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Authors: Graham Masterton

Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire) (4 page)

BOOK: Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire)
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‘Any idea who he is?’

‘Not one hundred per cent, but Neela thinks it could be Micky Crounan. She’s always running to the baker’s for doughnuts and she reckons from the ultrasound image that it’s him. And after all, it was his bakery the cake came from.’

‘All right, Bill. I’m just leaving now. I’ll see you in twenty minutes or so, depending on the traffic. How about fingerprints and DNA?’

‘No fingerprints. Not one. Whoever iced this cake was wearing latex gloves, I reckon. But we’re testing a few samples for possible DNA.’

‘Well, whoever did it, their motive completely escapes me,’ said Katie. ‘Why on earth would you cut off a baker’s head and bake it into one of his own cakes?’

‘I have no idea, like,’ said Bill Phinner. ‘But you know the proverb. “The most dangerous food in the whole world is wedding cake.”’

4

Acting Chief Superintendent Molloy had texted Katie to come and see him in his office as soon as she arrived at Anglesea Street. However, she knew that whatever he had to say to her would only make her irritable for the rest of the day, and so first she went up to the technical laboratory.

Bill Phinner, the chief technician, and two of his assistants were standing in their long white coats around one end of a stainless-steel autopsy table. The sun was shining in through the window and lighting them up like three angels from some medieval painting depicting a beheaded martyr. On the table in front of them, four large Tupperware containers had been filled with lumps of wedding cake, each numbered according to the quadrant of the cake from which they had been cut.

Still resting on the circular silver stand on which the cake had been carried into the wedding ceilidh was a man’s severed head. He had wispy grey hair from which cake had been painstakingly cleaned, and a bushy grey moustache. His face was pale yellowish, the colour of good-quality smoked haddock, with the tip of his nose and his earlobes tinged black and dark brown. His eyes were closed as if he were peacefully sleeping, even though the rest his body was missing. Bill Phinner had been right: his neck had been cut through so raggedly that it looked as if he had been beheaded with a large cross-cut saw.

‘Here’s your man,’ said Bill Phinner. ‘We’re certain now that it’s Micky Crounan. We’ve found several photographs of him on Google Images, at various business and charity functions, and it’s unmistakably him.’

‘He’s such a strange colour,’ said Katie.

‘So would you be if you’d been dead for nearly a week and then baked in the oven for an hour and a half at 160 degrees.’

‘He’s been dead that long?’

‘I’m sure the state pathologist can give us a more accurate estimate of when he was killed, but I’d hazard a guess at six or seven days ago, at least.’

‘So why did nobody report him missing, I wonder?’

‘Don’t ask me, ma’am. It’s not like he was some homeless tramp, was he, who nobody’s going to miss? He had a wife and a family and a business to run, and he was on every council committee you could think of.’

‘Yet he was murdered almost a week ago and nobody asked where he was?’

Bill Phinner shrugged. ‘There must have been a reason for it. I’m glad it’s not my job to find out what it was. But here, look, come and take a sconce of the pictures.’

He took her over to a laboratory bench on the opposite side of the room, under the window, and showed her the ultrasound scan that they had take of Micky Crounan’s head while it was still inside the cake. A dark, shadowy face with its eyes closed, like a ghost from the TV series
Most Haunted
. Then he spread out a selection of pictures that they had taken as the sponge cake was gradually scraped away.

Finally, he laid out ten or eleven pictures that they had downloaded from Google Images, showing a smiling Micky Crounan shaking hands with various Cork dignitaries, and at the Fota Golf Club annual dinner, and showing off some of his soda bread loaves for a feature in the
Echo
.

‘It’s really hard to understand who would want to kill a man like that,’ said Katie. ‘It’s not as if anybody has been in touch with us, or with the media, to take credit for it. Like, “We killed Micky Crounan for such and such a reason, and he deserved it.”’

Katie went back across to the autopsy table and stared for a long time at Micky Crounan’s head. Then she turned to Bill Phinner and said, ‘Thanks,’ and left the laboratory. She was ready now to talk to Acting Chief Superintendent Molloy.

***

‘It’s Micky Crounan,’ she told him, as she entered his office. He was sitting at his desk, binding grip-tape around the handle of a golf club. He had one end of the tape wrapped around his five-iron and the other clenched between his teeth.

