Read Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire) Online

Authors: Graham Masterton

Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire) (2 page)

BOOK: Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire)
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Halfway down, he stopped for a moment and looked across at Katie, and when he was sure that he had her attention, he gave her the sweetest of smiles. A very handsome man, Michael Gerrety, with his broad face and wavy chestnut hair. If Katie hadn’t known what he had done, and what kind of a man he was, she could have found him quite attractive.

The media had all gone now, but Katie was still talking to Finola McFerren, the state solicitor for Cork City. She paused to smile back at him, although she knew what his smile really meant –
I
told you I’d get
away with it, you ineffectual bitch
. Her smile, in return, meant –
I’ll nail you one day, you hypocritical scumbag, don’t you have any doubt of it
.

‘I
still
think we were right to go ahead and bring this in front of the court,’ Finola was saying. She was a very tall young woman, with a beaky nose and a slight stoop, and there was always an air of tension about her, like a bird of prey that was just about to launch itself off a ledge to swoop down on a rabbit. ‘It shows that we’re determined to put an end to sex-trafficking, in spite of all the political and legal difficulties we’re up against. But next time we prosecute Michael Gerrety, we
must
have much more conclusive evidence.’

‘Well, I really thought we had more than enough dirt on him this time,’ said Katie, still keeping her eyes on him. ‘It didn’t help that half of our witnesses didn’t appear and the ones that did show up had suddenly developed amnesia. And his own witnesses didn’t just say that the sun shone out of his arse. They seemed to think that we ought to get in touch with the Vatican and have him canonized.’

‘You can’t blame those girls for being frightened,’ said Finola. ‘Apart from sex work, what else are they going to do for a living? But come back to me whenever you like. You know that the courts will accept all kinds of covert surveillance these days.’

‘You don’t think we haven’t bugged his sex shop, and his brothels? But he’s a very cute hoor, is Michael Gerrety. I’ve never heard him once say anything on tape that might incriminate him. But I
will
get him. You wait and see.’

She watched with her lips pursed as Michael Gerrety climbed into his metallic-green Mercedes and drove away. The sun was so bright this morning that she was wearing her Ray-Bans but one of the nose pads had broken so that they were lopsided. Because of that, she was too dazzled to see Detective O’Donovan puffing up the steps until he had reached her. He was wearing a big ginger overcoat which matched his hair.

‘I’ve been trying to ring you, ma’am,’ he panted.

‘What? Oh, it’s you, Patrick! I’ve been in court all morning. Sorry, I haven’t switched my phone back on.’

‘Me neither,’ said Finola. ‘It’s a blessed relief sometimes.’

‘What’s the story?’ asked Katie. ‘They haven’t found Roisin Begley, have they?’ Roisin Begley was the sixteen-year-old daughter of one of Cork’s wealthiest property developers, and she had been missing now for more than forty-eight hours.

‘No, no progress with that, I’m afraid. No – there’s been an incident up at the Montenotte Hotel. You know that John O’Malley’s son Connor was getting married today, didn’t you?’

‘Yes, to the Gallaghers’ daughter. What’s her name? Niamh. What’s happened? Are they all right?’

‘They’re both grand altogether, don’t worry. But it was during their wedding ceilidh. They were cutting the cake and they found something inside it that looks like a human head.’

‘A
what
did you say? A human head?’ Katie took off her sunglasses. ‘You’re codding me. Inside the wedding cake?’

‘It seems like the bride and groom couldn’t cut it all the way through so John O’Malley took it to pieces to find out what was in it. He came across a nose sticking out. After that he stopped digging and who can blame him? Nobody’s touched the cake since.’

‘Name of Jesus,’ said Katie. ‘Do they have any idea who the head belongs to? Or
used
to belong to?’

Detective O’Donovan shook his head. ‘No idea. Horgan’s up there with Dooley and they’ve cordoned off the main reception area. All we’re doing now is waiting on the technical boys. They’re down in Ballea at the moment because some feller got himself all caught up in a plough, but they’ve been notified, and they’ll be up to Montenotte as soon as they’ve finished untangling him, like.’

‘Okay,’ said Katie. ‘What about the wedding guests?’

‘There were two hundred and seventeen of them altogether. Most of them are still there, but they’re letting them go once they’ve been interviewed.’

