I don’t know why I came, don’t know why I go to these. It’s pissing down and freezing. I haven’t decided whether to go to the burial, but probably will, we always do. Thomas Dent is dead. Thank God say we. Thank God says every person and every family affected by his decades as Dublin's main crime lord.
Outside the church, a couple of photographers and Niall Healy from the Evening Journal tried to get me to stop and give a comment. Modern science is a wonderful thing and I’m often more than amazed at how science not only managed to mould a mound of shite into a humanoid structure just under six foot, but also managed to clothe it, equip it with a pad and pen and get it a job at the leading evening newspaper. I politely declined the offer. Polite means sticking with the second word of a well-known phrase, “off” and being at liberty to choose what precedes it.
On entering, I tried to sit at the back, but there was no room, the place was packed out with faces that would, and do fill mug shot books. So I had to sit near the front causing some uneasy stares and minor threats from those around me. As only a member of the Garda Síochána could. Though there was no reaction from the grieving sons of Thomas, Danny and Liam. Not even a flicker of recognition.
Funny the respect we show at these things, six vans probably wouldn’t be enough to pick up all the bail skips and outstanding warrants seated here, but even we have standards, sometimes. My standards and tastes though tend not to cover the parade of numerous black limousines that followed the hearse, and certainly not the garish display that has kept the local florist in business for a year. Various declarations of “Tommy”, “Dad” and even a floral pint of Guinness are strewn around the back of the hearse. What’s that thing that money can’t buy you? I’m half surprised there wasn’t a horse drawn carriage and a lone piper.
Apart from the numerous people around me modelling the latest designs in sports wear, there’s an old lady in a head scarf and blue trench coat. I’m not sure she even knows the family, more likely she’s been scouring the announcements in the Journal and decided this is a good way to spend a cold and wet Saturday afternoon in January. She turns to me with a non-too-sympathetic look or one that recognises a fellow curious outsider like herself.
“They always come in threes.” She said.
“Funerals, they always come in threes. Or so they say.”
“Right. Does that just include me or the other two hundred people also sat here? I mean If we’re all going to suddenly witness three deaths, that’s six hundred funerals just us sat here can expect in the next few weeks, or whatever time period you’re attaching to this superstition.” Is what I should have said, instead it came out something like a noncommittal “Meh.” She still turned around in disgust.
In the front row sit the family, his widow and his two sons along with his remaining siblings. Father Eoin has just said Thomas was a loveable rogue. Maybe. He was a pleasant enough man to talk to and he did look after his family. So yeah, maybe he was loveable. Definition of rogue though has been stretched. Poetic licence, especially seeing as there are at least fifteen murders still open on my desk linked to him, plus the other five we definitely know was him but just haven’t been able to get any people to come forward on. What about loveable evil shit? Probably a good idea I’m not a speech-writer then. God seems an ok guy though and I should get to know him better. Father Eoin reckons Thomas is going to heaven, Thomas is only a loveable rogue, so who knows what it takes to be an evil bastard in this God’s eyes, but at least it gives me hope.
There was a buzzing coming from my coat pocket. I’d put the phone on silent before coming into the church, but had forgotten it vibrated and it was now drumming off my house keys. Apart from general tutting around me (though they never even raised an eyebrow when several beeps and high pitch versions of dance songs went off previously)…I keep forgetting I’m different. Anyway, their tuts become even more venomous when I had to squeeze past whilst they were all kneeling in prayer to take the call.
“Jim Byrne.” I said.
“What?” I try to yell, but with some respect and as quiet as I can be outside, though I’m not sure why. There was certainly no respect for Dent, but then churches of any denomination always make me feel like a guilty eight year old. The despatch back at The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation was not only hard to hear due to the weather, but also appeared to be talking some form of nonsense.
“There’s a guy in hospital, we need someone to interview him. He, well, he’s freaked the nurses out a bit and he wants to give a statement to us. And, well Jim, you’re down as being on call.”
“I’m always on call. Send a uniform down.”
“We did and they reckon we need a Detective down there.”
So here’s the choice, freeze my bollocks off while they finally put that bastard in a big hole in the ground (rather than send a bouquet I’d toyed with the idea of sending several tonnes of concrete just to make sure he was properly buried), or go along to Beaumont A&E and interview some drugged up nut who’s decided to scare the Nurses. Depressing it may be, but at least Beaumont will be warm.
Sure I have warmth but at what cost? I’m sat next to a radiator with my back now resembling crispy duck and the rest of me drenched in sweat. I’d have been more comfortable at the graveyard. The guy in question seems to have played a good card, as by pretending he’s nuts, he’s bypassed the two day wait in a trolley on the corridors and has managed to find an actual bed in an actual ward. However, I have to sit here in the waiting room with all these “serious” casualties with their sprained thumbs and sniffles that just couldn’t wait or heaven forbid they just get over it. Eventually a nurse comes down to take me to the ward.
I could have gone myself, but I always get lost and end up walking in on the maternity ward at feeding time or the old lady ward at bed bath time.
We find him and he’s got a room to himself and he’s sleeping. I bring the chair to his bedside loudly enough so that he soon awakes.
