A Song of the Past: 12

(Previous installment.)
Wednesday, 2:00 PM
As soon as Deirdre arrived back at headquarters, Calzone waved her over to his desk. He was cradling his phone receiver under his ear, and he held one finger up in the air for Deirdre’s benefit while he talked to the person on the other end. From the sound of the conversation, he was just wrapping up the call.

“All right, Mrs. Wilson, we’ll look into it for you. No, we’ll send someone around. Take care, Mrs. Wilson. I’ve got to go now.” He put down the receiver and looked up at Deirdre. “Mrs. Wilson. She calls about once a week. There are people hanging around outside, who she is sure are casing her apartment. Selling crack or poontang is more like it, if you’ll excuse my language, Detective.”

“Anyway, I got a call from some guy named Seamus. Sounded kinda like you. Said it was important.”
Deirdre felt a sinking sensation in her stomach. If her brother was calling her and declaring the call to be important, he meant it was important that she hear the sermon he had prepared in response to her latest lapse in behavior. She went to her desk and called the Massachusetts number Seamus had left with Calzone, which turned out to be a beeper, where after a prompt she left her own number. After staring at the phone for a couple of minutes, hoping to at least reduce the portion of her penance that consisted in worrying about which one of her myriad sins was at issue this time by discovering her offence on her own as soon as possible, she abandoned her futile attempt to influence fate, and went to see Mary Sneelman, who was the administrative assistant shared by all of the homicide detectives.

She found Mary reviewing expense forms in her cubical. When the woman noticed her visitor, Deirdre asked, “Mary, can you do me a favor?”

“Of course. What do you need?”

“Can you pull the file on the Evelyn Tyler homicide investigation from last summer?”

“Of course! Give me ten minutes and I’ll have it at your desk.”

As they were talking Deirdre heard her phone ring. She dashed back across to catch it before the call bounced back to the switchboard operator.

“Detective O’Reilly speaking,” she said, sticking with her standard way of answering her calls despite her near certainty as to the caller’s identity.

“Carpenter O’Reilly, at your service,” replied the voice in her ear. Her brother worked illegally as a carpenter in Boston.

“Seamus, how’s it coming with you?”

“Fine, except I’m having to be me sister’s keeper yet again.”

“What have I done this time?”

“You can’t recall what day it is, then?”

Deirdre thought for a moment. “Oh, shite!”

“That’s right, your long-suffering father’s birthday, and not a peep out of you all day. Deirdre, you’ll put him in his grave well before his time.”

“Seamus, you couldn’t have called yesterday and reminded me?”

“Ah, but you’re all grown up now,” he said, each word carefully squeezed for every drop of irony he could extract from it. “You have no need for Seamus watching over you.”

“Seamus, call me back when you can at least pretend to be pleasant.” She slammed down the phone.

She looked at her watch: two o’clock Eastern time, which meant seven o’clock in Cork. She knew that her father went to sleep quite early these days, so if she didn’t call fairly soon he’d be in bed. She wasn’t thrilled with the idea of calling overseas on the public’s dime, but she couldn’t see any other way to both get her research done and make up for her gaffe. She supposed that if she explained the situation and offered to pay for the call, then no harm was done. As she was pondering her dilemma Mary arrived with the file Deirdre had requested and placed it on her desk.

“Thanks, Mary. Without you, I’d be sunk.”

“Oh, I’m just doing my job.” She peered at Deirdre over her horn-rimmed glasses with an expression of concern. “Is there something wrong?” Mary was the department’s surrogate mother, and it never occurred to her that any of her “children” might have a personal problem that didn’t call for her attention.

“It’s just a silly, typical family thing—a little argument with my brother.”

“Now, don’t try to make light of it—I know only too well how upsetting that kind of thing can be. Why, my very own two brothers, they haven’t spoken to each other in over ten years. What happened was, my brother Joe met this woman, a nice enough lady in her own way, but what Joe didn’t realize, until after he started seeing her, was that she had dumped my other brother, Frank, only a few months before, and left him heartbroken. Well, Joe had really fallen for her in the meantime, and they got engaged. When Frank found out, he went through the roof! Claimed that Joe had betrayed him, that Joe knew Frank was still in love with Alicia—that’s the woman’s name, Alicia—and said he never wanted to see Joe again. Can you imagine, he wouldn’t even go to his own brother’s wedding! Joe and Alicia have two kids now—has Frank ever met them? No! And Frank—he’s a firefighter, by the way—he was honored by the city in a big ceremony for his bravery on the job. Do you think his own brother was there?”

Deirdre had been listening in awed silence, but she worried that if she didn’t cut in, Mary might list ten years worth of events that Frank and Joe hadn’t shared. “Mary, I appreciate your efforts to help, but I really have to make a phone call, and then get to work on this file you brought.”

“Oh, sure, Detective, don’t let me stop you. But can you guess who’s the only one in the family they’re both still on good terms with?”

“You, Mary?”

“That’s right. Me, the peacemaker! But I haven’t been able to get them back together. Anyhow, I’ll let you get back to work.”

