Saturday 1st March 2014
It was a mild day for that time of year. But if the weather
forecast was to be believed, a severe cold snap was on the
way. Their early morning walk brought them into the field
next to the house. The upper portion was spongy under
foot while the lower portion had succumbed to the river.
Truman returned with the ball in his mouth. His tail
wagged as he waited for her to throw it, which she did. The
night before Cathy had a text message from the sergeant,
the checkpoints and house-to-house enquiries up to then
had yielded nothing.
Cathy had arrived down from Dublin exhausted. Her
last case had been difficult. A mother battered to death
by her only daughter high on cocaine at the time. A father
blaming himself for ignoring her drug addiction. Typical
guilt from a parent afraid to rock the boat, something
Cathy could understand.
The last morning on the case, she had fainted. When she
admitted to her doctor she wasn’t sleeping, he suggested
sedatives. She’d been prescribed them after her marriage
break-up but had found it hard to wean herself oﬀ them.
Due a pile of holidays, she reckoned a couple of weeks down
here with the help of a good tonic would be more beneficial
than any sedatives. It felt good to breathe in fresh air, be
close to nature and miles away from the Bureau and all its
When Truman returned she pocketed the ball and leashed
him before leading him out onto the road. She imagined
Ned Cunningham standing in the porch and falling after
being stabbed forcefully in the leg. Why so forcefully?
Why hadn’t he been dragged into the living room, tied
up and beaten? That was usually what happened in such
attacks. And what were they searching for that led them
to rip the armchair cushions apart and dislodge turf in the
shed? Whatever it was, she wondered if they had found it.
She quickened her step along the road. Approaching
the junction, she decided to walk through the village;
something she seldom did. Halfway up the street she pulled
her cap down tight over her ears at the sight of the plain clothed
sergeant across the street heading for the station.
She had seen him a couple of times before he arrived at
her door yesterday. A good-looking young man in a rough
imperfect kind of way with dark sombre eyes.
From what she’d been told by her neighbour Molly, the
villagers liked him. What mystified Cathy was why he had
been posted to the village in the first place. She’d found
him astute in the way he presented facts without adding
unnecessary jargon. And no matter how charming the
village was, he belonged in a larger town.
On reaching the bridge, she had the urge to head across
but knew, for Truman, the confinement of the narrow
path was unsettling. She turned to track back the way she
came. If her good opinion of the sergeant was unfounded,
if he couldn’t pull his weight or had difficulty handling
the workload she’d have no qualms dropping him from
Even if she had wanted to, there was no way she could
have refused to help; this was where she had spent her
holidays growing up. The place her father refused to leave
when he fell ill, wanting only those he could depend on to
look after him. And they did. Pay-back time.
Thursday 6th March 2014
The church was full. But then a small crowd would fill it.
Matt stood at the back and watched Harry Short and his
mother head up the aisle to take their place in the front
pew. On the opposite side sat Jacinta next to a woman he
didn’t recognise, Aoife next to Josh and then Chris. Half
way down the aisle was Tess with her group of friends. DI
Spragg sat in the last pew by the door.
Fr. Hanley spoke in an appropriate solitary tone. Only
three years in the parish he admitted he didn’t know Ned
‘He was considered by those who knew him to be a
kind and sincere friend. A valued member of this small
community, he will be sadly missed.’
Matt reckoned if events of the day were thin on the
ground, those words would be re-echoed on the evening
news. When the Mass finished, Ned’s coffin was rolled
down the aisle to the choir’s rendition of Going Home.
Harry Short walked behind the coffin with head bowed,
his mother held a mournful expression aware no doubt
of the attention bestowed on her. Jacinta was ﬂanked by
Aoife on one side and the stranger on the other. Chris held
Josh’s hand. Tess cried while she held the arm of her friend
Matt arrived outside and stood in by the Church wall.
Lucy O’Brien, next to her husband nodded when she
caught his attention as did Molly Molloy with her son,
Billy. Matt noticed how Ned’s friend Matt Quinn walked
with more of a stoop than usual.
The DI came to stand next to him. It was as if they
were scanning the crowd for clues. They weren’t the only
ones. Each group muttered quietly to one another, eyes
quick to survey those around them, all in a melting pot
of suspicion. And beyond the Church gates the media
huddled unobtrusively with cameramen at work to the
front capturing all they viewed from where they stood.
The priest had words of sympathy for Dolores and Harry
Short. Behind him a line of sympathisers formed. Hands
were shaken, Nancy from the supermarket spoke a few
words to Dolores as did Matt Quinn. However, Tess made
no attempt to express her sympathies, nor did Jacinta and
The sun shone. The talking was over. It was time for
everyone to disperse. The hearse moved out through the
gate followed by Harry Short’s BMW and a row of cars in
procession behind him. Those who had decided to walk
the short distance had by then reached the cemetery gate.