Shergar Ch 14
I RECOGNISED the Guard. He was the same one who came to our house after Jonathan had been reported for kicking Eoin Leonard in the nuts. I could tell he was grumpy. My dad noticed too.
“Sorry, for calling you out so late.”
The Guard nodded.
My mum looked over his shoulder to the open front door and blue darkness beyond.
“On your own?’’ she said. “I thought you all worked in pairs.”
“Budget cuts,’’ he said. He took his hat off. “What’s the problem?”
My dad looked at Jonathan and me. “It’s these two…,’’ he began
The Guard smiled, but not a real smile. “I remember these two. What have they done this time?”
I still couldn’t tell if my dad was angry, or proud. Earlier, when we showed him the rifle and told him where and how we found it, the first thing he said was, “Have you boys got some kind of special powers?”
“It was Mrs Sheridan this time,’’ Jonathan said. “She was the first one to find the spent bullet casings.”
He was just being nice, I guess, but I felt terrible when he said this because of my mum. The secret we had was a secret no more.
The Guard followed my dad into the kitchen and we followed them both.
“Oh my,’’ he said when he said when he saw the Kalashnikov lying on the table. “What have we here?”
“A Kalashnikov AK-47,’’ Jonathan said before anyone else could answer. “Probably Russian made, judging by the markings. Look -.”
He pointing to the markings on the barrel, just above the trigger casing. They looked like words, though not words I could read or understand. Jonathan couldn’t wait to show off how much he knew about Kalashnikovs.
“A lot of these rifles were made in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, which used to be part of the Soviet Bloc, but that wasn’t until later, much later, when the Soviet Union licenced production out to other Communist countries. You can tell by the date stamp. Look…”
He pointed to the markings again. “1954.”
I’m not going to lie. I never knew there was a country called Czechoslovakia.
The Guard took out his notebook. “I’ll take your word for it,’’ he said. “So tell me — where and when did you find the rifle? Slowly, mind. I don’t write quickly.”
My dad did most of the talking. He mostly just repeated what we had already told him. The Guard didn’t seem to mind. He just wrote down what he could, pausing a couple of times to ask my dad to slow down. He was using a white plastic pen.
I listened and stared at the floor. A couple of times I looked up at my mum, just to check she was okay. She caught me once and smiled, the way she always did when she wanted me to know everything was going to be fine.
If I was a detective I would have asked Jonathan and me to show him where we actually found the rifle. We were the the only witnesses, after all. But no, he was happy to take my dad’s word for everything. I bet he’d forgot to bring a torch and didn’t want to wander around in the dark.
“You know the field out there.”
My dad pointed towards the back door.
“Mulgrew’s farm?” the Guard said.
“No. The land next to the road, where people dump all their junk.”
The Guard looked grim. “Aye, we’ve been trying to clamp down on that.” He made another note in his book. Finally, he spoke to me, words that felt like electricity.
“Why did you to go down there and start digging around?”
My mum answered before I could. ‘It was my idea.”
“I got a new metal detector for my birthday,” I said.
The Guard shook his head and smiled at my dad. “When I was his age I was happy if I got a football strip for my birthday,’’ he said.
A Barcelona strip costs more than the Bounty Hunter Tracker 1 and that’s a fact. I kept that to myself, though, because I didn’t want my mum and dad to feel bad about buying me a cheap and crappy metal detector.
My dad told the Guard exactly what we had told him — that we weren’t looking for anything in particular, that we just picked a random spot to start searching and then next thing we found a couple of bullet casings.
“It’s been quite a summer for these two,’’ he said. “I don’t know if you read about in the paper but they also found a valuable coin over on the beach in Malahide.”
The Guard looked blank. “Did they?”
He closed his notebook and slipped his pen into the inside pocket of jacket. He said to my dad, “I wonder if I could have a word with you and Mrs Sheridan?”
My dad nodded and then spoke to Jonathan and me. “Just got through there for a couple of minutes.”
We waited in the living room. We didn’t speak, except when I asked Jonathan if he knew what they were talking about next door.
“Nope.” He looked kind of nervous, which made me feel nervous, too. I don’t know why. We hadn’t done anything wrong. All we had done was find the rifle. We weren’t the ones who hide it there in the first place.
THE Guard finished talking to my parents and then left. He didn’t say anything to us. It was my dad who told us we were to go to bed and get some sleep.
“But what about …”
Jonathan didn’t even get his question out but I knew what he wanted to know. So did I.
“We are just going to leave things as they are until the morning,’’ my dad said. “It’s late now and there’s no point in waking up the whole town at this time night. The Guards will be back in the morning.”
“What time?” I said.
My mum looked tired. Everybody did.
“We’re not sure. Early, probably. Before people find out what’s about there.”
“What do you mean ‘what’s out there’?”
My dad sighed. “Technically, it’s a crime scene.”
“Where you found the rifle and ammunition.”
Crime scene. The words made me feel cold and hollow, the way I felt when I’d done something wrong and knew my dad would be home soon to tell me off. I started crying — not because I was scared but because we were now in trouble and the Guards were coming back in the morning and we had done nothing wrong. That’s something you should know about me. I don’t like injustice. It’s so unfair.
MY MUM came into my room after I went to bed. I pretended I was asleep. I didn’t want to start crying again. I tried to keep my breathing even as she stood still, watching me. She padded across to the windows and closed the curtains. In, out, in, out. Like I was off in dreamland.
She closed the door behind her. “Try and get some sleep,’’ she said.
I opened the curtains again when she was gone. There was no way I could sleep in the darkness with just me and my thoughts.
