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Authors: Graham Masterton

Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire) (6 page)

BOOK: Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire)
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Barney pattered on ahead of her, as always, but since John had left he had taken to turning around now and again, as if to reassure her that he would look after her now that she was alone.

‘Go on, boy,’ she told him. ‘I’m okay.’

In reality, though, she didn’t know if she was okay or not. She was still asking herself if she had made the right decision, staying in Cork when she could have gone with John to San Francisco and taken up the job that he had arranged for her with Pinkerton’s detective agency. But here she was, walking through the wet streets in her black hooded raincoat, tired and hungry and, worst of all, lonely.

She had only just returned home and was hanging up her raincoat when the doorbell chimed. When she went to open it, she found David Kane from next door standing in the porch. He was holding a bottle of Prosecco in one hand and a bunch of orange roses in the other.

‘Oh,’ said Katie, and looked at him blankly.

‘Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten!’ he smiled. ‘Drinks, seven-thirty? Am I too early?’

‘Oh my God, it totally slipped my mind,’ said Katie. ‘It’s just been one of those days. Well, every day is one of those days. But come on in.’

As David stepped into the hallway, Barney came sniffing excitedly around his legs and wagging his tail.

‘Barney – get down!’ she said. ‘Behave yourself!’

‘He can probably smell the other dogs on me,’ said David. ‘I had my first two patients today – a German shepherd and a shih tzu. Well, a budgerigar too, but the poor old budgie had advanced polyoma so I had to put it down.’

Katie held the front door open and peered outside.

‘You couldn’t persuade your wife to come?’

‘Sorcha? No, I’m afraid not. She said she wasn’t in the mood for it. She’s had a very hard day hanging up curtains and arranging furniture. She said she wanted an early bath and bed.’

David took the Prosecco and the roses into the kitchen and laid them on the table.

‘You have some champagne glasses? I admit it’s not real champagne, but we might as well pretend.’

‘Of course, yes,’ said Katie, and took two flutes from the cupboard over the sink. ‘They’re not very classy, I’m afraid. My husband got them free with petrol. My late husband, Paul.’

‘They’ll do fine. Better than drinking champagne out of a coffee mug. I did that the day I passed my MVB.’

He paused, and then added, in a mock-Italian accent, ‘
Medicina Veterinaria
Baccalaureate
,’ in case she didn’t know what MVB stood for, although she did.

Katie went to the larder and took out a packet of peanuts and some chilli-flavoured crisps. The last thing she felt like doing was entertaining anybody for drinks, but she could hardly tell David to take his bottle of Prosecco and his orange roses and go back home.

David popped the cork and filled their glasses and then they went through to the living room and sat down.

‘You’ll have to excuse the decor,’ said Katie. ‘I haven’t quite finished redecorating yet. It’s almost impossible to find the time.’

David looked around at the plain, cream-painted walls and the three bold abstract prints that hung on the opposite side of the room. Katie had replaced almost all of the rococo-style furniture with a mint-green leather couch and two matching leather armchairs with chrome-plated legs. Now the only reminder of Paul was his silver-framed photograph on one of the glass-topped side tables, wearing the same unfocused smile that he always wore, as if his face was present but his mind was somewhere else. In Killarney, probably, in bed with somebody else’s wife. It had occurred to Katie last week that she could no longer remember what his voice had sounded like.

‘So, what heinous crime are you trying to solve at the moment?’ asked David. He looked very relaxed, in a black roll-neck sweater and grey wool trousers, sitting in one of the armchairs with his legs crossed. But Katie was looking at the heavy gold signet ring on the third finger of his right hand and wondering if it had left an impression when he hit Sorcha last night – always supposing that he
had
hit her, of course.

‘I can’t possibly tell you that, I’m afraid,’ said Katie. ‘You’ll have to wait until you see it on the news.’

‘Oh, you can give me a hint, can’t you? Is it a murder? Or is it a robbery? Fraud, is it? Or drug-dealing, or sex-trafficking?’

Katie smiled and shook her head. ‘I have all of those to deal with, believe me, and more’

‘More? What else is there?’

‘You’d be amazed what people get up to.’

‘Come on, don’t keep me in suspense. I’m fascinated to know what you do all day. You can change the names to protect the innocent, if you like. That’s what they used to say on TV, isn’t it, at the beginning of those true-crime programmes?’


