This is chapter 1 of The Killer’s Hand, an unfinished novel of mine. I don’t recall why I didn’t finish it. I do remember that I didn’t plan anything in this book, I just started writing and tried to figure the story out as I went – something I never do.
Looking at it now, it feels like there might be something there, definitely something to finish when I get the play Godot is written.
* * *
Here it is…
For the second time that night, Donal Kennedy had to get up to use the toilet. He stood above the bowl, one hand leaning against the wall when he heard the phone buzz, amplified by its journey across the bedside locker. He looked over his shoulder and saw the woman turn in her sleep. The phone fell off the edge of the locker and landed softly on his crusty socks. He finished with the toilet, wiped his hands on a towel hanging from the sink and went back to the bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed and, yawning, picked up the phone. One missed call. There was no need to check. Only one person would be calling him at this hour. It was ten past five and the beginnings of a beautiful day filled the window; and the beginning of a terrible day filled his mind. He called Casey and cut in before his Sergeant had a chance to say anything, ‘Just tell me where.’
‘Stephen’s green, sir, by the statue of Wolff Tone.’
‘Right. Give me half an hour.’
He switched the phone off and put it down on the locker, then lay back on the bed. The woman woke just then. She propped herself up on an elbow and looked down into his soft grey eyes.
‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘You can stay if you like.’
‘No, no, Inspector Kennedy. You get dressed. I’ll make you some coffee.’ She sat up, full of purpose, and looked around for her knickers, but spotted one of Kennedy’s t-shirts and put that on. As Kennedy watched her wiggle out of the bedroom he was almost sorry she was married to someone else.
A screen had been erected around the statue and the area cordoned off when Kennedy arrived. Inside the barrier, an elderly man in a dinner suit stood talking to a uniformed Guard. Kennedy sat in his car and rolled a cigarette, trying to remember where he’d seen him before, and then it dawned on him that it was Superintendent Thompson. Bit early for him! Kennedy thought. He smoked his cigarette and watched the Superintendent issue instruction to the young Guards, and then walk around behind the screen. Kennedy took another drag on the cigarette and leaned it into the ashtray. He picked up the travel mug, unscrewed the lid and drank a mouthful of tepid coffee. He sat a while longer, scanning the few gawkers, and then turned his eyes on the wider area for anyone who might be discreetly watching the operation. He picked his cigarette from the ashtray and relit it. Between drags he looked at the buildings in his line of vision, searching for anything that might come in useful later on.
Right, time to move. He opened the car door and a cycle courier swerved to avoid being hit.
‘Sorry, sorry.’ Kennedy raised a placating hand.
The courier cycled on, leaving a stream of curses in his wake. Where was he going at six in the morning? Kennedy closed the car door, locked it and crossed the road. He nodded ‘Good Morning’, to the Guards on duty and passed behind the screen.
Sergeant Casey and the Superintendent were in conference with a third man, a small man with receding hair line, but whose belly was advancing to make up the difference.
‘Good Morning, sir.’ Casey went over to his boss.
‘Morning, Casey. So what have we got?’
‘A hand, sir?’
Kennedy took a mental step back. ‘A hand?’
‘You’ve checked the hospitals?’
‘Of course you have.’
For a moment the Inspector seemed lost, then he asked, ‘Why is Thompson in the Monkey suit?’
Casey looked over at the Superintendent, still talking to the little man. ‘There was a do in the Shelbourne last night, some charity thing. He must have stayed over.’
‘Right.’ Kennedy nodded. ‘And who’s that with him?’
‘That’s a Dr. Martin, sir-‘
Kennedy brightened. ‘Well that’s something, isn’t it? What do you make of him?’
‘Not much. He says he was out for a walk-’
‘Out for a walk? Does he look like someone who does a lot of walking, Casey?’
Casey shook his head. ‘No sir.’
‘No, he doesn’t. Right, let’s have a look and let these people get out of here.’
As the crossed over to the statue Kennedy asked, ‘Where does he live?’
‘Terenure? That’s fucking miles away … Right.’
The pathologist was hunkered down on one side of the statue. Kennedy walked around to the other side. A severed hand lay between them, palm upwards, like it was waiting to receive an award.
She looked up and met his eyes. ‘Were you on the piss last night?’
‘No. What do we know?’
‘Well,’ She turned her attention back to the severed hand. ‘Without a proper examination, what I can tell you is that it was cut using either a meat cleaver, or a small hatchette.’
