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Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Song of the Past: Twenty

Table of Contents
Thursday, 11:45 AM
When Deirdre reached the courthouse seeking a State’s Attorney to approve her application for a warrant, the only one available happened to be the Chief State’s Attorney for New Haven County, John O’Sullivan. She approached his office with some trepidation, uncomfortable facing such a senior figure, one with whom she had only the most fleeting acquaintance.

His secretary announced Deirdre’s arrival to her boss, who said he could see the detective immediately. Upon entering his office, she found him reading a newspaper while smoking a cigar and joking with one of his colleagues. There was a smoking ban that applied to the entire courthouse, but she guessed that there was no one willing to try enforcing that rule if O’Sullivan chose to disregard it. She waited in patient silence for a pause in the banter filling the office, one that would allow her to intrude gracefully. But just as she detected a lull and was about to introduce herself, O’Sullivan looked up at her and asked, “Detective O’Reilly, what have you heard from the old sod lately?”
Deirdre was taken back – she hadn’t expected O’Sullivan even to have any notion who she was, let alone to know her land of birth. However, she did her best to conceal her surprise as she answered his query. “Things are looking better. It seems that joining the EU is finally paying off, and business is picking up all over the island, so that people can make a decent living even in the more remote areas, some of which were on the verge of complete de-population.”



“Which part of Ireland are you from?”

“Cobh, just outside of Cork City.”

“We’re Corkmen ourselves, the O’Sullivans. From the farthest west of the county. Ever been out there?”

“My dad took us once on holiday to Glengarriff. It was really lovely. We went to those Italian gardens.”

“Ah, Glengarriff is still in central Cork compared to where my people are from, out on the Beara Peninsula— Castletownbere, Dursey Island, Hungry Hill, Healy Pass.”

“No, I’ve never been that far west.”

“Quite a place. Feel like you’re at the end of the world. And at one time you would have been, at least as far as Europeans knew.”

Deirdre heard the plaintive cries of sea birds, echoing off of wave-scoured, rocky cliffs. Hermit monks, entombed in stone beehives, gazing from lonely hills across the vast expanse of ocean, trying to catch a glimpse of God in the sun-spangled waves. Storms sweeping in from beyond the rim of the world, their ghostly moans winds blowing their briny exhalations onto the velvet-green fields and the dwarfish, twisted trees.

O’Sullivan continued, breaking the spell of Deirdre’s daydream: “O’Sullivan Castle, out past Castletownbere—it’s just a ruin now—is where Oliver Cromwell subdued my ancestors. Most likely they lost because they were all too pre-occupied with drinking and quarreling with each other to pay attention to much else.” He shook his head, and then evidenced pleasure at something this history brought to mind. “Did I ever tell you about the feud between two of my great-uncles?”

Neither member of his audience answered in the affirmative, so he continued.

“You see, they were brothers, who both lived on small farms in Teernahilan, above Castletownbere. A lonely place—about fifteen families in a twenty-square mile area. Anyway, each of them owned a primitive, one-room cottage, the two houses standing only about twenty or thirty yards apart. And in these tiny homes the pair they had about fifteen kids between them. No electricity, no indoor plumbing, no central heat. Well, one day the brothers had a serious tiff over something—no one else is even sure what the quarrel was about—and that was that. They lived next to each other for another twenty years without a word passing between them. Good God, we Irish are a bunch of thick-headed donkeys.”

He turned back to Deirdre. “Anyway, next time that you’re home, you must head out there. I can give you the names of a few people to get in touch with.”

“Thanks, I’d like that.”

“But you didn’t come here to discuss Cork, did you, Detective?”

“No, I need a warrant signed.”

“Who are we after this time?”

“I’d rather see you alone on this one, sir.”

He turned to his companion. “Joe, give me a minute with the detective.” The man shuffled out, his piqued curiosity unsatisfied. O’Sullivan turned to Deirdre and raised an eyebrow.

“Well, sir, it’s Harrison Tyler.”

O’Sullivan sat, nonplused, for a small eternity. “Harrison Tyler, hey? And what do we suspect him of?”

“Murder. First his wife, then a seventeen-year-old kid a few days ago—right now, I’m just going for the kid, but the wife is tied into my case.”

“Those sure aren’t trivial accusations, are they? Do you know that we carefully considered him as a suspect when his wife was killed, but we couldn’t turn up anything at all pointing to him?”

Deirdre nodded, and gave O’Sullivan a grimace meant to say, “I know this is all very awkward, but there it is.”

O’Sullivan’s eyes fixed on hers, and he asked, “Are you sure you’re not on a fishing expedition? Not just stuck on your case?”

Deirdre offered him the evidence she had accumulated, in the form of a file folder stuffed with papers. O’Sullivan reviewed it for some time. He then sat back in his chair and re-lit his cigar. He puffed for a time in silence.

“All right, Detective, you have enough here to justify a search warrant. And I’m only two years away from retiring, so I’m not counting on any promotions anyway.” He picked up a pen off of his cluttered desk and signed her warrant request.

Deirdre next went to find a judge. At the first office she came to, Judge Barbara Catrell’s outer door was closed. She knocked and, receiving no answer, she opened the door. No one was in the reception area. The door to the judge’s office was open, however, and Deirdre stuck her head in. Catrell was reclining in a leather chair, her eyes closed. Standing behind her was a tall, thin, wavy-haired young man, his hands busily massaging her temples. An exotic smell suffused the room, and sitar music sounded softly from unseen speakers. The masseuse glanced up at her, and shook his head in admonition. He held up a single finger and raised his eyebrows in supplication. Deirdre didn’t know whether the “one” indicated seconds, minutes, hours, or some other time unit, but she decided that it was prudent to wait that “one” period before she disturbed the judge. She moved back to the reception area of the judge’s chamber, took a seat, and bided her time.

A few minutes later Judge Catrell emerged to inform Deirdre that she had just been receiving massage and aromatherapy for her sinus headaches. “God, they leave me blind sometimes. Ever since my divorce these things have been plaguing me. I guess it’s stress, but if you believed you had a happy marriage for twenty-three years only to find out that your husband had been keeping a mistress for the last seventeen of them, wouldn’t you feel a little stress?”

“Yes, I certainly would.”

Catrell shook her head as if to loosen the tenacious hold of those thoughts. “But what did you come here for…” Her hand turned toward her guest, palm up, to indicate that she sought Deirdre’s identity.

“Detective O’Reilly.”

“…Detective O’Reilly?”

Deirdre explained what she needed, and Catrell signed off on the warrant almost immediately, hardly glancing at the details. “If John O’Sullivan says this is OK, then it’s OK,” she explained to Deirdre.

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