‘Oh, and good morning to you, DS Maguire,’ he said, without opening his teeth. ‘I thought I asked you to report to me first thing.’

Katie didn’t answer that but sat down opposite him, setting down on his desk the file she had received from Finola McFerren about Michael Gerrety’s acquittal. On top of that she opened the folder containing the technicians’ photographs and the ultrasound scan of Micky Crounan’s head.

‘Micky Crounan? Why would anybody want kill Micky Crounan?’ said Acting Chief Superintendent Molloy. ‘I knew Micky myself – not particularly well, but at least to say how-do to.’

‘Well, that’s for me to find out, isn’t it?’ Katie told him. ‘At the moment Crounan’s Bakery on Maylor Street is all shuttered up and the last time we called at the Crounan house there was nobody home. Bill Phinner estimates that he’s been dead for nearly a week.’

Bryan Molloy finished binding the handle of his mashie and propped it up against the side of his desk. ‘Somebody’s trying to make a point, I’d say. We had a similar case in Limerick once, a restaurant owner who defaulted on his loan from one of the local sharks. They found his head in his own kitchen, in an Irish stew, simmering away with the carrots and the onions. Believe me, everybody else who owed that fellow money, they paid up quickly enough after that.’

‘I don’t know yet if Micky Crounan upset anybody, or had any serious debts,’ said Katie. ‘The first thing we have to do is find his wife, Mary. I have an officer keeping an eye on the family house for me, in case she comes home.’

‘Very well,’ said Bryan Molloy. ‘I’ll let you get on with it. But there’s two other matters I want to discuss with you before you go.’

‘I assume that Michael Gerrety is one of them.’

‘He is, yes,’ said Bryan Molloy. He paused for a moment, frowning, and then he said, ‘Michael Gerrety was acquitted yesterday of all thirty-seven charges of sex-trafficking and brothel-keeping and reckless endangerment, and so far as I’m concerned there’s an end to it. Finish. You will not pursue Michael Gerrety any further, and you will discontinue any surveillance on him or his employees or his premises. Any further investigation of Michael Gerrety would amount to harassment, and I don’t want us being accused of hounding a perfectly innocent local businessman because some female officer has got a bee in her bonnet about young women being exploited for sex, which as far as I understand it they aren’t. They’re all doing it voluntarily, and they’re enjoying it, and it gives them a standard of living far better than they could expect if they took some minimum-wage job stacking shelves at Tesco’s.’

‘I see,’ said Katie. ‘And what’s the other matter you wanted to rant about?’

‘Don’t you speak to me like that, DS Maguire,’ retorted Bryan Molloy. His eyes bulged and his face began to flush. ‘Dermot O’Driscoll has gone now, and this station is going to be run with discipline, and strict observance of the chain of command.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Katie. ‘I should have said “complain”, shouldn’t I? Not “rant”.’

Bryan Molloy took several deep breaths and rocked himself backwards and forwards in his chair. Katie had seen him do this before and realized that it must be his technique for calming himself down. Eventually, he said, ‘One of your team has been asking questions about me. Questions related to financial transactions.’

‘Oh, you mean like backhanders? Payments for services rendered?’

‘Let me make this crystal-clear, Katie. I have never accepted any financial reward whatsoever for turning a blind eye to anybody’s misdemeanours.’

‘So you’ve done it as a favour, for free?’

‘You’re walking much too close to the edge now, girl. I don’t know what you’ve heard, or what anybody’s told you, but I have never taken a bribe of any kind, and if you continue to suggest that I have, or if any of your detectives continue to make inquiries into my personal affairs, then I shall lodge an official complaint against you.’

‘Please do,’ said Katie. ‘That will give me a golden opportunity to present all of the evidence I have about you.’

‘What evidence? You don’t have any evidence. Evidence of what?’

Katie stood up, closing the folder of photographs of Micky Crounan. ‘Lodge your official complaint, Bryan. Then you’ll find out.’

Bryan Molloy stood up, too, his neck swelling in his tight white collar. ‘Are you saying what I think you’re saying?’ he demanded.

‘I don’t know,’ said Katie. ‘I’m not a mind-reader, and if I wanted to read
your
mind I’d probably need to learn Braille.’

‘You’re threatening me, aren’t you? You’ve been trying to undermine my authority ever since I arrived here, and you’re threatening me.’

