Whatever Happened to Molly Bloom

Whatever Happened to Molly Bloom

by Jessica Stirling

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Overview

Whatever Happened to Molly Bloom by Jessica Stirling

The first in a new series featuring Detective Jim Kinsella. Who murdered Molly? Was it Leopold Bloom, in the kitchen, with a teapot . . .?

This finely crafted historical mystery, using several recognizable characters and the famous setting from James Joyce’s Ulysses, marks an intriguing departure for saga writer Jessica Stirling.

Detective Inspector Jim Kinsella of the Dublin police force is called to the scene when the body of Molly Bloom has been found in her own kitchen where she has been beaten to death with a teapot. Although her husband, Leopold Bloom, is immediately taken into custody without a convincing alibi, Kinsella begins to have his doubts and suspicion falls upon Molly’s fellow singer and alleged lover, Hugh ‘Blazes’ Boylan.

Kinsella, aided by his colleague, Inspector Tom Machin, probes the conflicting stories of Bloom and Boylan. Were the pair seen fighting outside a brothel the night of Molly’s murder? And what of the unusual scent, imported from America and found on a cotton ball beneath the Blooms’ bed, that Kinsella hopes will lead him to Leopold’s own dirty little secret?

Kinsella is determined to ensure the wrong man doesn’t end up behind bars, and, in seeking the truth, stumbles upon more than he bargained for…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781847515551
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Publication date: 07/01/2015
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 840,177
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Born in Glasgow, Jessica Stirling is the author of many heartwarming novels, many of which have Scottish backgrounds.

Read an Excerpt

Whatever Happened to Molly Bloom?


By Jessica Stirling

Severn House Publishers Ltd.

Copyright © 2014 Hugh Rae
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84751-555-1


CHAPTER 1

The bell of St George's tolled the hour of nine as Detective Inspector Jim Kinsella of the Dublin Metropolitan Police dropped from the tram and headed up into Eccles Street.

It was a brisk, bright March morning with more than a hint of spring in the air and the city was lifting its head again after a dreary, rain-washed winter.

Kinsella was glad to be out of the office, though why Store Street had requested assistance from G Division for what appeared to be an obvious case of domestic violence was puzzling.

On the steps of Number 7, a young constable in patrol uniform stood guard on the door. Tall, broad shouldered and fresh faced, a typical product of the Kevin Street Training Depot, he came to attention when he caught sight of the inspector. He did not, however, salute. Even here in the quiet backwaters of C Division the rank and file were still leery of drawing attention to a plainclothes detective who might be a target for nationalist desperadoes. A street whose lower reaches boasted only plain three-storey brown brick houses numbed by their own ordinariness was hardly likely to harbour a nest of volatile republicans but the inspector did not chide the young man for his caution.

'Kinsella,' he said. 'I believe I'm expected.'

'Mr Machin, sir, he's waiting for you inside.'

A Wexford accent, Kinsella thought, probably a farmer's son. He said, 'How long have you been here, Constable?'

'Short of an hour, sir.'

'Has the coroner arrived yet?'

'Not yet, sir.'

'Who was first on the scene?'

'It was me. I mean, I was.' The constable extracted a notebook from the side pocket of his tunic and read from it. 'At ten minutes to eight o'clock, nearing the end of my duty, I was approaching the corner of Lower Dorset Street from the north when a disturbance occurred in Eccles Street.'

'What sort of disturbance?'

'Shouting, a man shouting,' the constable answered. 'It was very loud and sounded ... I don't have the word, sir.'

'Frightened?' Kinsella suggested. 'Angry?'

'More like wailing.'

'What did you do then?'

'I proceeded to the scene and found a man standing on the step of Number 7 Eccles Street, shouting at the top of his voice.'

'Was he coherent?'

'Sir?'

'Could you make out what he was saying?'

'He was crying, "She's gone. She's gone." That was all the sense I could get out of him.'

'How was he dressed?'

'In a grey tweed suit.'

'Did he have his boots on?'

'He did.'

'And a hat?'

'No, sir. No hat.'

On the step of the house next door a man hovered, half in and half out of the doorway. Behind him, hugging his back, was a boy of ten or eleven. Other doors were open too and curtains twitched in the windows of the houses opposite.

