Liam inserted a key in the front door of his second floor flat. The walls of the public hallway were painted dark beige and the twenty-five watt light bulbs in the light fixtures failed to illuminate the dim vestibule no matter the time of day. Liam narrowed his eyes to see the lock.
The humidity rose in the spring and caused the wood in the doorjamb to swell and stick. With a hard shove of his shoulder, Liam popped the door open, the groan of the wood reverberated through the hallway and flat. Liam flinched. He looked over his shoulder down the public hall before he entered his home to see if any of the heads of disturbed neighbors peeked out at him. Satisfied, he walked into his kitchen.
“Liam?” The sound of his wife Mary’s voice drifted into the kitchen. Her delicate voice sounded like a small wind chime as the tubes ring in the breeze. “Colman, your Da’s home. Please clean up your bucket and brush your teeth,” Mary said. Her voice came from their son Colman’s room.
Liam dropped his briefcase on the small round Formica kitchen table. He knocked over a glass of milk, the contents spilled over the table surface, and the glass broke into small facets. On a normal day, this topic triggered a healthy dose of his Irish temper. Today his anger did not rise to the occasion. The broken glass and spilled milk just another event added to the weight already laid his shoulders as he leaned over the table and bowed his head. The stress hummed in his ears, the sound overpowered him like a wave and pulled him under the water.
Mary walked around the corner from the living room to the kitchen. She wiped her hands on her apron and smeared paint along the front. In her current project, she aspired to remove the hideous faded 1970’s flowered wallpaper from their bathroom and replace it with a nice shade of tope paint. She slowed as she looked at Liam’s face.
Mary Malone hugged her husband and held him close with her entire body. The warmth of her body reminded Liam he was not as alone as he felt. She kissed the side of his face and moved her head to look him in the eyes. Even with flecks of tope paint in her dark brown hair, he loved her wavy locks as they cascaded in feathers to her shoulders. The hair framed her heart-shaped face, with light freckles, not apparent at first glance. Liam found her front overbite sexy and wild. He looked into the allure of her pale blue eyes, capable of looking into his soul.
“McMillan?” She asked, but she knew the answer.
Mary and Liam Malone were best friends and confidants since they met in sixth class in primary school. As an eleven year old, Liam won over the favor of Mary’s family forever. Her older brother, confined to a wheelchair since birth, ran into trouble with street toughs. Young Liam came across him in an alley as three boys beat her brother. Liam fought all the boys, each four years his senior, and bested them. He threatened if they ever lay a hand on Mary’s brother again, his retribution would come swift.
Liam kept her apprised of each case he worked on, just in case something happened to him. Mary Malone calmed him and acted as the voice of reason in the relationship while Liam represented the emotional element and passion. For several weeks, Mary listened to her husband lay out the current case he investigated. While she commended him on his zeal, she reminded him he no longer worked on passion alone. He had others to think about, others who depended on him. Specifically, a young son who just finished throwing up in the freshly painted bathroom.
Liam nodded his head and did not look at his wife. “Yeah, McMillan.”
“Not worst case scenario,” Liam said. “But not far from it.”
“What does that mean?” Mary asked. In the last few weeks, she feared for her husband’s career.
“Suspended without pay for a week,” Liam said as he looked down at his shoes.
Mary cradled her hand under his chin and lifted his head until he looked her in his eyes. Liam explained to her his assault on McMillan in the basement stairwell at headquarters. Mary listened with calm silence as her husband described the events that led up to the assault. He told her of his conversation with Jimmy Costello.
“Again, it appears Jimmy is consistent only in his inconsistency,” Mary said. “Your boss has no position other than to straddle the fence without actually taking a position.”
“And that’s why he still has a job,” Liam said.
“Perhaps,” Mary said.
Liam completed his vent and let out a long sigh. In their relationship, the long sigh signaled Mary’s time to process the information. Liam drained all the emotion out of a topic and Mary sifted through the remains, retrieved pertinent facts, and presented them back to him.
“So, what’s next?” Mary asked him.
“Next?” Liam asked, his voice rose in annoyance. He looked at Mary. He realized she would not bite at his emotional outburst and shrugged his shoulders. “Next week I go in front of the review board. Since this is my first time, it’ll be a formality and a light punishment. Jimmy’s been in front of them many times before in his rowdier days, before he learned to toe the line.”
“And what does he advise to tell them?”
Liam sighed again. He fidgeted with a loose string on his jeans. “He said to tell them I followed a lead a little too close, lost perspective, and shot too high. I should say I let my emotions run too high with an arrogant prisoner.”
“Admire the conviction and forgive the youth,” Mary said.
Liam’s nostrils flared and he turned his face away. Mary touched him on the cheek and nudged his face back until he looked her in the eyes again. “If you can’t say it to me without gettin’ mad, what chance do you have of lookin’ contrite in front of the board now, Liam Malone?”
Liam’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Yes, that’s right. You heard me,” Mary said. “Go in front of the board and lie like your arse depends on it. That’s what I’m tellin’ you, Liam Malone.”
“Even if I don’t mean it?”
