streaming in to him for the rest of his life, with nothing more for him to do than to keep his identity hidden. And his threats frequent.

Of course, all that was on hold, at least for the moment. At the very least, Foley would have to move his office and sequester his files, in case she both took what she needed
and
informed the police. Wasn’t it now wiser to discover whose dossier she was after? And how she had found him out? Then he would decide what to do.

“Can I help you with anything? What is it you’re looking for?” he asked.

“Is the information in these files on your computer as well?” She pointed to the machine on a table behind the desk.

“If you mean, do I back up my files? I do, surely. Here and elsewhere.” Hearing the sound of his own deep voice emboldened Foley, and it now occurred to him how completely the woman would disrupt his life if he allowed her to leave the office.

“Mark me, woman,” he blurted out. “When I discover who sent you, I’ll double what I’m owed or expose them. Just for the fuck of it.”

As though smitten by the word, she stopped her search, closed the filing cabinet drawer, and turned to
him with a brittle smile creasing the corners of her mouth. “Never,
ever
utter that word again in my presence.”

Fuck off, Foley wanted to say, but something fierce and final in her light blue eyes made him hold his tongue. It was as though, suddenly, her face had become a mask.

“You’re a thoroughly despicable human being,” she continued in an even but unnatural tone, stepping toward the computer. “For the better part of twenty blessed years you’ve been preying upon people for their weaknesses and indiscretions. It’s disgusting and totally un-Christian the way you’ve behaved. Have y’never heard the word
work
?”

Foley tried to suss out her accent, which was neutral but with now and again a certain flat twang, as though Australian or American.

Unplugging the monitor, keyboard, and printer, she picked up the central processing unit and turned to him. “Tell me, how’d you get on to Mary-Jo?”

Foley’s head went back, and a wave of adrenaline surged through his large body. Christ Almighty, he thought, it’s them. Little wonder she had found him out and got a key to the office. The bastards were so well placed, and they were everywhere.

For months after Foley had flown to East Germany over a decade ago and paid the equivalent of twenty thousand pounds Sterling to copy the Hopf woman’s file, he had agonized over blackmailing Mary-Jo Stanton just because of what was happening now.

Over and over, had told himself there were simply
too many of them, and it was impossible to know who they were.

And with God on their side and their entire history of claiming to be…what?—the successors to the Knights Templar—they would murder him without compunction if they found him out. So his reason had told him.

But the more information Foley gathered, the more bloody money he discovered they had. Billions, in fact. And the sorry truth was—Foley now admitted to himself—he had been unable to resist making the initial phone call and what he had thought then was an outrageous demand.

Which they had met in spite of Foley’s periodic and arbitrary increases for over ten thoroughly gratifying years. As well, he’d been careful, using three double-blind trusts instead of the usual two.

But now he was in the broth, big time. Could he talk or buy his way out? He didn’t think so, not in a thing like this, not with them. No apology and no amount of money would suffice. They could not tolerate somebody who was not one of them walking around with the knowledge of who Mary-Jo Stanton actually was.

Conclusion? Allowing the woman to leave the room would be tantamount to signing his own death warrant. He had no choice but to squelch her and flee the country as quickly as possible with whatever he could get his hands on. Foley had killed before; it was not hard.

He smiled. “Why not—I’ll tell you how I found Mary-Jo out.
If
you tell me how you got onto me.” Foley straightened up in the chair, his eyes scanning the
room. He needed something big, heavy, and near at hand. “Is it a deal?”

Still holding the computer as if it weighed nothing, the woman shrugged. “The Berlin Wall?”

Foley nodded.

“Perhaps you haven’t heard—it’s down.”

“And you were with the crowd that stormed STASI headquarters?” The brass desk lamp, he decided. He’d snatch it up and bash her head in.

“If you remember, they made you sign the cover of the dossier. Name, date, and your reason for viewing it. You said, ‘Next of kin.’ You should have used an alias.”

“I wanted to, but the agent I bribed was a right bastard. He made me show my passport.”

The woman nodded. “Which made my job easy. I suspected Mary-Jo’s blackmailer was Irish, somebody known to her. There are several Francis Xavier Foleys in the country, but only you knew her, albeit through your wife.

“And then, you’re a lawyer with no clients, a lavish spender with no known source of income. A liar, an adulterer, and a cheat.

“Now, your turn. You tell me how you formed your suspicions about Mary-Jo.”

“Suspicions?”
Foley asked, placing his hands on his knees and bending his head, as though chuckling. “Let me begin with the most obvious suspicion. First, there’s the painting.”

“The one in Mary-Jo’s study?”

He nodded. “You only need two eyes to see the resemblance. And then the name.”

“Josefina Maria and Mary-Jo.”

“Aye.” Foley guessed it would take him about a second to heave his bulk out of the chair, maybe another to snatch up the lamp, and yet another to lunge across the desk and smash the bitch’s head in.

“Also, there was the eternal biography she’d been writing for decades before I met her and is still, I’m told.”

“Of Escrivá?” The woman meant José Maria Escrivá de Balaguer, who had been the founder of Opus Dei, the most successful and—some said—the most ruthlessly self-serving religious order in the modern Roman Catholic Church.

