12: Pogue McMahone
The remaining trio stared at one another and lit cigarettes. They inhaled deeply and blew streams of tobacco smoke all over the corridor. O’Rawe broke the silence. “Any idea who?”
“Not a clue.”
“Christ, this will give McMahon a right pain in the hole.”
“He’ll have a mole in his hole.” said Pah Wah.
“Are you trying to…”
“Oh no, Sir.”
“And not only that, four of the fuckers have gone to ground.”
“Jeeese what outfit?” asked O’Rawe, tipping the Slug a sly wink.
“Holy fuck! Don’t tell him that. I’m sure like bad pennies they’ll surface from some cesspit in the next few days. They’ll climb from the slime. Rest assured.”
O’Rawe sped off and some few minutes later Chief McMahon, was listening in silence to the frightful news about the mole. He took it badly, very badly. Probably as badly as Mahon did when the news of Clontarf broke thought Pah Wah.
After clamping his anguished face in his blotchy hands Chief McMahon leaned forward touching the polished mahogany desk. If a stranger was to enter the room at that moment they would have thought that the man was dead, possibly murdered by the pair standing looking down on him. But if the visitor had remained for a second or two he would have noticed the hefty frame shuddering as if it was having some kind of conniption.
The Slug began to scratch an irritable itch in his back passage, a sure sign that he was a worried man.This was a habit he developed in Kerry, when as a schoolboy, a lewd picture dropped out of his schoolbag right in front of Brother Cutbert, who was, among other things, a religious fanatic.
“Be the Holy Heart of Sweet Jesus,” the brother roared as his smouldering eyes drank in the evocative female image. “Be the wounds on the everlasting Body of Christ,” he yelled as he chased young Festy around the classroom with his sally rod singing as he mercilessly whipped at the boy’s behind. “Be the Holy Jeeesus, when I’m finished with you, you dirty, little pagan cur, my sally rod will be as skinny as a tinker’s stick after a row.”
Festy didn’t sleep that night. But it wasn’t his pulsating, red arse which kept him awake, it was the fear that Brother Cutbert would inform his mother, a woman of renowned piety and devotion to the Padre Pio, of the lewd picture. As it transpired Brother Cutbert, who was in an incipient way of being himself some kind of concupiscent curd, confiscated the picture, because he considered it too shocking for the eyes of anyone other than himself. However, the incident afflicted the Slug in an unusual way in so far as whenever one of life’s more alarming vicissitudes brushed past him it elicited a furious itch in his arse.
The Chief's Office
Pah Wah’s armpits began to sweat profusely as he stared at the scratching Slug. He noticed that outside the window a light rain was falling.
“The newspapers were right,” said Pah Wah, in an attempt to alleviate the tense situation, “it is falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly on the Bog of Allen, and further westward…..”
The Slug clenched his fist, the fist that had knocked sense into many a man who thought it was a great idea to go marching through the streets of Dublin shouting, ‘Tiochfaidh ar lá’ or ‘Eirinn go brágh’ or ‘the English Queen is a Slapper.” This was now the fist of his free scratching hand and when he waved it in front of Pah Wah’s mouth, the mouth, as if in some Beckett play, instantly became speechless.
McMahon felt a cold chill run through his body. This was followed by a sudden quickening of his pulse rate as his heart pounded in his chest. In his parched mouth a scent of sulphurous brimstone seemed to envelop his tongue. He stared into the blackness of his cupped hands, decanting into a waking nightmare. A stark, featureless, lacking in everything, landscape of infinite uncertainty oppressed him mightily. On this bleak horizon a face appeared moving at great speed towards him over the trackless endless wasteland. It was the face of Minister Brian Lenihan. Over his cold, hard eyes the Minister’s wavy hair spread out in great, tumultuous, spumy waves across the barren land. An all-consuming face that engulfed everything that remained in its path as it sped forward. Just as McMahon was about to disappear into the plenitude of its power it spoke in grave, accusing tones, ‘On mature recollection…’ Then fractured into a million exploding galaxies in a foretaste of the heat-death of the universe. “I’m like the fisher-king,” McMahon thought, “lost in this century’s filth, God help me! Ochone, ochone, Pogue McMahone! I am the lord of it all…and lost in it!”
The Anguish Of Mature Recollection
McMahon swayed backwards onto a naughahyde chaise longue, the movement startling his frozen corpus delecti, freeing his tormented face. He stared at the two detectives and his whimpering lips went up and down as if he was a North Channel Mullet out of water. His eyes were like balls of white gristle. His strangled utterances were indecipherable.