Kinsella ignored the curious neighbours. 'What did you do then, Constable ...?'

'Jarvis, sir. Constable Jarvis. I calmed the gentleman best as I could and escorted him indoors.'

'Did he resist?'

'On the contrary, sir. He went of his own accord. He led me to a ground-floor bedroom where I found the body of a woman.' The constable paused. 'It was not a pleasant sight.'

'I'm sure it wasn't. Go on.'

'I entered the room to make sure the woman was no longer drawing breath, which she was not. The man was stood behind me all the while, moaning and wringing his hands. He kept saying, "Molly, Molly. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," over and over again. There was nothing I could do for the poor woman. She was beyond all aid. I put the man down into the kitchen, went outside and found a boy ...'

'From next door?'

'Ay, sir. I dispatched him to Store Street police station. He returned promptly with Inspector Machin and Sergeant Gandy.'

'But no doctor?'

'No, no doctor.'

'What did you do with the prisoner ... The gentleman, I mean?'

'I stayed with him in the kitchen.'

'Did it not occur to you to arrest him?' Kinsella asked.

'On what charge, sir? He says he was the one who found the body. I had no reason to suppose he was responsible.'

'Didn't he say anything to rouse your suspicions?'

'No, sir. He smoked a cigarette and, would you believe, put out meat for the cat. On Mr Machin's instruction Sergeant Gandy went to the Orphan School, where they have a telephone, and requested assistance from G Division.'

'Yes, I drew the duty,' Kinsella said.

'Mr Machin is still with the suspect, sir,' Constable Jarvis said. 'It don't be my place to say so but ...'

'He's waiting for me, is that it?'

'He is, sir. He is.'


Twenty years back, in the darkest days of the Land Wars, Jim Kinsella and Tom Machin had been recruits together in the Kevin Street barracks where Jim's father had been a serving sergeant in the mounted troop. Paternal precedent had conferred no favours on young Kinsella. Conforming to the Metropolitan's rigid rules while living up to his pappy's reputation as a rough-riding martinet had been hard on him. Unlike his father, he had no stomach for recreational drinking, no affinity with horses or much interest in the competitive sports by which a recruit's mettle was judged. He was intelligent, diligent and ambitious for advancement, which, in the eyes of many of his cohorts, set him apart from the pack.

Now, in the spring of 1905, Kinsella was settled in G Division Headquarters in the lower court of the Castle and Machin, by a circuitous route, had wound up in the Rotunda Division where his progress up the ranking ladder had stalled.

They met in the narrow hallway and shook hands.

At six feet, four inches tall Kinsella towered over Tom Machin who had attained the Metro's minimum height requirement only by lifting his heels and combing up his quiff.

'You look well,' Kinsella said.

'Fit as a flea,' said Machin.

'Are you still plunging into the briny at every opportunity?'

Machin's fondness for sea bathing had been quite a joke in the old days. 'Much less often than I used to,' he admitted. 'The sea seems a lot colder than it did twenty years ago.'

'Most things are,' Kinsella said. 'Why have you sent for me?'

'I'd like you to take a look at a body before Slater turns up.'

'Why?'

'I prefer to be armed with something more substantial than guesswork prior to making an arrest.'

'Where is the body?'

'In the bedroom on the left.'

'And the husband? I assume he is the husband?'

'Bloom, yes, Leopold Bloom. He's downstairs in the basement kitchen with Sergeant Gandy. I've been staring at him for half an hour but the beggar is giving nothing away. I'm hoping you might have more luck with him than I've had.'

'Body first, please,' Kinsella said.

Stairs went steeply up from the hall. A closed door, left, concealed the living room and another room lay at the far end of the hall. The bedroom to which Machin admitted him was cluttered with furniture and the window screened by a blind. Filtered daylight gave the room a strange hazy air, like one of the veiled tableaux with which Lowry had closed his pantomimes back in the days when, as Kinsella's father was constantly reminding him, women were women and you could get blind drunk for fourpence.

Sprawled across the bed, the woman would have fitted perfectly into one of Lowry's tableaux; a motionless centrepiece in a rumpled nightdress displaying just enough limb and bosom to rouse an audience to whistles but not quite enough to bring down Lowry's curtain on charges of indecency.