‘A small Hachette?’
‘And not a very sharp one either. It looks like it took a few blows-’
‘Yes, and you see these.’ She took a pen and followed a line of cuts and bruises along the wrist.
‘More like wire. You see where it cuts into the skin here? She pointed to a deep cut below the thumb. ‘And here?’ She pointed to a similar cut at the other side of the wrist. ‘There’s been weight put on it. I would expect to find similar marks on the left hand.’
Kennedy shook his head.
‘And now,’ Kylie said. She turned the hand over. Small circular burn marks covered the skin; some had been there for years, some for only a few days. ‘What we have here,’ she said, ‘is someone who has been tortured. Given the marks on the wrists and the fact that these burn marks are only on this side, I’d say this belongs to someone whose hands were tied above their head, like this.’ She held her arms up, wrists together, above her head. ‘And someone stubbed cigarettes out on them. The other interesting this is that the fingernails,’ she lifted the hand to show him, ‘are spotless.’
‘Someone cleaned them?’
‘Someone cleaned this entire hand and then placed it here.’
‘Right. Ok, thanks Kylie. How soon can you let me have a set of prints?’
‘Fingerprints? I don’t think there’ll be any.’
‘No, I mean the ones that came with it?’
‘You can send someone down.’
‘Yeah, yeah, it’s all yours.’
Kennedy stood up with a sinking feeling. He could already hear the jokes on Liveline – Severed hand found in Dublin – Gardi are looking for a one-armed bandit. Christ!
He turned to his Super who wore his usual pained look.
‘Good morning, sir.’ He went over and spoke to the other man. ‘You would be Dr. Martin?’
‘That’s right.’ Dr. Martin reached out to shake hands.
Kennedy ignored the gesture. ‘Our only witness.’
‘Well, no. There was a girl.’
Kennedy turned to Casey, ‘Yes sir. Jogging. I’ve got a statement.’
‘Ok.’ He looked back at the doctor. ‘And you walked here from Terenure?’
‘No, I was staying with some friends-’
‘I see. I was thinking, it’d be a long walk on a cold night dressed like that.’
The Doctor suddenly focused, he stood a little straighter. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Nothing.’ Kennedy shook his head. He stood for a few seconds wondering at the doctor’s discomfort, and then said, ‘Well, you’ve given a statement so, would you like someone to drop you home?’
‘No, no. My car’s around the corner.’
‘Well, don’t leave the country.’ Kennedy smiled and his whole face changed into a mask of benevolence.
‘No, I won’t go anywhere. Good morning Superintendent.’ He turned and walked away. When he had cleared the screen, Kennedy gave the nod to Casey, who winked at his boss and followed the doctor.
‘Good party, sir?’
‘Not bad. Your old friend was there, writing another big cheque.’
Kennedy tried to think of anyone he knew who could write a big cheque. ‘What old friend?’
Kennedy looked away, disgusted. ‘He’s no firend of mine.’
‘Well, he sends his best. Reminded us all again that you saved his life.’
‘What’s up?’Kennedy turned to Casey beside him. ‘Nothing, Casey, nothing. What did you find out?’
‘Aston-Martin. I’ve got the reg.’
‘Right. And look,’ he pointed to a CCTV camera at the corner of Baggot Street. ‘Check that out.’
‘Right, sir.’ Casey turned to go.
‘Oh and Casey?’
‘Call whoever runs this place.’ He waved vaguely towards the park. ‘Get someone down here with keys, but they’re not to let anyone in.’
Casey turned to leave a second time.
‘Sir?’ He turned back.
‘Get a team down here. I want them ready to do a search as soon as I’ve had some breakfast.’
‘Right sir.’ He stood waiting to see if the Inspector would think of anything else.
‘Did you want something else?’ Kennedy asked.
‘No, sir. I just thought you might.’
Kennedy shook his head. ‘No no, that’s it for now.’
‘Right sir.’ Casey nodded and left, half expecting his boss to call him back.
Kennedy turned back to the Superintendent. ‘I don’t want some tourist finding a big toe or anything like that.’
‘If there are more parts to be found.’ Thompson added.
‘Yeah … Right, I’m going to get some breakfast.’
The two men started walking towards the Shelbourne. ‘I’ll be in the office by eight, let me know how things are going.’ Thompson said.
‘Sorry sir, I’ve just, I’ll talk to you later.’
