A psychological thriller about a disturbed family

Updated: 11th October 2018: Pre-publication information about a new psychological thriller, to be published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications in 2018…

Inspector SB Glasheen is an enigma to those Dublin cops who’ve worked with him.  Born in 1916 in Arizona, on an Indian reserved territory, on the same day that the Easter Rising began in Dublin, young ‘SB’ Glasheen spent the first five years of his life wandering freely around the yellow-green fields of the St John’s Plains chapter of the Navajo Nation, in Apache County, Arizona; and wading and hand-fishing in the Blue Creek; while his Irish father and his Lakota Indian mother taught in the local Franciscan High School.  His mother was a big fan of Chief Sitting Bull, who’d been assassinated the year she was born…

~~~

One Minor Death in the Family

A psychological thriller

By Kurt Llama Byron

An Inspector SB Glasheen Mystery

Copyright (c) The Institute for E-CENT Publications, 2018

~~~

Chapter 1: What hell is this?

1.

“A bitter heart devours its owner”.  (Herero adage).

~~~

24th September 1964

Rough draft cover, One Minor Death in the Family

Michael Curran awoke to the sound of the mechanical alarm clock ringing violently, like the bell of a local fire engine. His head was pounding.  Picking up the clock, and switching the alarm bell off, he noticed the time – 5.30 am.  It had gone off half an hour early.  But he was glad to be awake, since waking up pulled him out of the nightmare he was submerged in, up to a moment ago.

He swung his fifty-five-year-old legs out of bed, and looked up at the crucifix on the wall opposite the side of his lonely bed, above the holy water font by the light switch.  He scratched his greying head of wavy, blackish hair, and yawned. Over to his left he could see his son Christopher’s blankets rising and falling rhythmically, as he snored through his drunken stupor.  The little drunken bastard.  Under the chair, to the side of Christopher’s bed, Michael could see the quarter bottle of whiskey which Christopher would slug down as soon as he awoke.  Sixteen years old, and already an alcoholic for more than two years.  And getting his booze money by driving a coal truck, below the normal, sensible age for driving.

Michael, who never drank alcohol, stood up on the cold lino, and began to scratch his chest and back, under the long-sleeved vest he always wore in bed.  He was sick of his life.  Sleeping alone in this cold, double bed, in the box room, for the past eight years, had been a great strain on his mental state.  He was depressed and angry – bitter – and he constantly felt an ache in his heart.  He was sure he would have a heart attack one of these days. ‘My heart is scalded with the lot of them’, was his constant mantra.

He put on his work clothes, and laced up his boots.  He knelt by the side of his bed and began to say his morning prayers.  He couldn’t understand why God was tormenting him so much.  His wife having sex with other men; his youngest ‘daughter’ not really his; extreme poverty; and this horrible wretch of a son – a degenerate alcoholic at sixteen years of age.  And Dermot, his oldest son, who was just eighteen years old, and the only son who really respected him, had left for England three months earlier, in the middle of June.  He prayed fervently for redemption; for release from his suffering.  He had always tried to be a good man; but he’d lost his farm; then his first job and tied cottage; then his wife; and now his life revolved around working as a poorly-paid gardener for a family of rich toffs on the outskirts of Dublin City.

He went down the stairs with a heavy heart, as silently as he could, to avoid waking the house.  In the kitchen, he buttered two slices of homemade brown bread, put some jam on, and made a pot of tea.  In the front room, he sat at the table and read the unread parts of yesterday’s Evening Herald.

Later he took some Fynnon Salts, as an essential laxative, and took the newspaper into the toilet, and sat on the seat to wait.  Being constipated gave him headaches.  Just one of the many sources.  As he sat there, he tore off the back, sports pages, and then tore them into squares, which he dropped in a clump on the floor to the right of the toilet bowl.  Without the evening newspaper, they would be in a bad way for toilet paper.

He emerged from the toilet semi-triumphant, and went into the bathroom to wash and shave.

At 6.45 am, he put on his brown overcoat, and his distinctive brown cap with big yellow flecks. Then he put his bicycle clips on his trouser ends, and wheeled his big, black Raleigh bicycle up the hall and out the front door; closing the door quietly behind him.  Although there was still a whole week to go to the end of September, it was cold and damp that morning, and the light was gloomier than it had been just last week.

Out on the road, he mounted his bicycle and pedalled furiously up the road, to raise his temperature, and then settled down to a steady pace, which would get him to his workplace in about thirty minutes.  He was in the blackest mood he had ever experienced.  He couldn’t imagine carrying on with this farce of a life.  Perhaps this day the Lord would liberate him. Oh God. Why hast thou forsaken me?

~~~

2.

“Remember, you are only an actor in a play, which the manager directs”. (Epictetus).

Moira Curran heard the door close, even though it was done quietly.  She knew she should get up at once, to get the younger children ready for school, but instead she reached out and switched off her alarm, which was due to go off in about fifteen minutes.