Her position was languid and unnatural. Clad only in a night dress, she lay half on and half off the double bed, shoulders and arms resting on the floor, her feet entangled in the sheets, belly covered by a bedspread and her face tucked coyly into the crook of an elbow. Her hair, unpinned, spread over her bare shoulder and if it hadn't been for the pool of blood around her head you might, indeed, have thought she was posing.

'Is this how your constable found her?' Kinsella asked.

'Jarvis disturbed her just enough to feel for a pulse. He did admit to pulling up the bedspread to cover her parts, though.'

'To protect her modesty.' Kinsella nodded. 'We've all done that in our time. No one else clumping about in here?'

'Only me. I had Sergeant Gandy check the house from top to bottom, by the way, and the outhouse and garden. No signs of an intruder.'

'You think it's the husband, don't you?'

'He's the obvious suspect, of course,' Machin said. 'But certain factors don't quite chime. You've always had a nose for the unusual, Jim. See for yourself. See what you make of it.'

Kinsella squatted by the side of the corpse and eased the woman's head from the rug. A heavy blow had crushed her upper lip and driven it into her teeth and up into the base of the nostril, the flange of which was torn. The wound that gave Kinsella pause, however, had been inflicted on the socket of the left eye; a blow with a jagged object had gouged out the eyeball which clung on aluminous threads to her cheek. A splinter of some brittle material decorated with a tiny flower, possibly a forget-me-not, protruded from the spongy mass of the socket.

Scattered on the floor between the woman's head and the trailing bedspread were a number of small white fragments and three or four larger pieces. One of the larger pieces had a handle attached to it and another a spout.

Kinsella lowered the woman's head and got to his feet.

'Bludgeoned to death with a teapot,' he said. 'Now that's an original way to meet a sticky end. I don't see any sign of spillage so it's safe to assume the pot was not filled with tea.'

'You don't recognise her, do you?' Machin said. 'Weren't you and your good lady at the Glen Cree Reformatory dinner when Mrs Bloom sang in tandem with Bartell d'Arcy? Madame Marion Tweedy she styled herself then. I'm surprised you've forgotten. She had a voice, let alone a figure, that sent shivers down your spine. The story goes that if she hadn't married Bloom and popped a kiddie she might have made it to Milan.'

'Well, she isn't going to make it to Milan now,' Jim Kinsella said just as the coroner, Dr Roland Slater, bustled into the bedroom and said, as he always did, 'Well, what have we here?'

CHAPTER 2

Due process dictated that Bloom be conveyed immediately to Store Street station to make a formal statement. To gain a little more time with the suspect, however, Tom Machin sent Sergeant Gandy to round up a mortuary van while Kinsella and he went down into the half basement to allow the grieving widower a further opportunity to unburden himself before he was cautioned.

Bloom was hunched at the kitchen table listlessly stroking a cat that lay full length on the table top purring and licking its whiskers. Kinsella pulled out a chair and sat down. He took off his hat and placed it crown up on the table.

'What's his name?' he began.

'What?' Bloom said.

'The cat, his name?'

'It's a female: Pussens.' Bloom cocked his head and squinted out of puffy, red-rimmed eyes. 'What are you going to do to me?'

'We're just having a little chat, Mr Bloom.'

'Are you arresting me?'

From his stance by the stairs, Machin said, 'You haven't been charged with anything, Mr Bloom. We're waiting for transport to take you to the station to make a statement.'

'I was only gone for ten minutes, a quarter hour at most,' Bloom blurted out.

'Gone where, Mr Bloom?' Kinsella said.

'For meat, for breakfast.'

'Did you lock the front door?'

'No, I never do. I didn't think ...'

'And you left Mrs Bloom, your wife, where?'

'Molly was in bed.'

'Asleep or awake?'

'Asleep.'

'So,' Kinsella said, 'you didn't have words?'

'Have words?'

'Exchange words. Speak to each other.'

'She was asleep. How could I have words with her?'

'Nothing then passed between you?' Kinsella said.

Bloom pursed his lips, full almost sensual lips braced by a spruce moustache sprinkled with a few grey hairs. His head hair, thinning a little from the brow, was glossy black and had probably received attention from the dye brush.

