‘The wind was fierce last night, wasn’t it?’
‘Yeah. I thought the windows were going to blow in on top of us at one point.’
Mary laughed at her husband. Pat was standing in the kitchen looking out the window, a cup of tea in his hand. His hair was greying, and the morning light caught his shiny silver bits. The kids weren’t home this weekend so he could walk around in the boxers. He smiled in his own far away world, looking down the bottom of the garden. He watched the blue line of sea dancing lazily beyond the garden wall.
Mary looked up at the clock. It was half past nine on a Sunday morning. The minutes seemed to be ticking over slower than usual. It already felt like hours since the noises outside had woken her up. The dressing gown was starting to stick to her a bit. She needed a shower. Oh wait.
‘Pat, did you turn off the immersion last night when I asked you?’
Pat did not answer immediately. He looked confused. A bit constipated too, Mary thought.
‘Pat? Pat, are you even listening to me?’
‘Pat? Pat, for God’s sa-’
‘Mary, come here a second?’
He put out his hand to her, beckoning her with his fingers. He kept his eyes trained outside. Mary pushed back the chair, and hoped Julie Walsh wasn’t doing her aerobics in the garden this morning. Recently, Pat had been engrossed. Mary was not a fan. She cursed Julie Walsh and her tight little arse most nights as she fell asleep.
‘Quick Mary, will you come on!
Mary scurried over, hugging close to his side. A moment passed. Mary didn’t know what to look for. She raked over the lawn slowly with her eyes. The pansies looked alright. Blustery, maybe. The garden wall seemed intact. The gate looked okay too but had swung open during the night. The wind must have been very strong. She noticed that Julie wasn’t treating them to a show today either. How odd.
‘Pat, what are we looking at here? The garden looks fine-’
‘Look at the way the gate is turned out like that. It looks turned inside out almost.’
‘It’s a gate, Pat, not a-’
‘Mary, would you ever listen to me? I put a rock in front of that gate last night to stop it knocking in the wind. You know the rock from beside the shed?’
Mary did know the rock. It was quite a big rock.
‘And now the gate is wide open and the rock…’
Was nowhere to be seen.
‘I’ll go out to have a look. Maybe one of the younger ones took it after we went to bed.’
Pat walked out into the utility room.
‘Pat, you can’t go out like that! The neighbours will see you!’
‘Give over Mary. I’ll only be a second.’
The back door opened, and Mary heard Pat’s little gasp. There was a strange sound. Mary described it to the neighbours later as a ‘thwack’.
‘Mary… come in here, please.’
Mary was panicking. Paul Murphy, the local butcher from the village, was lying on his back on their cream tiles. His head was on Mary’s ‘WELCOME’ mat. His toes pointed out at the pansies. He had no shoes.
‘Jesus Pat, is he alright?’
‘Jesus, Mary, he’s fucking dead.’
‘Oh God, Pat, how do you know?’
He beckoned Mary closer.
‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Pat!’
She could see that her tiles were starting to turn crimson under Paul’s head. His hair was long, in reddish clumps. He didn’t look to be sleeping anymore. She had heard Moira had thrown him out a few weeks ago. He had been carrying on with someone in the village. Maybe he had been looking for somewhere to stay, fallen, hit his head by accident.
‘Mary. Look at this.’
Pat pointed outside. Mary walked into the doorway.
‘His toenails are disgusting! What was he, an animal?’
‘No Mary! The Rock!’
Mary looked around. Oh yes. There was the big rock from the shed, sitting on their lawn. It was surrounded with a ring of Paul Murphy’s blood.
This was the worst Sunday in Mary’s living memory. Paul Murphy was dead on their doorstep and now she was sitting at Julie Walsh’s kitchen counter while the police searched her back garden. She was still in her dressing gown. Pat had only been allowed to throw on a pair of jeans.
‘Would you like a coffee, Mary? You look awful.’ Julie’s nails tapped the marble counter. Spider fingers.
Mary grimaced. ‘I love your counter, Julie. Is it new?’
‘The breakfast bar is new, yes. We got it in Christmas last.’
She massaged it. Mary found it unnerving.
‘Don’t you think it’s very chic?’
‘Gorgeous.’ Whoever did in Paul should have called here instead.
‘Would have done us all a favour.’
‘What was that Mary?’
‘Oh nothing, it’s just I realised I forgot to change my panty liner this morning. You wouldn’t have a spare one lying around?’
Mary turned away. She heard Julie’s heels thundering down the hallway a few seconds later. Pat was sitting in the windowsill, looking out at the work that was being done in his own back garden. Paul had been covered in a thin sheet that wasn’t quite long enough. Mary could still see his toes.
Pat’s phone beeped in his pocket. He took it out of his jeans and held it away from his face. His sight was going a bit these days. Mary looked out at Julie’s washing line. A few lacy knickers and a man’s shirt.
‘They’re coming over now.’
Mary was upset. She did not need anyone else to see her in her dressing gown today.
‘Everyone. I have called a Neighbourhood Watch Meeting. They’ll be over in ten.’
‘Pat, seriously? Look at the fucking state of me! First Polystyrene Paula, now the whole fucking lane?’