“Thanks, Mary.”

“But don’t ever let your family play second fiddle to your work! You take care of this business with your brother, and make sure the two of you don’t wind up like my brothers.”

When Mary was far enough away that Deirdre thought it unlikely she would turn around to deliver a Parthian shot, she dialed her father’s number, and after three rings, she heard his familiar voice through the static of the trans-Atlantic cables.


“Hi, Dad.”

“My goodness, Deirdre. I didn’t expect to hear from you again so soon—you called just a fortnight ago.”

“But it’s your birthday, Dad. I wanted to wish you a happy one.”

“It’s grand that you should remember, Deirdre. And it was just a few hours ago I heard from your brother, as well.”

“I’m happy he got hold of you. You’re still his hero, you know.”

“How do you think Seamus is getting on over there? I worry about him, you know, because he wasn’t blessed with a great brain, not like you were. He’s got to get on in the world on effort alone.”

These backhanded compliments were a running theme with her father. To him, intelligence was sheer luck, while dumb persistence was a moral virtue.

“Dad, he seems to be doing fine. I think he’s found someone to sponsor him for his green card.”

“Christ, it’s a bloody crime that we Irish built half of Amerikay, and now we have to sneak in and then beg to stay, just for the chance to do an honest day’s work, while others live on the dole and have all them crack babies, with no father to speak of. Deirdre, you know I’m no racist, and I went through a lot of grief when I married your mother, who I love to this day, God rest her soul, but still it seems to me that a lot of them black folks over there don’t appreciate what they’ve got.”

“I think that there’s a lot of people from every race who don’t appreciate what they’ve got.”

“You’re probably right.”

They talked for a few more minutes, mostly about what her old acquaintances from Cobh were up to, before Deirdre announced she had to get back to work.

“Ah, making your calls on the company pound. As I always say, ‘Look out for yourself first, as the boss surely is doing the same.’” Her father had lost a string of jobs, and had adopted this gut-level socialism as his way of explaining such incidents, both to himself and to others.

“Dad, I only called from work to make sure I caught you before you turned in for the night.”

“Now, Deirdre, there’s no shame in taking what you can get from them, because they’re just planning to suck the life blood from you before they spit out the dry husk.”

“Dad, I really have to go. I love you.”

“Oh, now I suppose you do. You watch yourself in that job of yours.”

“I will. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye, Deirdre.”

She sat staring at the phone for a minute after she hung up, and then she picked opened the thick file that lay on her desk and began to examine its contents.

It seemed that Evelyn Tyler had owned and managed one of the most upscale of the many antique shops in Westville. She had a reputation for being able to acquire the most-difficult-to-find pieces. There was talk that she didn’t always obey the letter of the law in her efforts to do so, although that was just a rumor circulating among the other dealers, for which there had never been enough solid evidence even to prompt an official investigation. Nevertheless, if the rumor had any basis, then Deirdre imagined that Evelyn Tyler frequently would have been handling significant amounts of cash.
The day of her murder Evelyn left her house at 10:00 AM, mentioning to the maid that she was going to the shop for a few hours. The salesperson working that day, Beverly Armstrong, reported that when Tyler had arrived at 10:30 she immediately went into her office in the back of the store. As far as Armstrong was aware, Tyler first took care of some routine paperwork and then placed and received a few phone calls. Armstrong mentioned that one of the calls Tyler had taken, just before lunchtime, had seemed to upset her. Armstrong could not remember anything specific from the conversation, except that at one point she heard Tyler repeat twice, “We can’t live in the past.” The investigators had checked the phone company records for that day; all of Evelyn Tyler’s incoming calls had been from regular business contacts, except one, which had been made from a pay phone at 11:54 AM. An hour or so later, Evelyn had announced she was off to run some business errands and do a little shopping. At about 4:30 PM, Tyler had been seen in Ann Taylor by a couple of clerks, who knew her as a regular. They were the last people the police could discover who had seen her still alive. At six the following morning an employee arriving for his shift at Southern Connecticut Gas had noticed a woman slumped over the steering wheel of a car parked on Chapel Street, a hundred feet from the entrance gate to the employee parking lot. He had stopped to see if she needed help, but when he saw the terrible wound on her head he rushed to the nearest phone, which was inside his employer’s building, and called 911.

The car she had been driving, a silver Mercedes, was wiped clean of prints. Deirdre wondered if it was the very same car she had just seen in Harrison Tyler’s garage—could he possibly be so undisturbed by his wife’s murder that he had kept the vehicle thought to have been the motive for the crime? About $10,000 worth of jewelry Evelyn Tyler had been wearing was missing from her corpse, and her purse held no cash.

Despite the intense pressure from the upper levels of city government to solve such a high profile murder involving such a prominent citizen, and the consequent devotion of far more than the usual resources to the investigation, after several months there were still no promising leads, and finally the case had been placed on inactive status. In New Haven, there were always fresh crimes sprouting like mushrooms after a rainstorm, always new victims crying out for justice, and even a wealthy socialite could not expect her passing to keep the attention of the police indefinitely.

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