Slainte
,’ said Katie, raising her glass. David raised his glass too, and looked her steadily in the eyes, saying nothing.

‘Is that one of your treatments?’ Katie asked him.

‘What? Sorry?’

‘Hypnosis. Is that one of the ways you cure your animals?

‘Oh, was I staring? I apologize. I was just thinking to myself that you don’t look very much like a detective superintendent. In fact, to be fair to you I wouldn’t have had you down for a Garda officer at all.’

‘No? What is a detective superintendent
supposed
to look like?’

‘A female detective superintendent, like you? Much more butch, I’d say. Maybe just the faintest hint of a moustache on the upper lip. And
gruffer
. And certainly not wearing high-heeled boots. You’re not like that at all. In fact, if I’d been introduced to you for the first time and I didn’t know what you did for a living, I’d have said – ’

‘What?’ said Katie.

‘I’d have said TV news presenter. Or maybe the editor of a fashion magazine. Something professional, but very feminine. Something that takes brains but needs some glamour as well.’

Katie was thinking,
what a load of cat’s malogian
. But at the same time, she couldn’t deny that David was charming and persuasive, and it felt good to be flattered so profusely after such an abrasive day, even if she didn’t believe a word of it. It had been emotionally draining, breaking the news to Mary Crounan that her husband had been killed, and her constant confrontations with Bryan Molloy had badly jolted her confidence in her own authority.

David had also been shrewd enough to say that he would have mistaken her for a woman who was not only attractive but clever, too. She appreciated that.

‘Here,’ he said, and got up from his chair to refill her glass.

‘There’s domestic violence, too,’ she said, in a level voice, while he was still standing over her.

‘Sorry? I don’t follow you.’

‘You asked me what more there could be, after murder and robbery and drug-running and sex crimes. I have to deal with more domestic violence than almost any other offence, especially on pay-day. I’ve even started up a group to help women who have been beaten or intimidated by their partners. It’s called the Walnut Tree.’

David sat down again. He refilled his own glass, and then he said, ‘Why do I have the feeling that you’re trying to tell me something?’

Katie raised an eyebrow. ‘Why do
I
have the feeling that you know exactly what I’m saying to you, but you can’t decide if you want to discuss it?’

‘You’ve seen Sorcha, is that it?’

‘No. I haven’t seen her. I went round to your house after you’d left this morning and knocked at the door but she wouldn’t open it for me. But why would you think that I
had
seen her? Was it because I happened to mention domestic violence?’

‘You’re a very interesting woman, Katie. I’ll give you that. The Walnut Tree, I get it. The woman, the dog, the walnut tree. Do you think that I’ve been beating Sorcha, is that it?’

‘All right. Talking of beating, I won’t beat around the bush. I heard you two in your kitchen last night. It sounded very much as if you were hitting her.’

‘I slapped her, yes.’

‘So you admit it?’

‘Yes. I slapped her a couple of times. It was the only way I could get her out of it.’

‘Get her out of what?’

‘Her hysteria. It’s impossible to know what to do with her when she’s throwing a fit like that.’

‘Can’t you just restrain her?’

David stood up again, crossed his arms and lifted up his sweater. His torso was lean and muscular, with a thin line of dark hair running down to his navel. However, his chest and his stomach were criss-crossed with scores of crimson scratch marks. He looked as if he had been wrestling with a wildcat.

‘She’s bipolar,’ he said, lowering his sweater and sitting down. ‘Sometimes she’s depressed and talks about committing suicide. Other times, she’s so hyperactive that she rushes about the house screaming and smashing things, and if I try to stop her she’ll attack me.’

‘Has her doctor given her anything? You can get drugs, can’t you, to stabilize people with manic depression?’

‘She was on Seroquel for a while to control her mood cycles, and when she was taking that she didn’t have so many highs and lows. The trouble was, it made her about as responsive as a zombie. I don’t know whether I’d prefer to have a wife who’s sobbing one minute and laughing like a lunatic the next, or one who sits staring at the TV for hours on end and hardly utters a word.’

Katie said, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. It was just that when I heard you two shouting at each other last night it sounded like a classic domestic.’