“Detective Jim Byrne, you have a statement you wish to make sir.”
“Uh, yeah, just let me get some water.”
I pass him the glass of water that felt hotter than the room and seemed to have all the purity as if it had come direct from the Ganges via the bladder of a dead goat.
"What's your name son?"
“Thanks. Peter Lyons. Ok, well I told the guard here earlier what happened, but he didn’t seem to think it was his area.”
“No offence sir, but if it’s a case that might involve some work, I should tell you that it’s a pretty packed afternoon of sporting fixtures this afternoon and so he’s probably reluctant to take on much that may involve missing any of the matches. It doesn’t necessarily mean what you have to say is that special, just he knows I don’t like football or rugby.”
“Erm, thanks. You always this blunt?”
“About eighty percent of the time. Other twenty I’m just obnoxious.”
“Fine, I won’t keep you. Not much to say really, not too sure why I’m here. I mean in this room. I just blacked out in the Eddie Rockets, and well next thing I’m here.”
“No sir, that’s all right. See we investigate every case of lost consciousness, especially ones involving a chain of faux American Diners. That happens to be my speciality in the guards.”
“This is the other twenty percent right? Yeah I blacked out, but it’s more what happened after, or during, I don’t know. I never asked for the gardai, just that the nurse check with them. I think I saw something and just wanted it checking.”
He sat up at this point. It’s amazing how even up close someone lying in their most vulnerable position (their favourite sleeping position) can appear so different. He was a young (about twenty two I’d say) tall guy, probably good looking, not that I’d be a judge of that, he just carried an air of being good looking and knowing it. Which, all in all, isn’t bad for someone who’s passed out in a diner, been passed off as mad in a hospital and been woken up by a grumpy detective.
“Why don’t we just begin at the beginning?”
“I live around Phibsourough and had gone out to Eddie Rockets because I hadn’t eaten for a day. I’m an artist, it can happen when on a roll, you try to get it all out before you hit a block again. Anyway I had fries and a chilli burger and I was almost finished when this girl passed. As she passed someone else was coming the other way and she stopped near me to let them pass, as she did, she hit off my shoulder. Then it all went weird.”
“Weird? I’m afraid to say that unfortunately weird isn’t a specific legal term at this moment in time.”
“Weird as in why I’m here.”
“Blacked out. No. Look. When she hit me, I think I passed out, but before that I saw her. Not there, not then, but it was her. She was dead or dying. I was…I mean someone was stabbing very slowly. It was me, or I was seeing through their eyes. It was like I had all the time in the world just smiling at her like it’ll all be ok and over with very soon. She was there, naked and she was being killed with a knife. When the slashing had stopped I could just see her naked. Naked and dead. There was blood everywhere, I could smell and taste it.
“But through all that, she was looking at me, and I could see her face. THEN I blacked out.”
“So you had a bad dream and then passed out? Maybe the chili was off.”
I’ve been here before. Bloody psychics. So many times we’ve been working every hour to solve a case. Chased every lead, searched every area, spoken to every possible person we can only for some dear old lady to come forward and claim the spirits can tell her where the body is. Naturally we consider everything in the investigation, we’d be slated for not doing. So this old dear with her open channel to the spirit world manages after an hour to come up with the vaguest information possible.
In the end we have a list of points telling us that the body is to be found in some woods, off the main walkway and there may be water nearby. Well feck me! She’s solved it, now we just have to track down a wooded area with a walkway and water nearby…oh wait that’s all of them in the fecking country. Cheers.
So what happens then is we continue to work our bollix off and eventually through pure slog and some even greater pure luck we find the body. Yes it was in some woodland, I’ll accept that, but then outside of leaving them in the street or a house for us to find in a few hours, where else is someone going to hide a body? That’s right, the woods. And would you leave it on the walkway, erm no someone will see you, so you take it off. And let’s face it, this is Ireland, it’s wet. Try being more than three feet away from water of some kind at any one point in time. Then what happens? Do we get credit by anyone for our work? No. All of a sudden this dear old lady sells her story of how she helped us solve it and we’re made to look like incompetent fools who should employee these cranks on a full time basis.
So forgive me if I am being a bit short with this kid. Any possible humour that there might have been in his face has now disappeared.
“Detective, I’ve told this tale three times now, and yes everyone has been the same in their response. All I asked was if there has been any incidents or bodies found. The vision, or whatever, freaked me out and I just wanted to make sure it was bad chili, or the fact that I’m knackered. I never asked for you.”
“Sure, look I’m sorry. But we’ve all had bad dreams, we’ve all dreamt of family members, car crashes, plane crashes and woken up expecting something to be on the news or a phone call and it never happens. It happens all the time. What time did this happen?”
“I went there about four o’clock, I think the ambulance came at half four or so.”
And that’s it, the extent to my Saturday so far, one funeral, one sauna like packed hospital and one guy who passes out due to hunger and tiredness and thinks he’s the next Nostradamus. I left him to his sleep and made for the exit. As I got outside the furnace of the hospital and was hit by arctic conditions, I throw my notes of the conversation in the bin on the way out.