She was very tired.  It was the tiredness of depression and grief, as well as the effect of endless domestic drudgery; and late evening knitting, to earn some money from neighbours who had no time to knit.  She closed her eyes for a quick, forty winks.

Moira heard the door close, even though it was done quietly. She knew there was something wrong.  Surely she’d been here already this morning? Surely she’d heard the door close once already. And the second time was slightly louder than normal.

She sat up in her big, pink cotton nightdress, and leaned her head and shoulders against the metal bars of the head of her little, single bed.  Reaching out, she picked up her clock, and checked the time.  It was 7.20.  She’s slept for thirty-five minutes after the Old Man had gone out.

She felt confused. Why would the door close twice?  In the past, it would have been Dermot going out to work.  But he was no longer here.

There were five beds in this room, four of which were occupied.  The one in the far corner, by the wardrobe, used to be Dermot’s bed, up to three months ago.  She looked across at the tidy bed cover, and the tears welled up in her eyes, as they had done every day since he’d left for England.  And now, about twelve weeks later, she’d only had one letter from him, and that was of little comfort, since she detected no warmth in his dutiful words; and no sense that he missed her or his home.

He was a cold fish, was Dermot; even though he was her big boy; her brightest son; the brains of the family; the one who would become a doctor.

She cupped her hands over her eyes and sobbed gently, until she heard Aileen, her eight year old daughter, stirring in the adjacent, single bed.  She immediately suppressed her tears and sobs, so as not to wake her daughter; swung herself out of bed; and began to get dressed.  She didn’t have to replace her big, pink flannelette knickers anymore in the mornings, since she couldn’t be bothered taking them off any more at bedtime.  She changed them weekly now, whether they needed it or not.  Why bother, since nobody else ever sees her knickers anymore.  It’s been a long time since she’s had sex with anybody.

She remembers how exciting knickers used to be, as a symbol of her womanhood – her femininity – ever since she was thirteen years old.  She would never forget the thrill she got when she cycled down the hill from her mother’s cottage, aged fourteen years; past the entrance to Healy’s farm, where two boys from the village were sitting on the wall with two of the Healy sisters. She was cycling as fast as she could down the hill, the wind blowing her long brown hair out behind her, like streamers. She was wearing a hand-me-down cotton, floral-print dress that had belonged to an older sister.

“Get off and piss on it and it’ll go faster”, shouted one of the boys.

They couldn’t have expected what happened next. Moira pulled on her back brake, first; and then her front, and the bike stopped, to a screeching of brake rubber on chrome-plated steel, within two or three yards of the point at which the instruction had been made.  She got off, laid the bike down on the dusty, tarmacked road, pulled up her loose dress, and dropped her knickers.  Bending low, she began to piss on the back gear wheel.  When she looked up, the boys were clearly in a state of high arousal.  She loved that feeling of power.  She got up; stuck her tongue out at the taller one, who had called out the challenge; remounted her bike; and rode off down the hill.

No such excitement came into her life these days. She hadn’t slept with the Old Man for eight years: ever since he realized that Aileen could not have been his child.  Terry Lynch, her most recent and main lover, never came to see her anymore, because he’d got very bad piles, which made it difficult to walk.  Declan Cummins was afraid to show his face, in case the Old Man killed him, since she had had to tell him that Declan made her pregnant (against her will) one evening when he drove her home from work at the Nurse’s house. Kevin Jenkins had lost interest in her; and Sergeant Kelly never came near her anymore; not since his wife came out of hospital and he didn’t need her as a child minder or a stand-in lover in his new situation.

She pulled the big pink nightdress over her head, and put on her large bra – which she always removed for comfort – and dressed as quickly as she could.  She went down to the bathroom, at the back of the ground floor, and washed her face.  Then, when she checked the clock in the front room, she found it was almost 7.30. Time to go and wake Christopher.

Christopher always slept in the locked bedroom of his father, because he couldn’t be trusted to stay away from Aileen, who was just eight years old.  He also couldn’t be trusted to resist molesting the younger boys.  The Old Man locked his bedroom door after he left the room each morning, and Moira, who had a spare key, had to let Christopher out to go to work, around 7.30 each morning.

Moira retrieved the spare key from her hiding place, behind the hot water boiler, and went up the stairs quickly.  When she reached the landing, she had the mortise-lock key in her right hand.  Her routine was to jab the key into the lock with her right hand, while knocking on the door with her left.  She wanted to get as far away from the door as she could, as quickly as possible, because it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that Christopher would grab her and rub himself up against her big fat thigh.  In her frustrated state, this was quite disturbing; and she didn’t know how to discipline him.

But, on this occasion, she was thrown into a frozen state.  For in the lock, she could clearly see the Old Man’s key; still jutting out of the door, instead of being in his pocket, at work.  This had never happened before, in the two years that Christopher had been sleeping in the Old Man’s room.  What could this mean?

