9: A Musical Interlude

“Look,” said Doc Quinn to Tommy Burke. “What?”

“Bates and some Irregulars heading this way. Quick.”

The pair turned on to Hill Street. They knew that if Bates and the lads were in the vicinity there was a good possibility that the Special Branch were not far away. While they were only ordinary criminals they were aware that news of their eventful day might right now have also reached the ears of Spratt and his colleagues.

Burke not only wanted to avoid the cops but he also considered it desirable to pass on Ructions. It was in the middle of the Spring of the previous year. Ructions was organising a Sinn Fein meeting at the usual corner of Abbey Street. As about half a dozen of the converted congregated, Ructions began shouting at a Garda Superintendent to halt the traffic flow.

“You see the fascist cops refuse to stop the cars because they don’t want the common people of Ireland to hear the truth about the Dail which is only an assembly for the promotion of imperialism. The fascist….”

The well built Superintendent strode purposefully up to Ructions and in a loud voice he promised, “You get a crowd and I’ll stop the traffic,” and then in a whisper he added, “I’ve more hair on me bollocks than you have on your chinny chin chin.”

Ructions, who intermittingly, could be of an intemperate disposition, took umbrage. A robust bout of pushing and shoving followed and a button or two flew from the Superintendent’s tunic.

Towards the meeting’s end, Burke, who happened to be passing, told Ructions that he overheard the Superintendent say to one of the gardai that they would pick up the ‘beardy bollocks’ early the next morning.

Ructions took up Burke’s offer to stay the night in a safe house with some friends of his. He accompanied Burke to a pub in the Ringsend area. There, Burke introduced Ructions as Ireland’s new Dan Breen to Gurrocks and his brother Percy. In Ructions opinion they were both steaming. They were wearing green, Irish football jerseys as earlier in the day Ireland had played an international soccer match in Dalymount Stadium.

Ructions was starting his fourth pint when the door of the pub burst open. A thin women with streelish hair half dragged a young child behind her. She wagged a finger towards Gurrocks and in a shrill voice yelled, “ That’s him there now, Wayne, that’s yer father who was supposed to be in his work all day, have a good look at the gimp of him an the stupid state of him an the crowd of scroungers and tramps around him an they all drinking your communion money. Your communion money. That’s yer father Wayne. Me mother was right, the biggest mistake of me life that’s him Wayne…” Then she left pulling the confused child after her.

Ructions was none too enamoured at being referred to as a scrounger or a tramp in the shadows of a Beckett play.

“Your missus has a tongue like a dealer in a brothel. She’s the pits,” said Percy.

“An your mot’s mush is like a hairy armpit,” replied Gurrocks.

Within seconds both brothers were rolling around the pub floor as they wrestled and punched and scratched at each other.

“Who is putting me up?”

“The fellow who is sort of underneath at the moment. I think.” “Thanks. But I’ll take me chances as a martyr in the Joy.”

For Doc Quinn problems began just after he left the Basin in a carefree mood after feeding some ducks. In next to no time and much to his surprise he found himself in the Bridewell Garda Station and Prison.

“You know why you're here,” said Sergeant Cuddy with emphasis to Doc Quinn in the Bridwell reception area.

Quinn shrugged deferentially and explained in a puzzled tone, “All I know Sergeant is that I was just after leaving the Basin at the Blessington Street gate having fed the ducks, as you know, the weather can be a little raw this time of the year and the ducks...”

“Fuck the ducks. You weren't marched in here for over feeding the ducks.”

“As I was saying,” Quinn continued, ignoring the red faced sergeant, “I hadn't taken three long strides on Blessington Street, when I was confronted by steroid chest out of Fitzgibbon Street cop shop who jumped out of a squad car and said “Get in. You're going to the Bridewell, you cunt.”

“Oh no,” I said, “you are surely mistaken. I'm just on my way home now after feeding the ducks. I was then grabbed around the neck and him and some other big culchie who I don't know pushed me into the car and here I am, innocent and warrantless.”

The stocky Sergeant from Cork studied the tall, sallow faced dark-haired figure with a mixture of curiosity and contempt. He bade him sit down at the shabby brown table as he himself stood up and paced backwards and forwards across the medium sized room.

“Have you ever heard of a C sharp or an F minor?” he asked as he continued to walk, his hands grasped behind his back, directing this question towards the creamy white ceiling.

“I'm not really into porno.”

The Sergeant gave a little snigger and resumed his seat at the table. He fiddled with the bundle of A4 sheets in front of him.

“This is no laughing matter,” he said without enthusiasm, no laughing matter at all. Did you ever hear of Finbar Fury or Gerry Crilly?”

“I think they're musicians or something,” said Quinn, looking apathetically at the Sergeant.

The Sergeant's face lit up. “Ah now we're beginning to get somewhere. Do you see all these papers here right in front of me, you scoundrel?”

“Yes.”

“Well, do yeh know what they're about, yeh scumbag?”

“No I'm not able to read upside down,” he muttered, disguising his contempt and ignoring the insults. He thought about calling the Sergeant a sow's arse face but as he was unsure of what the Sergeant had up his sleeve he decided to tread warily.

