Read an Excerpt
By Graham Masterton
Head of Zeus Ltd Copyright © 2011 Graham Masterton
All rights reserved.
At first he thought it was a black plastic garbage bag that some Traveller had tossed into the river, full of dirty nappies or strangled puppies. 'Shite,' he said, under his breath.
He reeled in his line and then he started to wade through the shallows towards it, his rod tilted over his shoulder. As far as he was concerned, the Blackwater was sacred. His father had first brought him here to fish for spring salmon when he was eight years old, and he had been fishing here every year since. It was Ireland's finest river and you didn't throw your old rubbish into it.
'Denis!' called Kieran. 'Where are you off to, boy? You won't catch a cold over there, let alone a kelt!' His voice echoed across the glassy surface of the water, so that it sounded as if he were shouting in a huge concert hall. The wind blew through the trees on the opposite bank and softly applauded him.
Denis didn't answer. As he approached the black plastic garbage bag it was becoming increasingly apparent that it wasn't a black plastic garbage bag at all. When he reached it, he realized that it was a man's body, dressed head to foot in black. A priest's soutane, by the look of it.
'Jesus,' he breathed, and carefully rested his rod on the riverbank.
The man was lying on his side on a narrow spit of shingle, with his legs half immersed in the water. His hands appeared to be fastened behind his back and his knees and his ankles were tied together. His face was turned away, but Denis could see by his thinning silver hair that he was probably in his late fifties or early sixties. He looked bulky, but Denis remembered that when his father had died, his body had sat in his basement flat in Togher for almost a week before anybody had found him, and how immensely bloated he had become, a pale green Michelin Man.
'Kieran!' he shouted. 'Come and take a sconce at this! There's a dead fella here!'
Kieran reeled in his line and came splashing through the shallows. He was red-faced, with fiery curls and freckles and close-together eyes so intensely blue that he looked almost mad. He was Denis's brother-in-law, eight years younger than Denis, and they had nothing at all in common except their devotion to salmon fishing, but as far as Denis was concerned that was perfect. Salmon fishing required intense concentration, and silence.
Salmon fishing brought a man closer to God than any prayer.
'Holy Mother of God,' said Kieran, joining Denis beside the body and crossing himself. 'He's a priest, I'd say.' He paused and then he said, 'He is dead, isn't he?'
'Oh no, he's just having forty winks in the river. Of course he's dead, you eejit.'
'We'd best call the guards,' said Kieran, taking out his mobile phone. He was about to punch out 112 when he hesitated, his finger poised over the keypad. 'Hey ... they won't think that we killed him, will they?'
'Just call them,' Denis told him. 'If we'd have done it, we wouldn't be hanging around here like a couple of tools, would we?'
'No, you're right. We'd have hopped off long since.'
While Kieran called the Garda, Denis circled cautiously around the body, his waders crunching on the shingle. The man's eyes were open, and he was staring at the water as if he couldn't understand what he was doing there, but there was absolutely no doubt that he was dead. Denis hunkered down beside him and stared at him intently. He looked familiar, although Denis couldn't immediately think why. It was those tangled white eyebrows and those broken maroon veins in his cheeks, and most of all that distinctive cleft in the tip of his bulbous nose. His lower lip was split open as if somebody had punched him, very hard.
'The cops are on their way,' said Kieran, holding up his mobile phone. 'They said not to mess with anything.'
'Oh, I will, yeah! You should come round this side. He's starting to hum already.'
'I just had my sandwiches, thanks. Tuna and tomato.'
The two of them stood beside the body, not really knowing what they ought to do next. It seemed disrespectful to go back to their fishing, even though now and again, out of the corner of his eye, Denis caught the quick flashing of silver in the water. He had hoped to catch his first springer today, and the conditions were perfect.
'Who killed him then, do you think?' said Kieran. 'Whoever it was, they gave him a good old lash in the kisser before they did.'
Denis tilted his head sideways so that he could take another look at the man's face. 'Do you know something? I'm sure I reck him. He's a lot older than when I last saw him, if it's him, but then he would be, because it was fifteen years ago, at least.'
'So who do you think it is?'
'I think it's Father Heaney. In fact, I'm almost sure of it. His eyebrows used to be black in those days. I always thought they looked like two of them big black hairy spiders. You know, them tarantulas. He's not wearing his glasses, but I'd know that gonker anywhere.'
'Where did you know him from?'
'School. He used to teach music. He was a right whacker, and no mistake. There wasn't a single lesson went by that he wouldn't give you a smack around the earhole for something and nothing at all. He said I sang like a creaky door.'
Kieran sniffed and wiped his nose with the back of his sleeve. 'Looks like somebody smacked him, for a change.'
