Title: A CRACK IN THE ICE
Author: Brendan Gerad O’Brien
Genre: Murder Mystery
Ireland 1945. Florence Kite finds letters and a newspaper cutting of a badly injured man in her late mother’s handbag. And her whole world crumbles. Marcus Fanning is receiving a medal for bravery, and an engraved cigarette case.
Florence Kite has never heard of Marcus Fanning. But the letters disclose a terrible secret. Marcus Fanning was her real father. Confused and distraught, Florence goes looking for him. But twenty-five years ago Marcus Fanning had vanished off the face of the earth. Then Florence sees the cigarette case in a pawn shop window. A young lad Frankie Rowe found it in the attic of an old farmhouse. There was something else there too, and Frankie was going back to get it when the coast was clear. They found Frankie’s body in a ditch the next day.
The street lights were already coming on and the air was heavy with the smell of peat fires as Foley and Guerin cycled down Ashe Street. Warm stripes of light poured out of windows onto the pavements as people hurried home from work, buried deep in overcoats to muffle themselves from the sharp sting of the frost.
‘I can’t believe I listened to you.’ The icy breeze had caused a trickle of tears from Foley’s eyes and he wiped them away with the back of his glove. ‘We should have taken this straight to Dinane and let him decide what to do about it.’
‘He won’t be back from court yet,’ Guerin repeated for the third time. ‘So stop moaning and just go along with me for once. We need to make ourselves useful and find out where Sean Kite is living at the moment. And the best way to do that is to ask your new best friend.’
Foley groaned and slowed down to avoid hitting a manhole cover. ‘She’s not my … where do you get that rubbish?’
Guerin slowed down too so Foley could hear him. ‘And if it’s within our jurisdiction and not too far for us to cycle there today, we should go and have a word with him.’
‘Well, I still say we should go back to the nice warm canteen and have our proper break while we write out our report on Amanda Hayes.’ Once they were side by side again they speeded up. ‘By the time we’ve done that it’ll be the end of our shift and we can go on home like all the other civilised citizens of the town.’
‘And tomorrow we’ll be doing this anyway,’ Guerin argued. ‘Dinane will think it was his idea and he’ll send us out to do exactly what we’re going to do right now. So we’ll pre-empt him and take the wind out of his sails.’
As they were about to turn into Church Street Guerin braked and nodded at a couple crossing the road in front of the courthouse just ahead of them. ‘Isn’t that her over there, Eamon?’
‘Who?’ Foley braked too and scanned the crowd zig-zagging across the busy street, but all he could see was moving shapes of every description.
‘Your friend. Isn’t that her with the tall fella just by the cannon?’
Then Foley recognised the shape of the woman wrapped in a cream coloured coat with a fur collar. Miss Kite was in a hurry, almost trotting to keep up with the long strides of the man walking beside her. Foley peddled after them and as they were about to cross Courthouse Lane he pulled up by the kerb next to them.
‘Miss Kite,’ Foley greeted her with a wave as he straightened up on his bicycle. Miss Kite looked startled and darted behind the man. The man glared at Foley.
‘What do you want, Guard?’
For a moment Foley was stung by the tone of the man but he ignored him and spoke to Miss Kite again. ‘I was just coming to see you.’
‘We’re in a hurry, Guard.’ The man waved his hand as if he was swatting away a fly. ‘It’ll have to wait.’
Foley bristled. ‘And who are you?’
Miss Kite put her head around the man and squeezed his arm. ‘This is my brother Raymond.’
‘Oh.’ Foley could see the similarity around the eyes and the set of the mouth. ‘Hello. I’m Guard Foley. How do you …’
‘I know who you are.’ There was no warmth in the reply. ‘I’ve seen you around. And as I said, we’re in a hurry. So goodbye.’
He put his arm out to move Miss Kite along but Foley manoeuvred his bicycle so it blocked their way. People nearby stepped back and paused to see why a guard was getting agitated with a couple of pedestrians. This seemed to annoy Raymond even more than Foley stopping him from walking away, and his nostrils flared. He bared his teeth but then hesitated before he spoke again. Foley’s face was set in a determined scowl and Raymond wasn’t sure of his ground. But he still glared at Foley and puffed out his chest.
‘Miss Kite,’ Foley put on his hardest voice but then he saw something in her expression. Was that distress in her eyes? It looked as if she would burst into tears at any moment. ‘Are you all right there?’
She nodded but wouldn’t look at him. ‘What do you want, Guard Foley?’
‘I want your father’s address if that’s not too much trouble.’
‘Our father’s address?’ Raymond bared his teeth again and stepped closer. ‘Why?’
‘Because I would like to speak to him.’ Foley said in a slow angry tone and he held Raymond’s stare.
Raymond blinked first. ‘Why?’
‘I just told you. I would like …’
‘He’s at my sister’s house.’ Miss Kite had tears in her eyes now.
‘Florence,’ her brother snapped. ‘Don’t say another word.’
‘No.’ Miss Kite pushed him away. ‘We have to tell him. He’ll find out anyway.’
‘For God’s sake,’ Raymond fumed. ‘We don’t need the guards involved. It’ll only make things worse. We can handle this ourselves, Florence.’
‘We can’t, though.’ Miss Kite was openly sobbing now and she hid her face in her fur collar. ‘Our Da is out of control. He needs help. He needs someone to help him.’
‘Well, the guards aren’t going to do that, are they?’ Raymond’s accusing glare made Foley want to grab him by the throat, but he gripped the handlebars of his bicycle instead. ‘They’ll handcuff him and throw him in a cell,’ Raymond continued. ‘They’ll be as gentle as an army tank in full flow with all guns blazing.’
‘Stop it,’ Miss Kite cried. ‘Just shut up, Ray. Eamon isn’t like that.’
‘Eamon?’ Raymond snorted. ‘For feck sake. So it’s Eamon now, is it?’
‘What’s going on?’ Foley got off his bicycle and let it fall on the ground and more people gathered around them. And this made Raymond swallow nervously and move closer to his sister.
‘I think he’s drunk, that’s all.’ Raymond lowered his voice and let his shoulders sag.
‘Who? Your father?’ Foley softened his tone as well and Miss Kite nodded.
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Several five-star reviews like this; A complex Mystery set in soil not usually tilled, neutral Ireland in 1944, following the Allies' invasion at Normandy. What seems on the surface a simple matter of identification of a corpse turns into a complicated and highly dangerous investigation for Garda Eamon Foley, while in the background gentle romance blossoms.
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I was born in Tralee, Ireland and now live in Newport, South Wales.
I was blessed to have been raised in one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth and, as was usual back in the day, part of a family of eight children and a huge extended bank of relations, so we were never short of company and entertainment. We were lucky to be able to spend our young years playing on the many wonderful beaches that surrounded us and were all within a bicycle ride from our house.
A chance meeting with a beautiful Welsh lady meant a huge step-change and I ended up here in Wales with two wonderful daughters who have encouraged and critiqued my work on many occasions but always with good humour and affection.
One of the highlights of my childhood years was spending a few weeks in Listowel, Co Kerry, where my uncle Moss Scanlon had a Harness Maker’s shop. It was a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters, and it was there that my love of storytelling was kindled by the likes of John B. Keane and Bryan MacMahon, who often wandered in for a chat and bit of jovial banter.
The numerous short stories I’ve written are based on those characters and have been published in various anthologies and eMags over the years.