Katie looked at him steadily. Her heart was beating very fast underneath her sweater, but she wasn’t going to allow Bryan Molloy to frighten her.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I am. In the same way that you’re trying to hinder me from carrying out my duty and you’re threatening
me
. Look at the state of you. You look like you’re going to explode at any moment.’

With that, she tucked the folder under her arm and walked towards the door.


Katie
,’ said Bryan Molloy, as she put her hand on the door handle. She paused, and waited to hear what he had to say.

‘You’re going to regret this, Katie. I can tell you that for nothing.’

‘Oh, that’s good,’ she replied, without turning around. ‘At least I won’t have to pay you for it, like everybody else has to.’

***

Before she reached her office, her iPhone played the first few bars of ‘Banks of the Roses’. It was a cheerful folk tune, but she had chosen it because of the words at the end of the first verse: ‘O Johnny, lovely Johnny, would you leave me?’

It was Garda Brenda McCracken calling her. ‘It’s Mary Crounan. She just came home, with two children and a dog.’

‘Thanks a million,’ said Katie. ‘I’ll be up there in ten minutes, tops. If she leaves before I get there, follow her.’

She went up to the squad room and found Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán, who was busily typing with two fingers on her computer keyboard. She was frowning at the screen as if her words were coming out in a language that she didn’t understand, and she didn’t look up when Katie came in.

‘Kyna,’ said Katie. ‘You can leave that for now. Come on, quick as you can. Mary Crounan’s home, and we have to give her the news about Micky.’

‘Oh God,’ said Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán, lifting down her coat. ‘Of all the jobs we have to do, this is the one I hate most of all.’

5

The front door of the Crounan house was opened by a pale, plump girl of about eleven, with blonde pigtails and a bright blue home-knitted jumper.

‘Is your mother in?’ asked Katie, showing the girl her badge. ‘We’re from the Garda. It’s Detective Superintendent Maguire and Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán.’

The girl blinked at them and then lisped, ‘Just a second, please.’

She disappeared, leaving Katie and Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán on the doorstep. They looked around the small front garden, which was showing signs of neglect. There were dead hydrangeas that needed cutting back, and weeds growing between the black and white tiles of the pathway that led to the gate.

The house itself was looking sad and damp and in need of repair – a four-bedroom semi-detached house off Alexandra Road, once painted lemon-yellow but now streaked with grey from overflowing gutters. There was a fine view of Cork City to the south, with the spires of Holy Trinity Church and St Fin Barre’s Cathedral rising above the rooftops, and all of this locality around Military Hill was now one of the most expensive areas to buy a house. However, it looked as if the Crounans had been running short of money for some time. The car parked at the side of the house was a 2007 Honda Civic, with a large dent in the passenger door.

Mary Crounan appeared, wiping her hands on a tea towel. She was a small woman in her late forties with curly dyed-black hair, wearing a purple jumper and a purple skirt. Katie thought she must have been very pretty when she was younger, but she had one of those plump babyish faces that doesn’t age well, and at the moment she looked tired and anxious.

‘I’m Detective Superintendent Maguire, from Anglesea Street Garda station,’ said Katie. ‘This is Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán.’

‘Yes? What do you want?’ she asked them. Before Katie could answer she glanced quickly up and down the street as if to make sure nobody was watching them.

‘I think we’d better come in,’ said Katie. ‘This isn’t really something we can talk about on the doorstep.’

‘It’s Micky, isn’t it?’ said Mary Crounan. ‘Have you found him? Is he all right?’

‘Please, let’s just go inside,’ said Katie.

Mary Crounan led them along the hallway to a large, chilly living room. The furniture was all baroque and enormous, which made Katie feel as if she were Alice and had drunk a potion that had made her shrink six inches. The Wonderland feeling was heightened by the immense mirror that hung over the marble fireplace.

‘Why don’t you sit down, Mary? said Katie.

‘What’s happened to him? He’s not hurt, is he? They haven’t hurt him?’

‘The bakery’s closed. Can you tell me the reason for that?’

‘We tried to keep it running between us, me and Lenny O’Dowd, the manager, but in the end we couldn’t cope. Where’s Micky? Please, tell me Micky’s all right.’

‘I’m sorry, Mary. There’s no other way to tell you this, but Micky’s dead. Some remains were discovered yesterday and we’re ninety-nine per cent certain that it’s him. I’m really, really sorry.’

BOOK: Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire)
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