Moira approached the door and listened carefully, with her left ear to the wood, to see if the Old Man might still be in there, speaking to Christopher.  But the room was silent. When she tried to open the door by pressing down on the handle, it wouldn’t budge.  So she put her key into her apron pocket, and turned the Old Man’s key in the lock.  When she tried the handle this time, the door opened freely. And as she stepped into the room, it was like she had been struck by a hurling stick between the eyes.

Her brain froze.

Her heart raced.

Her stomach turned over.

For there, on the pillow of Christopher’s bed, was the remains of his crushed skull, with blood splashes up the walls behind and to the side of his bedhead.  His face no longer existed in a recognisable form!

She screamed once, and fainted.  The floor opened up beneath her and she fell into a living, sleeping hell of horrible possibilities and gut-wrenching pain.

~~~

3.

“Joy and suffering never leave us.  Life is a long march with a heavy burden”.

Sergeant Tony Delaney was worried. He’d been working with Inspector JohnJoe McNally since 1960, when they’d set up the Special Crimes Unit in a caravan out the back of Baggot Street Garda Station. They’d always worked very well together, mostly by working different cases, or working in parallel rather than in tandem.  In that way, Delaney never felt overly-controlled or overshadowed by his boss; and McNally never felt insecure about the possibility of being undermined by his subordinate.  They’d shared an assistant, Detective Una Gilligan, for the past two years.  And Gilligan fitted in very well, because she never allowed either of her bosses to know what she did for the other one; and she never gossiped about any aspect of the simplest of cases.

But now, in their new top floor office suite, around the corner from the Garda Station,  Sergeant Delaney was worried, because Inspector McNally had been admitted to Jervis Street Hospital with a serious heart condition.

Detective Gilligan had opened the letter, four days ago, which informed them that they would be under the leadership of Inspector SB Glasheen, from Wednesday of that week, until further notice.  Nobody knew if Inspector McNally would survive the heart surgery that was planned for him at Jervis Street.

But Inspector Glasheen had failed to turn up as yet, and now there was a special request from the Murder Squad to take on a new case in Wattling Town which had just been phoned in this morning.

It seemed from the letter, read out by Gilligan, that the Murder Squad was too busy to deal with it; and a sixteen year old boy has been murdered in his bed, at home, in the absence of any evidence of a break-in.  So, the Murder Squad suspect that this is a domestic crime, and a complex one at that; and so it falls under the remit of ‘special crimes’; and besides they cannot spare the manpower to investigate it.

Sergeant Delaney is already up to his eyebrows with special, complex cases.  Just writing up the case notes keeps him at his desk until eight or nine o’clock every night, including Saturdays!

So, in the absence of Inspector Glasheen showing his face, Delaney has, nervously, and unhappily, asked Detective Una Gilligan to get out to Wattling Town, to interview the family of the dead boy, and to report back to him as soon as possible.

“What kinds of motives should I consider?” asked the detective, who was only twenty-six years old, and in her second year in this role.

“Violent father? Perhaps with a record of alcohol abuse”, suggested Delaney.  “Or a mother who’s been pushed beyond human endurance by some kind of unusually challenging behaviour by the dead boy”.

“Anything else?” asked the slender, blond detective, scribbling some notes in her notebook.

“A sibling with a mental health problem? A schizophrenic? Or more straightforward or evil madness; something like that”, suggested the sergeant.

“What about…?” began the detective.

Delaney was getting impatient: “Look! Just go!  Use your imagination; your experience; your best guess!  Sniff around; and ask lots of questions!”

Una Gilligan got the message; blushed; and stepped backwards, before turning hurriedly and leaving the room.

Sergeant Delaney turned his attention back to the case notes he was analysing.  A bank manager.  Killed in a phone booth.  In Grafton Street.  With an ice pick, which was left in his skull! No fingerprints.  No obvious motive.  No leads.

~~~

As the morning wore on, the clouds cleared and the sun shone brightly though the big office windows.  The room warmed up, partly from the heating system as well as the sunshine.  At 11.30 am, Delaney was punch-drunk from bashing his brains against his case notes, and trying to work out the next steps in a dozen cases that were current; and no closer to understanding any of them, never mind resolving any of them.

He stood up and walked to the window, which looked out across Baggot Street Bridge.  Then he sat on the floor, leaned back against the wall, and felt the warm sunshine through the glass relaxing his head.  Within seconds he was asleep.

~~~

Before Sgt Delaney was fully into deep sleep, the office door creaked open, and in stepped an unusually tall man in full buckskin suit and a full chief’s headdress of eagle feathers.  His complexion was that of a Turk or a Persian; and he carried two leather cases.  One was a regular, black brief case, and the other was much bigger, and made from brown mock-leather.  The stranger peered at Delaney, watched to make sure he was fully asleep, and then walked to the main desk in the room, and put down his cases…

Copyright (c) The Institute for E-CENT Publications, 2018.

~~~

This book is due to be published before the end of 2018.

~~~