The Sergeant fidgeted among the papers and then held a photograph of a twelve string guitar in front of Quinn's face. Quinn blinked as the Sergeant pulled more photos from the sheaf of papers. These included snaps of a five string banjo, a bazuki, a mandolin and some bodhráns.

Finally he placed in front of Quinn a photograph of Walton's musical shop in North Great Frederick Street.

“All stolen from Mister Leo Maguire,” he confirmed in a low voice, “but now returned. And where do yah think they were found?”

“In the Garda Band,” Quinn piped up.

“Ah, not really. No. Actually they were discovered in one of your haunts. Mountjoy Prison. Imagine that! In a prison. And how did they get there you may ask,” he said with a frown. Then he started to laugh out loud and said in a sad voice: “Poor Leo Maguire. Now, if you feel like singing, do sing an Irish song… a cappella.”

Quinn nodded in agreement as he realized that the Sergeant had a few drinks on him. He wondered what was the big deal since the instruments had been recovered. The Sergeant ran his fingers through his steel grey, crew-cut hair. “And who do you think left the instruments into the prison?”

“I don't have a clue.”

“Fancy that now. He doesn't have a clue. Not a fucking clue!” he continued as if he was talking to someone else in the room. “I'll tell you who left them in. A floozie in a fur coat got out of a taxi and left them in for 'the boys in D wing.'

“And who was coming off duty and noticed something else?” he asked himself. “Mister McMahon,” he answered himself.

“Bunhead!”

“Mister McMahon to you, sunshine. A martyr to the prison service, that man. And Mister McMahon noticed something else that day or should I say, saw someone else standing up at the top of the avenue. Oh, yes. He spied a tall villain. You! He saw you at the top of the avenue waiting, I guess, to get back into the Joe maxi. Fancy that now, you and the floozie and all that music!”

“Only circumstantial,” Quinn countered. “Did you check for fingerprints?”

The Sergeant laughed. “Yep they have fingerprints alright. Dabs from every incarcerated criminal on D Wing all over them. Sure we even know the names of the band or the folk group as they are calling themselves.”

“Can I go now?” asked Quinn, standing up.

“Sit down,” ordered the Sergeant. “Sure you haven't heard the half of it yet. You don't have a fucking clue the trouble your bit of thievery has caused.”

“Trouble?”

“Buckets of it. Here listen to Grant's statement, threatening, if you don't mind, to take the Governor of Mountjoy and the Irish State to the European Court.” The Sergeant stood up and pulled out a page from one of the sheets. Quinn noticed his hands tremble a little as he began to read in a low voice…

We were rehearsing for the Saint Patrick's Day celebrations on the D Wing compound on the Tuesday at evening recreation. All was going fine with Peter Downey singing, 'Young Joey Small went over the wall with a ball and a chain behind him' when suddenly the iron gate at the compound entrance was unlocked and a crowd of screws led by Chief Macker burst in and seized the bands instruments without any explanation. We ask the court to find that our human right to enjoy and play music has been infringed by the Governor and the State.
Signed,
Peter Downey, Vocalist.
Jamsie Grant, 12 string guitar.
Tony Duff, 5 string banjo.
Paddy Lyons, bodhrán.
Terry Brazil, mandolin.
Dick Power, bazuki.

The Sergeant shook his head and stared at Quinn with an imbecilic expression on his face. Quinn drummed his fingers on the table in 6/8 time as the Sergeant declared that the petition to the European Court would go nowhere unless they could get some brilliant legal mind like Jim Orange to present the case.

He informed Quinn, confidentially, that the Law Library was full of airheads who regularly lost indictments so that his men had to fabricate incriminating statements on suspects to get the lawyers out of a hole. He lit a cigarette and offered one to Quinn. After he blew a number of near perfect smoke rings he told Quinn that he would see him right if he was willing to drop Alfie Jones in it for the 'oul' Walton's job. Quinn laughed and said that his name was not Carey.

The Sergeant then put his head in his hands and became melancholy. “My wife's family’s pub,” he moaned.

“What? Is it the quality of the pint? You know I've been served depth chargers in this town that would blow the arse off a bullock but…”

“Of course not. Its your fucking bunch of note-pluckers in the Joy.” “The band?”

“Yep. We got it from an informer. They're in contact with some of the Irregulars who traipse between the Peacock and O'Donoghues, and they are going to ask Luke, Ronnie and Christy to call for a folk music ban all over Ireland for a silent spell in every pub until they get their, if you don't mind, instruments back.” He gave a hysterical laugh. “You know the way you have,” he continued, “what they call a Dark Night in the theatre when there is no stage performance,” he gave another high pitched laugh, “well this would be a Silent Night three fucking months after Christmas.”

The Sergeant stubbed out the cigarette. “And that's not all,” he informed Quinn. There's talk of a musical go slow to follow. Just imagine the Rocky Road to Dublin taking about ninety minutes...”

“Or the pubs could be closed before the Wild Rover would have it away with the lascivious landlady.” Quinn laughed.