Denis didn't answer, but standing in the river next to Father Heaney's dead body with the wind whispering in the trees all around him made him feel as if he had been taken back in time. He could almost hear the school choir singing the 'Kyrie eleison' in their sweet, piercing voices, and the sound of stampeding feet along the corridor, and Father Heaney's voice barking out, 'Walk, O'Connor! You won't get to heaven any quicker by running!'CHAPTER 2
Katie opened her eyes to see John standing by the bedroom window, one hand dividing the rose-patterned curtains, staring at the fields outside.
The early morning sunlight illuminated his naked body so that he looked like a painting of a medieval saint, especially since he had grown his dark curly hair longer after he and Katie had first met, and he had a dark crucifix of hair on his chest. He was thinner, too, and much more muscular, from a year and a half of working on the farm.
'You're looking very pensive there,' said Katie, propping herself up on one elbow.
John turned his head and gave her the faintest of smiles. The sunlight turned his brown eyes into shining agates. 'I was looking at the spring barley, that's all.'
'And thinking what, exactly?'
He let the curtain fall back and came towards the bed. He stood beside her as if he wanted to tell her something important, but when she looked up at him he said nothing at all, but kept on smiling down at her.
She reached her up and cupped him in her left hand, gently stroking his penis with the tip of her right index finger. 'This fruit's beginning to look ripe already,' she teased him. 'Why don't you let me have a taste of it?'
He grunted in amusement. But then he leaned forward and kissed the top of her head, and sat down next to her. She kept on stroking him for a while, but he gently took hold of her wrist and stopped her.
'There's something I have to tell you, Katie,' he said. 'I was going to tell you last night, but we were having such a great time.'
Katie frowned at him. 'What is it? Come on, John, you've got me worried now. It's not your mother, is it?'
'No, no. Mam's fine for now. The doctors even said that she might be able to come home in a week or two.'
He was just about to answer her when her mobile phone played the first three bars of 'The Fields of Athenry'. 'Hold on a second,' she said, and reached across to the bedside table to pick it up. 'Superintendent Maguire here. Who is this?'
'Detective O'Sullivan, ma'am. Sorry to be disturbing you, like. But we were called out to Ballyhooly because these two fisher fellas found a body in the river.'
'What does it look like? Accident or suicide or homicide?'
'Homicide, not a doubt about it. He was all trussed up like a turkey and strangulated.'
'Who's in charge up there?'
'Sergeant O'Rourke for the moment, ma'am. But he thinks you need to come and see this for yourself.'
'Oh, for God's sake, can't he handle it? This is my day off. In fact this is the first day off I've had in weeks.'
'Sergeant O'Rourke really thinks you need to see this, ma'am. And we need somebody to talk to the media about it, too. We've got RTÉ News up here already, and Dan Keane from the Examiner, and even some girl from the Catholic Recorder.'
Katie picked up her wristwatch and peered at it. 'All right, Paddy. Give me fifteen minutes.'
She snapped her mobile phone shut and swung her legs out of bed.
'What is it?' asked John.
'The call of duty, what do you think? Somebody's found a body in the Blackwater. For some reason, Jimmy O'Rourke wants me to come and take a look at it first-hand.'
She stepped into the white satin panties that she had left on the wheelback chair beside the bed, and then fastened her bra. John said, 'You want me to drive you?'
She pulled on her dark green polo-neck sweater so that her short coppery hair stuck out like a cockerel's comb. 'No, thanks. I could be there for hours. But I'll call you as soon as I can. By the way, what was it you were going to tell me?'
John shook his head. 'Don't worry. It can wait until later.'
She buttoned the flies of her tight black jeans and zipped up her high-heeled boots. Then she went through to the bathroom and stared at her reflection in the mirror over the washbasin. 'Jesus, look at these bags under my eyes! Anybody would think I spent all night at an orgy.'
'You did,' said John. He watched her as she put on her eye make-up and pale pink lip gloss. He always thought that she looked as if she were distantly related to the elves, with her green eyes and her high cheekbones and her slightly pouting mouth. She was only five feet five, but she had such personality. He didn't find it difficult to understand how she had managed to become Cork's first-ever female detective superintendent. He also knew why he had fallen so inextricably in love with her.
She came out of the bathroom and gave him a kiss. 'How about Luigi Malone's this evening, if I don't finish too late? I'm dying for some of their mussels.'
'I don't know. Maybe.' But then he thought: Over dinner, that could be the right time to tell her.
He wrapped himself in his dark blue towelling bathrobe and followed her barefooted to the front door. She turned and kissed him one more time. 'You take extra good care,' he told her, like he always did. Then he watched her walk across the steeply angled farmyard, with his tan and white collie Aoife trotting after her. She climbed into her Honda and blew him a quick final kiss before she drove off.CHAPTER 3
On the way to Ballyhooly she played Guillaume de Machaut's 'Gloria' by St Joseph's Orphanage Choir, from their Elements CD. The singing was so piercing and so clear and so intense that it always made her feel uplifted, and she sang along, just as high as the boys in the choir but badly off key. Despite the crime she had to deal with every day – the violence and the drug peddling and the prostitution and the drunkenness – 'Gloria' reminded her that there really must be a heaven, after all.