‘All right. Let’s go up there, shall we? Finola – you’ll send me your report on this fiasco, won’t you? I have to go over it with Acting Chief Superintendent Molloy and I’m sure he’ll be over the moon that Michael Gerrety got off. They’ll probably go out to the Hayfield Manor tonight and crack open a bottle of champagne.’

Finola said nothing, but snapped her briefcase shut and raised her precisely pencilled eyebrows as if to say, We both know what’s going on, but we’ll just have to wait for the moment to present itself, won’t we? Those rabbits may be gambolling today, but the time will come when we can swoop down on them.

***

When they arrived outside the Montenotte Hotel on the Middle Glanmire Road at least a hundred wedding guests were still assembled in the car park, most of the women with their partners’ morning coats slung around their shoulders to keep them warm, and everybody blowing into their cupped hands and stamping their feet. Two Garda patrol cars were parked right outside the side entrance to the function room and three officers were standing around, stamping their feet like everybody else. Although it was such a sunny day, the front of the hotel was in shadow.

Katie went inside, and walked across to the long table by the window. The function room was silent and the decorative streamers and balloons pinned up around the ceiling only made it seem more abandoned. Every table was crowded with half-finished glasses of champagne.

Detectives Horgan and Dooley were standing by the wreckage of the wedding cake, along with the hotel’s deputy manager and John O’Malley. Katie thought that the deputy manager looked very young, although his blond hair was thinning. As she approached he took a step back, and then another. It occurred to her that she must appear rather schoolmistressy in her long black overcoat and the light grey suit she had worn for her court appearance. She had recently had her hair cropped very short, which her sister Moirin said made her look too stern.

John O’Malley blurted out, ‘I’m shocked, Katie. Totally devastated. This has ruined Connor and Niamh’s day completely.’

Katie looked at the blackened nose protruding from the sponge. The ripe smell of rotting flesh and vanilla was enough to make her hold her hand over her face.

‘Where did the cake come from?’ she asked.

‘Crounan’s. I ordered it from Micky Crounan myself.’

‘When did it arrive here?’

‘Only this morning,’ said the deputy manager. ‘It came about a quarter to eleven.’

‘Who brought it?’

‘A van pulled up outside and two fellows in white overalls carried it in between them. They said they came from Crounan’s, although there was no lettering on the van. It was just plain white. I signed for the cake myself and that was it.’

‘Would you know these two men if you saw them again?’

The deputy manager shook his head. ‘I doubt it very much. I was so busy at the time. I would say that one of them at least came from north Limerick, the way he said “G’luck teh yeh so” when he left. My grandpa always said that, in exactly that accent, and he came from Moyross Park.’

‘All right,’ said Katie. ‘I expect the media will be here soon asking you questions about this. Can you please not make any comment to them until we let you know that it’s okay for you to do so? And when you do, can you keep any speculation down to the minimum?’

The deputy manager blinked at her as if he didn’t understand what she meant.

‘For instance, can you please not tell the media that you think that somebody was deliberately trying to ruin this wedding ceilidh, or any other theory that might occur to you?’

‘Oh, yes. No,’ said the deputy manager.

Detective Horgan said, ‘We’ve been interviewing every single guest, but we’re not getting much out of them. The cake was already on display here when they arrived, so none of them could have tampered with it. The O’Malleys and the Gallaghers are both very popular, what with everything they do for charity and all, and not one of the guests can think of anyone who would want to spoil things for them.’

Katie turned to John O’Malley and said, ‘You’ve had no arguments with anybody lately? No threats made against you, for any reason?’

‘I voted against the Lower Lee flood barrier last week, and that didn’t go down too well with some of the city-centre shopkeepers, but that’s about all. Nothing that would justify an atrocity like this. If I’ve upset somebody this bad, why didn’t they cut my head off and bake it into a cake, instead of whoever this is?’

‘How about the hotel?’ asked Katie. ‘Have you had any troublesome guests lately?’

‘No more than usual,’ said the deputy manager. ‘You get some of them drinking too much and making a nuisance of themselves, or making too much noise in their rooms. We threw out one fellow last week for nearly burning the place down. He was so langered he couldn’t work out how to turn up the heating, so he set fire to his mattress.’