He wore a pale grey suit with a matching waistcoat and a shirt with a none-too-clean collar into which an unusually florid necktie had been inserted. Neither necktie nor collar had been loosened which may have accounted for the sibilant note in his voice, a thin, wheezing hiss that signalled either grief or defiance. We're not dealing with a slack-jawed bumpkin here, Kinsella thought. Machin's right: there is something fishy about the Jew, some aspect of his behaviour you can't put down to the idiosyncrasies of his race.

'No,' Bloom said. 'Nothing passed between us.'

'What sort of meat was it?'

Bloom's eyes opened wide. 'Begging your pardon?'

'The meat you bought for breakfast.'

'Calf's liver.'

'Where is it now?'

'I gave it to the cat.'

'All of it?'

'She was hungry. She hadn't been fed.'

'Didn't Mrs Bloom feed her?' Jim said.

As if colluding with her master the cat stopped licking and, stretching, yawned in the detective's face.

'Molly was very fond of Pussens.' Bloom spread the fingers of one hand and screened his eyes. 'She loved Pussens and Pussens loved her. Everyone loved Molly.'

Tom Machin raised a doubtful eyebrow while Mr Bloom, shoulders shaking, continued to sob.

Kinsella pressed on. 'When was the cat last fed?'

'I don't see what ...' Bloom began then, with a watery sigh, appeared to capitulate. 'Last night, about half past ten.'

'Before you and Mrs Bloom retired for the night?'

'Yes.'

'How much liver did you buy this morning?'

'Two cuts. Seven pence worth.'

'Where did you buy your seven pence worth?'

'Dlugacz's. It's just around the corner in Dorset Street.'

'I was under the impression Dlugacz sold only the products of the pig,' Tom Machin said.

'I'm a Protestant,' Bloom said. 'I can eat what I like.'

'How do you cook the liver?' Jim Kinsella asked.

'For the love of God!' Bloom exploded, displaying as much temper, Kinsella reckoned, as a fellow like Bloom would ever display. 'What do my eating habits – she's lying – my wife is lying upstairs with her head bashed in and all you're concerned about is how I cook my breakfast.'

He rose abruptly, scraping back the chair.

Startled, the cat leapt from the table and with a haughty glance at Inspector Machin, raised her tail, stalked out of the door and vanished upstairs.

Kinsella said, 'There isn't much heat in the fire, Mr Bloom.'

Bloom glanced round at the stove, at the kettle, cold and inert upon the hob, at caked ash protruding from the rungs of the grate. 'Mrs Fleming used to do it. Clean it, light it, then when she had it going nicely we'd have breakfast.'

'Who is Mrs Fleming?'

'Oh,' Bloom said. 'She's gone long since. Our daily woman, she was. Molly didn't take to her.'

'Why didn't Mrs Bloom take to her?'

'Because she was old,' Bloom said. 'Molly never did take to any of our servants.' Collapsing on to the wooden chair, he buried his head in his hands and went back to sobbing once more.

Kinsella retrieved his long legs from beneath the table and got to his feet. He stared down at the crown of Bloom's head and, for an instant, felt almost sorry for the man. He had a strong suspicion that the fellow was lying but whether he had killed her or whether he had not, his wife lay dead upstairs and he, at this moment, must be struggling to come to terms with it.

'Take a moment to compose yourself, Mr Bloom,' Kinsella said, then, picking up his hat, went upstairs to talk to the coroner.

Roland Slater was a respected member of the medical fraternity who had been coroner for Dublin County and City for ten years and, barring unforeseen disasters, would hold the post for life. A garrulous little chap, now in his sixties, he wore an old-fashioned morning coat with beetle-wing tails, striped trousers and a shirt with a collar so stiff and tall that it reminded Kinsella of a slave ring. He was rarely seen, in or out of doors, without a scuffed leather valise attached to his fist and a silk hat perched on his frosty white hair.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Whatever Happened to Molly Bloom? by Jessica Stirling. Copyright © 2014 Hugh Rae. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Ltd..
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Whatever Happened to Molly Bloom 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought the story was quite entertaining. Kept me guessing what was going on for awhile.