I had a good view of the night sky from my bed. Dark blue and black, with silver sprinkles. I found an old school jotter on the top of the bookcase and made a note for myself: Christmas — telescope.
My dad would like that, if I asked for a telescope for Christmas.
Sometimes you could see the airplanes overhead, heading across to America. But not that night. It was too late. They were long gone, probably over Greenland or somewhere like that. It made me think of Brendan and what he was doing at that exact moment, if he was out running or with one of the gorgeous American college students he once told me about. I wished my brother was with me.
WHEN my eyes opened I found myself staring into a smile as soft as a cloud.
“Cillian, you need to get up,’’ my mum said. “The Guards are here.”
It took me about ten seconds to realise what she was talking about. Ten glorious seconds before that lead weight kicked in.
I lay back in my bed and looked at the ceiling while she moved around the room, picking up dirty clothes and tut-tutting at the mess.
I forgot to take my watch off before I feel asleep. It said 6:33.
“Where are they?” I said.
“Come and look,’’ she said. “They’re already out in the field.”
The sun was already up, painting the world outside a pale, dusty yellow. There were six Guards. Two were hammering wooden stakes in the ground around perimeter of the field, two were attaching orange tape from one post to the next and the final two were just standing around watching.
“They must be the bosses,’’ my mum said.
We both smiled. She put her arm across my shoulder. I didn’t move. The warmth of her made me think everything was going to be okay. Finally, she spoke and the spell snapped.
“Can you get dressed. There is a detective downstairs who wants to speak to you and Jonathan.”
HIS name was Detective Sergeant Nigel MacGuire. I’ll never forget that name. I had never met a Nigel before. He was serious but calm, tall and silver-haired. He was wearing jacket and a dark blue tie, straight and tight against the collar of his pale blue shirt.
Jonathan did most of the talking, which was probably the best thing because he was less nervous than me and had a better memory. For instance, I’d forgotten that my mum wasn’t with us when we found the rifle. He also remembered it was her idea to test out my new metal detector out in the field.
The uniformed guard had asked us the same questions the night before and our answers were the same. Afterwards, Jonathan said maybe Mr MacGuire was trying to catch us out in a lie. Detectives were sneaky by nature, it’s what made them want to be detectives. My dad said don’t be so daft. “They just need to make sure all the facts are straight. As long as you keep telling the truth everything will be fine.”
We spent the rest of the day at the pitch and putt. I think my dad just wanted us out of the way. Detective Sergeant MacGuire didn’t have any objection to us leaving the “crime scene”. Apparently, he was satisfied with what we had told him.
“Maybe I’ll come with the two of you. I could do with a bit of rest and relaxation,’’ he said.
He smiled for the first time since I’d set eyes on him. It wasn’t much of a smile — he had stained, teeth — but it stayed with me for the rest of the day, a hint perhaps that everything was going to turn out okay after all.
My dad offered to drive us to the course but MacGuire said it would be better if he and my mum stayed around and helped the Guards get organised. We walked instead, throwing our bags over our shoulder and heading off down the street in the direction of the golf course, like we were playing a mile-long par-five.
There were a few uniformed Guards milling around on the pavement outside our house and a couple of sightseers across the street, Mrs Sweeney, our neighbour from two doors down, and another older woman I didn’t recognise. Mrs Sweeney lived on her own — her husband died a few years ago — and was nosey, the way people are when they don’t have much going on in their life. My mum said we should all make allowances for Mrs Sweeney and we did. Brendan and I sometimes cut her grass. We always tried to have a conversation if we met her on the street. But that day all I did was wave and smile.
“We’re away to the golf,’’ I told her, swinging the golf bag around my body so she could get a better look.
She smiled back. “Beautiful day for it,’’ she said.
We were under instructions not to tell anyone what was going on. Not a word, not even to my friends. If they asked, we were to plead ignorance. I hate lying to my friends except when I don’t want to hurt their feelings, like when I say they played great at soccer when they were terrible.
The golf course was busy, but with older regulars who met at the clubhouse every day at the same time, played in the same groups and talked about the same things. They weren’t interested in us so long as we kept out of their way.
We went round twice before lunch, just Jonathan and me. I didn’t play great. I was too busy wondering if the Guards had found anything else in the field..
We left our bags outside the clubhouse and walked back into town to buy some chips. The plan was to return to the golf course and play another nine holes, maybe have a putting contest and then head home.
Derri, who worked behind the counter and sometimes let us play for free, asked if I knew what was happening over at Mulgrew’s farm. “Apparently, the place is crawling with Guards.”
I looked at Jonathan, who looked at Derri and shrugged. He was a terrific liar. If I didn’t know better I would have sworn he was clueless. I could feel my face reddening.
“Where did you hear that?” I said.
I could feel my face reddening, like when I talk to a girl I like.
Derri didn’t notice. “It was just on the radio news. The big news, too — RTE,’’ he said. “A massive Gardai search.”
Jonathan couldn’t help himself. “For what?”
Derri shook his head. “They didn’t say.”
I held out my hand, offering him the ten euros for another nine holes.
He shook his head and waved me off. He eyes stayed on Jonathan, bright like a lightbulb, and he smiled. “Maybe they’ve found Shergar.”
I SWEAR on my mother’s grave I have not made this up. My brother’s grave, too. Derri made a joke about Shergar, only Jonathan and me didn’t know it was a joke because we had never heard of Shergar. That didn’t happen until later.
I smiled anyway, just to be polite, and said thanks for letting us play for free even though we ended up not playing. We putted around aimlessly for ten minutes and then Jonathan said, “Bugger this. Let’s go back to the house.”