Julie walked back into the room as Mary said this. She slammed something down on the ‘breakfast bar’ and stomped into the utility room. Mary heard her slamming the box of detergent down on the washing machine. Julie had a wash on already. The noise was giving Mary a headache.
‘Look Mary. Someone killed Paul and now he is lying dead in your mother’s pansies. It could only have been someone on this road.’
‘Why is that now?’ Mary was confused.
Pat looked at her incredulously. ‘The big rock, Mary! Who else would have known about the big rock?’
Mary opened her mouth, then closed it. She walked back to the counter. She had really needed that panty liner.
‘I’m going to find out who did this, Mary! I’m going to solve the murder!’
Mary hated Julie Walsh. A box of sanitary towels was sitting on the counter. Double layered for incontinent bladders.
She imagined Julie’s head rolling round with the contents of the washing machine. It soothed her soul a little.
The breakfast bar had never hosted the whole lane. Julie must have polished it fifty times. Parents, kids, a grandmother down from Dublin for the weekend, all huddled round, sipping tea. Moira, the new widow, sat in the windowsill. Mary sat by her. They talked in hush tones.
Pat stood at the counter, looking into all the faces. The kitchen was silent, except for the odd slurp.
‘So’, he clapped his hands, ‘where were all of ye last night anyway?’
Darren Deegan choked on his tea.
As good a place to start as any.
‘You alright there, Darren? Anything to share?’
‘Jesus, no, of course not Pat. You know me!’.
‘That’s true Darren, that’s true. But, I’m afraid, you knew about the big rock. Sorry Darren. That makes you a suspect’.
Mary was embarrassed.
‘What big rock?’
Darren seemed genuinely confused. Pat explained the rock: location, size, shape etc. ‘I would have told you about it down the local.’
‘I’ve been working weekends the last while, Pat. I never heard about your rock.’ This was enough for Pat. He looked at his wife Sarah. Couldn’t be her either. She never could have known if Darren didn’t.
‘The Big Rock, Murph? What do you reckon?’
Sean Murphy looked down into his cup. Suspicious behaviour, thought Pat.
Oh Lord, here we go, thought Mary.
Sean’s wife Tamara was at work. His two boys were trying to get a peak of Paul out the window.
‘I was taking care of Tamara’s mam last night, Pat. She needs help getting to bed and that. Tamara had to be up early, so I said I’d do it.’
Tamara’s mam, Rita, was in bad shape. Pat reckoned she didn’t even know where she was.
‘Okay Murph, I’ll take it’. He patted Rita on the curly head. She whined in response. Danielle Lowry spoke next, voluntarily. Pat found this peculiar.
‘We were in watching a movie last night. Got a takeaway from Gino’s. It was me, Dennis and the kids.’
‘If I called in and asked what you ordered, would you be able to tell me the same thing?’
And thus, the Lowrys were cleared of all suspicion. Dave, the English man who lived up the lane was there too. Pat went easier on him. He didn’t want it said that there was ‘racism’ on the lane or anything like that. He had to rule him out in the end. Paul was a strong man and Dave was nearly 80.
Pat was disappointed. There was no one left. Just himself and Mary. And Julie of course, but she wouldn’t have been strong enough to even pick up the big rock. Maybe the Guards would have a better time of it.
Moira was crying into Mary’s chest at this point. Mary stroked her hair softly. Something still wasn’t right. Someone else had to know something.
‘Julie, when did your John get back from England?’
Julie turned suddenly and shot her a look. ‘He hasn’t. He’s not back for another week.’
Mary conceded. ‘Okay. So, you just washed that shirt of his today or?’ Everyone followed her gaze out into the garden. Julie reddened a little under all that make up. Mary tried again.
‘You’re looking well, Julie. Must be all the exercise. Only, I didn’t see you out doing your…’
‘Yes, Pilates. You weren’t out this morning. It’s not like you to miss a Sunday.’
‘Unless there was a reason you didn’t want to go outside this morning. Maybe, I don’t know…. the dead body you knew would be in our garden?’
Julie rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to speak. But Mary wasn’t done.
‘Your washing machine is very loud, Julie. Have you noticed that? Louder than normal, I’d say. Sounds like you’ve got bricks in there. I might take a look, if you don’t mind’.
She detached limp Moira from her body and disappeared into the utility room. The whole kitchen held their breath as Mary opened the door of the machine. Pat was mesmerised.
Thwack, thwack. One after another, two soaked brown shoes flew out the door of the utility room onto the kitchen floor. Julie tried to run, but Danielle Lowry had her by the extensions. Moira screeched.
‘You’re the Paco Robanne bitch!’
‘Grab a hold of Moira, Mary, quick.’
Mary’s finger slipped.
The Guards found John Walsh later. He was hiding in his own wardrobe. He had come home early from England to find his wife enjoying Paul the Butcher’s finest cuts. The big rock had his fingerprints all over it. Pat remembered showing it to him at a barbecue the last time John had been home.
Mary and Pat were just glad that they got it sorted. They got their garden back. The Lowrys brought Moira home.
Mary was sad for Moira. But she could not help but smirk. She jumped into the shower and dreamed of next Sunday. Garden Pilates had been cancelled indefinitely.
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