“Relax and take a deep breath,” urged Slug, “and say a prayer to Saint Francis Xavier.”
“The very man,” agreed Pah Wah, “d’yuh know that I read somewhere that when he was sent by Saint Ignatius to preach to the Indians, he baptised in one month, ten thousand idolaters before he expired from some kind of pestilence on the island of Sancian.”
“Wouldn’t a man of that stature have some purchase with the Almighty, all the same!!” said Slug. He had stopped scratching himself and was now nodding his head up and down in abject agreement with himself.”
“He would surely,” confirmed Pah Wah. “A man of that stature could have played midfield for Kerry alongside Mick O’Connell.”
The cold terror that had gripped McMahon gave way to a series of hot flushes. He loosened his silk tie and opened the top two buttons on his Chevrolet shirt as beads of sweat broke out on his ruddy forehead for, despite the chaos of his mind, it struck him like a thunderbolt, that if the news of the mole reached Lenihan’s ears he might call for a public inquiry. This on its own was just another way of finding out nothing and giving a large hunk of taxpayers monies to the lawyers who had been generous to the party.
But what if for once it did find out something despite the best efforts of the investigating crackshots, thought McMahon. If the Confidential Recipient with the Statutory Instrument by some fluke discovered that over the years he had been passing confidential files, gathered by the Slug and Pah Wah and others, on Republicans, Socialists, Communists and anyone considered to be interested in equality and such carry-on to Archbishop John Charles McQuaid and the Knights of Columbanus. After all it was imperative that responsible people knew who to employ and who not to. He stared into that appalling vista and staggered to his feet.
The two sleuths watched every move this ghastly figure made. Years of experience and mistrust of one another had taught them to note and quote, if necessary, file and imprint, index and catalogue every smidgeon of tittle- tattle in the dark recesses of their minds to be regurgitated later, should the need arise.
They watched McMahon gingerly make his way to an antique secrataire en portefeuille in a corner of the plush office. He fumbled around in it for awhile. Then he took out a half full bottle of 16 year old Chivas Regal.
He poured a double measure from it into a Waterford Classic Dinah tumbler. Then he tottered back and placed the tumbler on the desk.
The Slug and Pah Wah glanced at one another as McMahon planked himself down on the chaise longue. He stared at the glass in front of him. In fact, he stared at it so intently that the Slug and Pah Wah presumed that there was a foreign body in it. They, in turn, leaned forward and peered down into the glass. Eventually McMahon reached out and after rolling his eye balls around their sockets in a most peculiar fashion, he carefully lifted the glass to his lips and sipped. After a few lip-smacking seconds he shook his head, much as a horse at Leopardstown might after a race. He cracked his knuckles a number of times and leaned forward.
“If this reaches Lenihan’s ears he’ll have me balls for sweet breads. He’ll have me in uniform outside the Peacock for the scum therein to sneer, jeer and leer at,” he said in a strong voice with a look of horror on his face.
“Aye, and for the shit stirring, rebel poet Bates to be pointing out at you from the doorway and shouting, ‘he has changed, changed utterly, a terrible beauty is born’ and the Retcher and Plopps trying to hold each other up as they puke all….”
"Yes Chief and you have lived such a beautiful life keeping this great little country of ours subversive safe..."
"You have left a beautiful field," cut in Pah Wah. "You have climbed to the summit of your profession and bequeathed that beautiful field to us for all eternity."
The Slug slapped a fist into a sweaty palm. "Be God he never said a truer word Chief. Before you came that field was full of weeds, Mare's Tails and Lesser Celantine though I heard that the latter was mighty for treating hemorrhoids no matter you were there skirmishing with thistles, strangling briars, thrashing nettles beneath the hammering of the rain an' the scorching of the sun an' you were there poking in the dirt, indifferent to the horseflies an' midges eating the face a yeh an' the pissmires crawling up yer trouser legs an' you with the shovel digging it in an' throwing it out there, throwing it out there..." shouted Slug.
"Before you came Chief that field was full of wind and wilderness blowing up the skirts of the comely maidens an they hammering the boards of every Tom, Dick an Harry of a crossroad and you walked into it with slurry and cow shit and from the first scars of dawn you were scratching in the dung..."
“As Paddy Kavanagh the great poet and man of the holy faith,” said the Slug adopting his intellectual stance, “the man that refuses to dig in the dung whether it would be cow dung or sty dung...”
“Fuck off outa me office Festy and find that mole,” McMahon shouted, jumping up from his chaise longue.
THE HUNT FOR THE MOLE BEGINS (based on a Richard Oelze Painting)