***

It was another forty-five minutes before the technicians arrived. Three of them came rustling across the function room in their white Tyvek suits, as if they had just arrived from a space mission.

Katie said, ‘How’s your man in Ballea?’

‘Oh, dead,’ said the chief technician. ‘
Very
dead.’ He was very grey, with short grey hair and a grey, lined face. Katie imagined that all the horrors he had witnessed in his career had gradually leached all the colour out of him, in the same way that people’s hair was supposed to turn white when they encountered a ghost.

‘Apparently the victim suffered from epilepsy,’ he added. ‘Whatever the cause might have been, he fell backwards out of the seat of his tractor into a double-direction disc plough.’

‘Oh.
Ow
! Nasty.’

‘We had the devil’s own job getting him out of there, I can tell you. Have you ever got a lamb bone stuck in your mincer?’

‘Thank you, Bill. I feel sick enough as it is. Look at the state of this. The bride and groom were cutting their cake when they felt there was something inside it. Mr O’Malley here took it apart and this is what he discovered.’

The chief technician leaned forward and examined the tip of the nose closely. ‘Partly decomposed and partly
cooked
,’ he said. ‘We’ll photograph this here,
in situ
, and then I think we’ll take it with us back to the lab. We’ll be able to scan it then with the ultrasound and test it for fingerprints and any other evidence before we cut it up any more. People often lick the spoon when they’re icing a cake so we may be lucky and find some DNA.’

‘I’ll leave it with you, then,’ said Katie. ‘But please send me an image of the victim’s face the minute you have one. The sooner we know who he is, the sooner we’ll be able to track down our Demon Baker.’

3

To Katie’s relief, Acting Chief Superintendent Molloy had already left the station by the time she returned to Anglesea Street.

Katie’s working relationship with Bryan Molloy had been growing steadily more scrappy ever since August when he had been shipped in from Limerick to take over from Chief Superintendent O’Driscoll. Unlike Dermot O’Driscoll, Molloy believed that women were nothing but a nuisance in the Garda. They weren’t clubbable, like men, and they couldn’t be trusted to close ranks if one of their fellow officers was found to have bent the rules a little.

Her phone rang even before she had taken off her coat. It was Detective Horgan, calling from just outside the Crounans’ house on Alexander Place, up by St Luke’s.

‘We went to the bakery on Maylor Street but all the shutters were down. There’s no sign on the door or anything, it’s just closed. Now we’re up at the Crounans’ but there’s nobody home and no cars outside or nothing.’

‘Have you tried ringing them on their mobiles?’

‘Of course, yeah. But Micky’s is switched off and we couldn’t get an answer from his missus.’

‘What about the bakery staff? They must know why the bakery’s closed and where the Crounans are.’

‘Well, that’s our next plan. But first of all we have to find out who the staff are, and how to get in touch with them. We’re going to try asking at the shops next door, and some of the other bakers. Somebody at Scoozi’s might know.’

‘Okay, then. Keep me in touch.’

Katie began to leaf through the files that had been left on her desk, but almost at once there was a knock on her open office door and Inspector Liam Fennessy came in. With his circular spectacles and brush-cut hair and his tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows he looked more like a lecturer in English from Cork University than a Garda inspector.

‘We’ve had a sighting of Roisin Begley,’ he said. ‘One of her school friends saw her in a car driving along Pope’s Quay less than an hour ago. She said that Roisin didn’t appear to be distressed at all. In fact, she was laughing.’

‘She was sure it was Roisin?’

‘One hundred per cent. Blonde hair, red and white woolly hat. She says she waved to her, but either Roisin didn’t see her, or else she didn’t want to.’

‘Who was with her?’

‘Some man. The friend couldn’t really describe him, because she was too busy trying to catch Roisin’s attention. She thought he was wearing a blue tracksuit top because it had the two white stripes down the sleeves, but that was all she could remember.’

‘At least Roisin’s still alive, thank God. I thought we’d be after finding her drowned in the river. But if she was laughing, it sounds like she’s run away, and that could make her much more difficult to find. I’ll have the press office get in touch with the Begleys and see if they can’t put out an appeal on the Six One News. You know – “Please come home, darling, we aren’t cross with you at all, and Woofy misses you.”’

BOOK: Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire)
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