The Death of an Irish Sea Wolfby Bartholomew Gill
In a remote community off the west coast of Ireland, residents inclined to gossip speculate why reclusive Clement Ford, the "Sea Wolf," has become such a generous benefactor to his neighbors. then one night, a mysterious figure from Ford's past arrives on the island, and by morning three people are murdered and Ford has disappeared. In the wake of the tragedy,… See more details below
In a remote community off the west coast of Ireland, residents inclined to gossip speculate why reclusive Clement Ford, the "Sea Wolf," has become such a generous benefactor to his neighbors. then one night, a mysterious figure from Ford's past arrives on the island, and by morning three people are murdered and Ford has disappeared. In the wake of the tragedy, Chief Superintendent Peter McGarr, and his intuitive wife, Noreen, along with his trusted staff from the Murder Squad, must piece together the deadly evening's events and answer the questions: Who really is the enigmatic Sea Wolf? And what does he have that is worth killing so many people for?
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CLEMENT FORD HEARD the phone ring in the hall of the Clare Island cottage that hehad occupied now for over fifty years. He glanced at the clock on the mantel -- 4:15.
"Strange hour of the afternoon to be ringing up," said his wife, Breege, who wassitting in the other wing chair across the hearth from him.
Like a cracked red eye, a mound of peat was glowing in the fireplace, the whitesmoke tracking quickly up the flue. Outside a chill wind that had broughtdrenching rains was whining through the eaves. It was the last gasp of a wild andwet spring, Ford hoped. Apart from the clock, the clicking of Breege's knittingneedles was the only other sound.
"Shall I answer it?"
"No, of course not," said Ford, clenching his pipe between his teeth and graspingthe arms of the chair. "I've always answered the phone round here, and I've nointention of stopping now., I
"Mind your poor knees. Or are they feeling better today?"
Ford glanced at her. Although her hands were moving at a furious pace, herstar-burst blue eyes, which he had always considered the most beautiful he hadever seen, were staring up into the shadows on the other side of the room. Breegehad been blind since birth.
A dark woman with long, finely formed features, she was thin with good shouldersthat had remained square even as she had aged. In fact, with only a touch of grayin her jet black hair, Breege scarcely looked a day over fifty, though she wasnearly as old as Ford himself.
A proper woman in everything, she kept herself, her house, and all she touched shipshape. And he loved her still, as he had from the moment she and her aunt hadpulled him halfdeadfrom the sea all those years ago.
"If you must know, my knees are beyond hope, says the specialist in Dublin. Sothere's no sense discussing the subject further. If I don't use diem, they'llseize up, and then we'll be in the soup right enough." One blind and the other acripple who was now pushing eighty, Ford thought.
In spite of his age, Ford's shoulders and arms were still well muscled andstrong, and he easily pushed himself up from the chair. He had to wait atottering moment, however, before knowing if his legs would bear his weight,which was twenty stone. A massive man by any measure, he had "shrunk" --Breege was won to tell people who asked -- to six feet six inches tall. "I can seehim diminishing by the day," she'd say with a slight smile.
"Well, whoever it is, they know enough to keep ringing," she now observed.
The phone was maintaining its manic, two-ring jingle in the hall.
"Maybe it's one of the children calling." The Fords had no offspring of theirown, nor had they raised any. Yet their mantel was filled with framed photos ofseveral dozen young people in various stages of growth. "We should really get oneof those radio telephones that Mirna rang up on the other day," Breege continued."She bought it in Westport, and she can even carry it up to her pasture and downto the harbor. It's rigged to one of the American satellites. I'm afraid I'llnever understand how it happens, but she sounded like she was sitting where youare, Clem."
It was the last thing they needed, Ford thought -- as he moved stiffly -- another modemdevice that would put him on his duff and keep him there, until the both of themwere ready for some "home." Ford planned to live at least as long as Breege, whoneeded him more than she knew.
How? By staying active. "Chinese exercise," Breege's own maiden aunt had calledit, and Peig O'Malley had died at an even hundred years. "I've had to hack,scratch, and claw for everything I've ever needed," it was her wont to say, "and'tis work that's kept me fit." And would Ford too, if he could just persevere andfight through the pain. Clare Island practices had saved him once before andwould keep him alive now, if he let them.
"Hah-loo. How may I help you?" Ford said, forcing a bit of affability into hisvoice. His accent was decidedly British.
"Clem -- Paul here. I've got another one for you." A distant relation of Breege,like so many others on Clare Island, Paul O'Malley meant another boat. His wasthe highest dwelling on the harbor side of the island and commanded nearly acomplete view of the surrounding sea. As a shut-in, he was known as the "eyes ofClare Island," and he phoned Ford whenever any vessel of size put into theharbor.
For the favor, Ford bought O'Malley the odd pint when the quadriplegic's parentstook him out for an airing. Also, it was believed that Ford had performed severalextraordinary services for the large clan, who had inhabited the island at leastsince the notorious Grace O'Malley of Elizabethan times.
There was the matter of Padraic "Packy" O'Malley's surgery in Dublin, where hewas taken after having caught his hand in the winch of his lobster boat. Aspecialist had to be flown in from London, but miraculously the bill had arrivedat Packy's tiny cottage marked "Paid in Full." When Packy had inquired by whom,he was told a "giant Englishman" with a great white beard, though Ford had deniedeverything. He made mention of his modest lifestyle in the cottage that Breegehad inherited, the three meager fields that he farmed assiduously, and the factthat he did not own even an automobile. Or a boat.
Also a number of O'Malley children had been...Death of an Irish Sea Wolf. Copyright © by Bartholomew Gill. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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