‘That’s all right. I married Sorcha, didn’t I, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health? That was the oath I took and I won’t go back on it.’

‘Well, if there’s anything I can do to help – ’

He sipped his Prosecco and shook his head. ‘I have to grin and bear it, that’s all. Sometimes fate deals you a really bad hand, but look at it from Sorcha’s point of view. Fate has been pretty good to
her
, hasn’t it, considering her condition, giving her me to look after her?’

Katie and David sat for almost half a minute looking at each other, saying nothing. Katie thought David was very attractive, and she was impressed by the way he had talked so openly about his wife, and about what had happened in their kitchen last night. He appeared to be relaxed, too, but she couldn’t help feeling that it was a studied relaxation. She had sensed a similar tension in some of the criminals she had interviewed. They had smiled, they had joked, they had told her whatever she wanted to know – but she had always felt that they were spring-loaded, that the smallest provocation would make them explode.

She still wasn’t one hundred per cent sure that David hadn’t been beating Sorcha, even if the claw-marks on his chest and stomach seemed to bear out his story. However, she didn’t question him about it any more. She was at home, after all, not in the interview room at Anglesea Street, and David was her new next-door neighbour, not a suspect.

They talked for another hour – mostly about life in Cobh, and which were the best pubs and restaurants, and about David’s work as a vet. They finished the Prosecco and Katie brought a bottle of Pinot Grigio out of the fridge.

Eventually David looked at his watch and said, ‘I have to go. I want to make sure that Sorcha’s okay – hasn’t drowned herself in the bath or tied a plastic bag over her head or anything stupid like that.’

Katie showed him to the front door. Before he left, he took hold of her hand and kissed her on both cheeks.

‘You’re a very unusual woman,’ he told her. ‘I’m really glad that I’ve met you. You see? It looks as if fate has dealt me at least one good card.’

‘There’s a word for that,’ said Katie. ‘My grannie would have called it
plámás
.’

She couldn’t tell from the expression on his face whether he knew it was Gaelic for ‘sweet-talk’, or not, because all he did was smile and walk off into the darkness and the fine chilly rain.

7

Katie had only just sat down at her desk the next morning and prised the lid off her latte when Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán appeared in her doorway, accompanied by a middle-aged woman in a brown fake-fur coat that had seen better days.

‘Good morning, ma’am,’ said Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán. ‘This is Mrs Shelagh Hagerty. I thought you’d want to see her directly.’

‘Oh yes?’

Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán came across the office holding up a jam jar. ‘She found this on her front doorstep this morning. Come on in, Shelagh. This is Detective Superintendent Maguire.’

‘How do you do?’ said Shelagh Hagerty. She looked pale and puffy-eyed and she was holding her handbag tightly, as if she were afraid somebody might snatch it away from her.

Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán set down the jam jar and Katie could see that it contained at least a dozen teeth, some of which were smeared with blood. She picked it up and examined it closely. They looked very much like human teeth.

‘You found this on your doorstep? At what time? Was there any note with it?’

‘About half past six. I was putting out the empty milk bottles because I’d forgotten to do it the night before. Well, the state I was in, like. There was no note with it but this fellow rang me almost as soon as I’d gone back inside.’

‘Who was he? Do you know?’

‘He’s never told me his name. But he said that if I didn’t have the money ready by midday Wednesday then he’d be sending me more of Derek piece by piece until there was nothing left of him at all.’

‘Sit down, Shelagh,’ said Katie. ‘We need to go over this right from the very beginning. Who’s Derek? Is he your husband?’

Detective Sergeant Ni Nuallán dragged over a chair for Shelagh Hagerty and she perched herself right on the edge of it, her hands clasped together, holding her handbag. ‘That’s right. Derek Hagerty of Hagerty’s Autos on the Curraheen Road at Looney’s Cross. Two nights ago he didn’t come home and the same night I had a phone call. It was a man’s voice but it was kind of muffled, like. He said that if I didn’t raise two hundred and fifty thousand euros by Monday I would never see Derek alive again.’

She let out an extraordinary sob, as loud and as unexpected as the cry of a trumpeter swan, and her eyes filled up with tears. She tried to open her handbag to find a handkerchief, but Katie pulled a Kleenex out of the box on her desk and passed it over to her.

BOOK: Taken for Dead (Kate Maguire)
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