Kennedy walked back towards the scene and collared a Guard who was just about to go off duty.
‘When you get back to the station, get someone to check online, all the video sites, see if anyone’s posted videos of severed hands in the last few hours.’
Breakfast hadn’t started yet in the shop across from the park, so Kennedy bought some bread, ham and cheese. He went back, sat into his car and made up some sandwiches. As he ate he thought about the hand lying on the ground. He had the horrible feeling that this was the beginning of something much worse. If the hand had been dropped then surely whoever dropped it would have heard a slap when it hit the ground, and picked it up. Yet there it was, fresh and clean on the dirty ground. Maybe the CCTV would give him what he needed. He was compiling a mental list of questions to put up on the board later, when a rap on the window jumped him back to the present. It was Casey. A team had been assembled to search the park.
They began with the area behind the statue, where a pack of bronze dogs were frozen forever in what Kennedy always thought of as a savage attack. The team slowly worked their way around the edges of the park, drawing curious looks from pedestrians passing by outside, and commuters waiting for the LUAS. The longer they searched without finding anything, the more Kennedy felt depressed by the idea that he was right. By nine o’clock they had finished, the bags had been collected from the bins and removed to various Garda Stations around the city for a thorough search. But Kennedy knew now that nothing would be found. He sat on a bench, took out his tobacco and papers and rolled a cigarette.
‘What do you think is going on here?’ He asked Casey.
‘Don’t know, sir.’
‘Neither do I.’ He sat for a while smoking and thinking, and then asked, ‘Have you got a room set up?’
‘Right.’ He dropped the cigarette and stood up. ‘Let’s get on with it.’
Kennedy always hated the incident room, because it always mean trouble for some innocent party; some father, mother, sister, brother, lover, going about their day because they didn’t know that sometime soon a Guard was going to turn up, delivering the sort of pain no-one should ever have to deal with.
He slammed the doors open, and charging through the room, announced, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls. We have three principal questions that I want answered as quickly as possible: Who? Who? and Why?’ He stopped when he reached the white board at the far end, and turned to the assembled Guards. ‘Who does this hand belong to? Who cut it off, and why?’
‘It’s probably just some fucking rag-head; they cut hands off, don’t they?’ The comment brought agreement from some of the surrounding Guards.
Kennedy cut them off. ‘ALRIGHT.’ He watched the room turn to him and silence followed. ‘Those of you who have worked with me before know that I am sweetness and light.’ A kind of violence settled over the room. ‘For those who haven’t, that’s the last time anyone makes any of those comments. I don’t care about your private feelings, but leave them outside if you want to have a job in the morning. Is that understood?’
He held their eyes a moment, leaving each man and woman certain that he, Kennedy, could destroy their career.
‘Now, as you may know, the search of the park turned up nothing, so we’re going to go with the working hypothesis that the hand wasn’t dropped there, it was placed there. If that’s true then it was placed there for a reason.
‘Our only verified witness is a Dr. Martin. He says there was a woman jogger on the scene before him. If he’s telling the truth, then who is she? Why did she leave? Is someone on that?
‘Here!’ A red haired giant at the back of the room up his hand up.
‘Paki, what have you found out?’
‘I’ve spoken to some of the taxi drivers-’
‘Why haven’t you spoken to all of them?’
‘Because they weren’t all there, sir.’
‘Ok, and what did they have to say for themselves?’
‘There is a woman they see jogging every morning around that time-’
‘Did you get a description?’
Paki flipped through his notebook and read, ‘Not much of one, sir, blonde hair, nice arse, no tits.’
‘That’s the best they can do, is it?’
Another voice else called out, ‘I thought those fuckers knew everything?’
Someone answered, ‘So do they.’
Against a background of laughter and chatter on the wisdom of taxi drivers, Kennedy turned to Casey, ‘Sketch artist turned up yet?’
‘Due in now.’
Kennedy turned back to the room.
‘Paki, go find the sketch artist and get down to Dr. Martin’s. Casey will give you the address.’
Casey walked down the room and Kennedy continued with his briefing.
‘Where was I? If this hand was left there as a message, Jack, look into criminal gangs, find out if there’s any internal feuds we need to know about. Any friction between gangs. Do we need to get ready for a war?’
Jack stood up and took his jacket from the back of the chair. ‘Eh, boss?’
‘Do you want me to talk to Billy Farrell or will you take him?’
‘No. I’ll pay him a visit later on.’
Jack left the room.