Foley nodded, easing his weight onto the balls of his feet. If only he could get her angry and debating him. Why then he might have a chance. “She’s written big thick revelatory books about everybody else—why couldn’t she bring that project to fruition? I asked myself.”

“Because she’s waiting for Father Escrivá to be beatified, then sanctified,” the woman complained. “With an already completed manuscript and given her reputation as a biographer, she stands to make millions.”

“What does Mary-Jo need more millions for?” Foley scoffed. “Doesn’t the
Times
list her name as one of the country’s ten richest people, year in and year out? What number is she now—four? Or is it three? And that’s only what’s known about her wealth. Her
advisers
keep the bulk of it hidden.

“No,” Foley continued. “The reason she hasn’t completed that manuscript is because she either can’t bring herself to tell the truth about the thoroughly Machiavellian and unholy character that Escrivá actually was
in his lifetime and how he’s related to her. Or your crowd won’t let her, which explains why there’s always clergy about the house. Especially the boyfriend, Fred.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. Father Fred is not Mary-Jo’s boyfriend, he’s a man of the cloth,” the woman objected.

Foley glanced up to sight her in. “Right you are—the bed cloth. How can you ignore the facts and lies? Speaking of lies, Mary-Jo is down on record as telling the press and magazines that she was born here in Dublin in 1932.”

Foley shook his head and placed his hands on the arms of the chair. “What’s
true
is that Escrivá, whom your order calls
The
Father, is also Mary-Jo’s father, who in 1931—”

“Stop! I won’t allow you to derogate—”

But Foley, raising his orotund courtroom voice, spoke over her. “—who in 1931 was appointed chaplain of Madrid’s Patronato de Santa Isabel. At that time it was a church, a convent for Augustinian Recollect nuns and also a women’s college. One of the students there was a certain Beatrice Stanton—a beautiful parentless Irish girl of sixteen—who was expelled when it was discovered that she was pregnant.

“Some generous soul, it was assumed, took pity on her, and she was whisked off to another convent in Leipzig. There she gave birth to a daughter, listing the father as José Maria Escrivá.”

“A figment of a young girl’s imagination,” the woman objected. “Father José Maria was her confes
sor. She idolized and fantasized about him. And nothing more. Beatrice Stanton was an Opusian acolyte who was raped by a drunken socialist, and Father José Maria did, in fact, take pity on her. End of story.”

“Don’t be so naïve. Do you think that Escrivá—that paragon of piety who was busy building the most ruthless and militant order in the recent history of the Church—would suddenly single out one young pretty pregnant Irish girl to take under his wing?

“Escrivá,” Foley continued, his eyes falling on the letter opener on the desk blotter, “the priest who’s responsible for countless thousands of deaths, murders, and torture victims in South America and elsewhere?”

Would it be sharp enough? No. And too messy. He had to kill her quick and get out of there fast. “Escrivá—the priest who orchestrated the deaths of more than a few who wished to leave your order.”

“You don’t know that! Those are old charges, brought by corrupt journalists who have since been revealed for what they are.”

“Quite the contrary—it’s
you
who don’t know and don’t want to know. Who do you think put Perón back in power in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, and Arana in Guatemala, to mention only Latin American involvements? Who do you think assassinated Salvador Allende—the CIA?

“The American government had no real presence in any of those countries, but José Maria Escrivá’s order, your order, Opus Dei, did, with its army of zealous lay supernumeraries who could and did kill in God’s name. Admit it, you’re one of the assassins yourself.”

Still clutching the CPU to her chest, the woman was now visibly nettled. Her eyes had widened, and her jaw was clenched.

“And that same José Maria Escrivá is responsible for Beatrice Stanton’s incredible luck in Germany during the height of the Depression. There she was in 1933—sixteen years old, pregnant, penniless, and bereft in a country where she didn’t even speak the language.

“Suddenly she makes a brilliant marriage to the aged Karl Hopf, a wealthy landowner and devout Catholic, who felicitously dies within the year. Apoplexy, the death certificate says, leaving Beatrice Stanton-Hopf his entire estate. You can call that providence, but it was not divinely inspired providence. It was Opus Dei taking care of business.

“And no fool Beatrice.” Foley gestured with his right hand, in order to get it closer to the desk and lamp. It was the only object close by and heavy enough to do the work.

“In 1939, just as the war was beginning and the German economy was booming, Beatrice sold out her Leipzig holdings for a premium and came back here to Ireland, where for a song she snapped up what amounted to the western flank of the Wicklow Mountains.

“How did she know to do that?” Foley asked. “Instinct? Or was it that all along Beatrice and Mary-Jo have had a series of excellent advisers, interested parties who have steered them to one good thing after another. The same advisers who have made Opus Dei by far the richest order in the Catholic world. Why, you
even bailed out the Vatican in the 1970s, when the Church was awash in debt. Now you’re the Vatican’s banker.”

“That’s balderdash! Mary-Jo is a self-made woman. Her books have sold millions. Why, the film rights alone—”

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