She drove along Lower Main Street until she reached the turning for Carrignavar. The road was narrow and bordered on each side by grey stone walls covered in ivy, but it was deserted, and she saw no other sign of life until she reached a farmhouse about three miles down the road. Seven or eight cars and vans were lined up along the grass verge outside the farmhouse gates, and inside the farmyard three squad cars were parked, with flashing blue lights, as well as two police vans and an ambulance.
A garda directed her in through the gates and opened her car door for her. As she climbed out, Sergeant O'Rourke came across the farmyard to greet her, holding up a large pair of green rubber wellingtons. He was a short, sandy-haired man, with a rough-cut block of a head that looked much too big for his body.
'You'll be needing these, ma'am,' he told her.
'What size are they?'
'Tens. But you wouldn't want to be wading in the river in stiletto heels, would you?'
She sat down in the driver's seat, unzipped her black leather boots, and put on the wellingtons. They were enormous, and when she started to walk in them, they made a loud wobbling sound.
'So, what's the story, Jimmy?' she asked, as she followed him around the side of the farmhouse. The farmer and his wife and two teenage sons were standing together in their front porch, glowering at them. Katie waved at them and called out, 'All right, there? Sorry about all the disturbance!' but they didn't reply. They looked like a family of ill-assorted gargoyles.
'What a bunch of mogs,' said Sergeant O'Rourke.
'Now then, Jimmy. Respect for your ordinary citizen, please.'
They walked together across the pasture that led down to the edge of the Blackwater, and the breeze whispered softly in the long shiny grass. As they came nearer, the black-clad body came into view, lying on its side in the shallows. Two gardaí from the technical bureau were crouching in the water next to it in pale green Tyvek suits, taking photographs. Three more uniformed guards and two paramedics were talking to a TV crew and two reporters on the bank. A little further away stood two men with fishing rods, smoking, and three small boys.
Sergeant O'Rourke pointed to the anglers. 'Those two fellas over there – they were the ones who were after finding the body. One of them says that he knows who he is – or he's reasonably certain, anyhow.'
'He's pretty sure that he's a parish priest from Mayfield, Father Heaney. Apparently he taught music at St Anthony's Primary School back in the eighties.'
'Good memory your man's got.'
'Not surprising, if it is him. Father Heaney was one of the twelve priests in the Cork and Ross diocese who were investigated seven years ago for sexual abuse. Taught the boys music? Taught them to play the fiddle, I shouldn't wonder.'
'Was he ever charged with anything?'
'I had O'Sullivan check for me. There were eleven complaints against Father Heaney in all. Inappropriate behaviour in the showers, that kind of thing. In the end, though, the Director of Public Prosecutions wouldn't take the matter any further because it had all happened too long ago.'
'But that's why the press are here? Because of the sexual abuse angle?'
'What aren't you telling me, Jimmy?'
'Like I said, ma'am, this is something you need to see for yourself.'
He stepped down into the river and held out his hand to help Katie follow him. The water felt icy cold, even through her rubber wellingtons. Sergeant O'Rourke waded ahead and Katie came behind him, trying to keep the wellingtons from falling off. As they approached, the two gardaí from the technical bureau stood up and took a few paces back. One was grey-haired, in his mid-forties. The other could have just left school.
'Well, he looks like a priest,' said Katie, bending over the body. 'Any identification on him?'
'Nothing, ma'am,' said the younger technician. He had a wispy blonde moustache and such fiery red acne that he looked as if he had been hit in the face point- blank by a shotgun. 'All we found in his pockets was a rosary and a packet of extra-strong mints.'
'He took care of what mattered, anyhow,' remarked Sergeant O'Rourke. 'His soul, and his breath.'
'Any ideas about the cause of death?' asked Katie. 'Not to prejudge Dr Reidy's autopsy, of course.'
The older technician cleared his throat. 'One of two or three things, I'd say; or a combination of all of them. He was garrotted with very thin wire, which was twisted tight at the back of his neck with the handle of a soup spoon. The same type of wire was used to tie his wrists and his knees and ankles. But he could just as well have bled to death, or died of shock.'
With that, he bent over the priest's body and turned him on to his back. The priest's left arm flopped into the water with a splash. The technicians had cut the wires that had fastened his knees and his ankles together, and then they had unbuttoned his black soutane all the way up to his waist.
He was wearing no underpants. His flaccid penis lay sideways on his fat white thigh, but underneath it, where his testicles should have been, there was nothing but a dark gaping hole.
Excerpted from Broken Angels by Graham Masterton. Copyright © 2011 Graham Masterton. Excerpted by permission of Head of Zeus Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.