“Its not funny,” the grim faced Sergeant spat. “ It could close down the whole entertainment industry, the pub industry, my wife's family business, it could destroy large parts of the country in rural Ireland. People could be stuck in their houses not seeing anyone from one end of the fucking week to another. They'll be like prisoners.

Jesus. The thought of it! The terrible thought of it. The same peace and quiet all over the shop, pub after pub, night after night. Poor Oonagh.”

He stood up with a look of terror on his face and suddenly hurried for the door as if he had just remembered something very urgent. “Go on, get the fuck off out of here, you fucking gobshite you.” he shouted back. “I swear to Christ, there’s no such thing as an Ordinary Decent Criminal in Ireland anymore. Yez are all as bad as each other.”

As his rant faded away, Quinn reached over and took up the papers the Sergeant had left on the table. He walked down to the cell area. Because of his trade he nearly always had friends incarcerated there among the normal malingerers. He looked in the spy hole of one of the cells. In the gloom he could just make out the pale characterless face of Mikie Fagan. He was stretched out on the bunk and staring at the ceiling. Bit of a nuisance, he thought. A specialist in the small tap. His modus operandi was to follow you out to the pub jacks holding a bit of a rag half out of his trouser pocket.

That’s if it was a rag, might have just been the pocket lining. His line then was ‘Doc I have a bit of Tom here and I was on me way to a buyer when the car ran out of juice. Any chance of a half crown for a drop of petrol? Give it to you when I get back’…never see it again and Doc knowing that the only car Mikie was ever in was the back seat of a cop car for been drunk and disorderly. He let the flap drop.

He didn’t have to look in the next spy hole for he heard the angry voice of Jamesie Taylor shout ‘Turn on the light yeh useless fuck’ as he passed the door. He flicked the switch. Jamsie was narky, permanently narky.

In the third cell he saw the sturdy figure of Tommy Burke looking askance towards the spy hole. What a coincidence he thought for he knew that only a month earlier Burke had a drink with Taylor in Wexford Street. They were coming down South Great George’s Street and Taylor began giving out about some flaw he believed was in Burke’s character and he began calling him Turlough of the Wine. As they were passing Dockrells Burke’s patience ran out. He grabbed Taylor, who was about five foot five inches tall, by the jacket. And without further ado he heaved him through Dockrells plate glass window and hurried off towards Dame Street.

By sheer good fortune Taylor escaped without a scratch. But as he emerged from the shattered window a garda who had heard the crash of breaking glass came running. He presumed he was coming upon a brazen smash and grab. Taylor took to his heels. He only evaded arrest by hiding under the seats of one of the empty busses parked on Fleet Street.

“Its me, Doc.” he said quietly. “What are you in for?”

“GBH. Ryan the swine.”

Some hours earlier Burke, who Taylor could verify was a long established thief and hardman, from Oola in County Limerick, had decided to buy a suit in a man’s clothes shop in Capel Street. His eye caught a light grey mohair suit. The shop owner, who reminded Burke of Woody Allen, was pleased.

“An excellent choice Sir.”

“The way I see it,” said Burke, “is that if Charlie Haughey can go around in mohair, so can the common man.”

“Of course you can Sir. What's good for the goose...” Burke went into the changing room.

“Its too tight,” he declared, emerging out.

The owner looked him up and down. He swung him around. “Not at all. It fits you like a glove. Like a glove. You could be in the Dail,” he laughed.

Burke shook his head. “No its a size or two on the small side.”

“Definitely not Sir. Here. Just squat down and flex your muscles like a body builder.”

Burke adopted a Hulk-like response. The trousers came apart first, to be almost instantly followed by the shoulders and centre back seam.

“Told you,” said Burke casually.

“Jeeesus!!” exclaimed the shop owner. “That's an eighty pound suit.”

“It was. I suppose it could be used for fancy dish clothes,” said Burke philosophically.

“That'll cost you fifty quid,” declared the shop owner.

“Cost me? Sure you told me to...”

“You did it deliberately.”

Burke changed back into his own attire while the shop owner moved towards the door.

“You did it on purpose . You're not leaving here until you pay for it, I'll call the police...I'll...”

“Here. Calm down,” suggested Burke. “We'll do a deal, a fair deal like we do in Limerick.” He walked towards the shop owner and in a second he jerked down his jacket to his waist so that his arms were pinioned to his sides. Then he swung the hapless man around and delivered a head butt which would have made Jackie Mooney of Shamrock Rovers proud.

He left the shop and went for a pint in Hughes pub beside the car tax office. He was just about to call a second when Detective Ryan entered and said that he was detaining him for questioning as his appearance answered the description of someone who had seriously assaulted a shop owner in Capel Street earlier.

Which had led him to the Bridewell, where he had the eminent good fortune to catch the eye of Doc Quinn.

Quinn then approached the jailer. Lifting his arm with the bundle of papers, he said, “Detective Ryan has ordered me to escort this prisoner to the reception area.”

They both left and hurried towards Capel Street Bridge.