“Especially today. Gardaí needs honest detectives, whether they know it or not. And if it means telling a little lie to be able to continue being an honest detective, that is exactly what you do.”
Liam nodded his head.
“So, Liam Malone,” Mary said. “Once you’re back on duty, what is it you plan on doing?”
Liam cocked his head towards his wife. “What do you mean?”
“I mean: once your wrists have been slapped, how do you plan on going about your job?”
“How do I plan on it?” Liam raised his voice. “All I did was arrest a criminal who extorted Irish citizens, and because Gardaí leadership is comprised of worse elements than those prowling our streets, I have to take the punishment. How do you think I’m going to do my bloody job? If I’m the honest man you think I am, the only thing I can do is work to take them down.”
“And what would that accomplish?” Mary asked.
“All that will accomplish is you losing your job, or maybe even worse,” Mary said. “I don’t want to think about either.”
“Then what do you suggest?”
“We have to be smart,” Mary said with a calm voice. “Is it possible to be a good honest Garda and work within the confines you’re given? Can you focus on helping people hurt by the actions of the Gardaí, as opposed to arresting the friends of the Gardaí? You won’t step on your bosses toes if you help the little people get back up. Can you still be the boy who stuck up for my brother all those years ago? You can change your focus. If they can’t be arrested, change tactics and help the people affected. There are other ways in which Gardaí can help people.”
“What are you talking about, Mary Malone?” Liam asked. “I can’t believe you would say this to me. Am I to look the other way when crimes are committed?”
Mary turned her body and made a point to look across the living room into Colman’s bedroom. The visible walls covered in posters depicting Bono and The Edge of U2, Croke Park during the Gaelic Games, and the Irish National Rugby team. Liam saw Colman Malone’s head as he lay in the bed.
“You have a sick son to look out for,” she said. “Without a job, we can’t afford the medical bills to take care of him.”
Liam closed his eyes. Every discussion between he and Mary seemed to come tethered to the topic of Colman and his condition, and the weight of the line dragged his soul downward more each. At eight years old, the doctors diagnosed Colman with Leukemia. The brutal treatment included chemotherapy and radiation once a week. In Ireland, the medical treatment cost the family a considerable amount of money. The treatments also left Colman thin, weakened, and bald. The procedures left a physical effect on Liam and Mary, as the sight of their son in misery left them depressed.
Despite his illness, Colman showed high aptitude in science and a true excitement for learning. His teachers suggested Colman advance into an accelerated science program. Advanced science programs cost more money, and on Liam’s Garda pay, became difficult to budget.
Everything about Colman busted their budget and cost them money.
Everything was Colman’s fault.
Liam felt guilty for his negative emotions towards his son. He could never admit his thoughts to Mary. He felt the strain in the Malone family was Colman’s fault. He felt strain in his marriage was Colman’s fault. He felt their living conditions, despite his recent promotion and raise, lay still below poverty levels because of Colman’s medical costs. Therefore, in Liam’s mind everything dropped to his son, Colman.
“Why don’t you go in and see him?” Mary laid her hand on Liam’s hand.
Liam blinked as his thoughts returned to his conversation with his wife. “Not now. I wouldn’t be very good for his mood right now,” Liam said. He sat down at the table.
Mary sat next to him. “Any time you spend with him makes him happy.”
Liam looked away from his wife’s eyes. He knew Mary understood how the subject of his ill son made him uncomfortable. His specialty lay in his ability to control situations, from interrogations to conversations. However, he felt helpless in the presence of his son, and addressed his lack of control by ignoring his son.
“I know you had to watch your father die of cancer,” Mary said. “And I know that memory has infected your relationship with Colman. But, he’s your son and you can’t block him out. He loves you and needs you.”
“I—“ Liam stammered. “I’m sorry, I just can’t watch him like this.”
A tense silence hung in the air between the two lovers for several moments.
Mary shifted her position in the chair. The expression on her face changed. “We got a call today from something called the Garda Medical Assistance Foundation.”
“What does that mean?” Liam asked absently.
“They wanted to offer medical assistance with Colman if we participate in a program they are starting,” Mary answered.
“Okay,” Liam said.
“They said they would pay for Colman to do some experimental treatment for his condition. They said their treatment might put his cancer into remission. The procedure is experimental, but there have been successes. But, since it is a controversial subject, they are secretive, and we have to sign non-disclosures.”
“I don’t know what that means, but it seems to be too good to be true,” Liam said. “What’s the catch?”
“Well, they’d like us to participate in their study on fertility, which I thought was perfect since we wanted to have more children and having trouble. And there’d be additional money for us there,” Mary said. She hesitated. “And since the Gardaí sponsors this agency, candidates need to be in good standing with them.”
Liam cocked his head in her direction. “Which I’m not.”
“But you could be,” Mary said. “If you do what they want, and say what they want, you would be. And if you did it for the sake of your son, it would be okay. Our bills are really piling up and this organization can help Colman and us, it would get us out of the hole.”
“I don’t trust it,” Liam said.
“Maybe not, but we should at least listen to them,” Mary said. “No harm in talking to them about it.”
Table of Contents
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Table of Contents
Go back to Chapter 6
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