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Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly (Detective Sean Duffy #6)
Author:Adrian McKinty

“Wouldn’t you rather do the pilgrimage in the summer like normal people?” I asked.

“Nope. The Pope says that if you do a pilgrimage to one of the traditional sites during Lent it’ll be particularly blessed, so it will.”

“Hark onto Alfred Duffy quoting the Pope. Alfred Duffy who forced Dr McGuinness to teach us about Darwin. What’s happened to you, Da? Did you get hit in the head with a golf ball or something?”

He grinned and leaned back in the chair, his watery blue eyes twinkling. “Oh, I just remembered what I wanted to ask you. You’re on for the quiz tonight? We’ve never won yet, but with you on our team I think we have a good chance of beating the GAA.”

“Will it be in English? If Beth wants to come?”

Dad smiled at the mention of Beth’s name. “Ah, you got a good one there. You know it doesn’t bother us that she’s a, you know …”

“Red-head?”

“Protestant.”

“Is she a Prod? I hadn’t noticed. Well that explains everything.”

“All you have to do now is marry her and your mother will be in clover.”

“A wedding? Come on, Da. All our lot down one side of the church, them lot down the other?” I said, not mentioning the fact that Beth had told me never to even think about proposing to her. “And Beth’s father isn’t exactly a fan of mine,” I added.

“What does he do again?”

“Builds houses.”

“He works with his hands. I like that.”

“Like Gwendolyn Fairfax I doubt very much if he’s ever seen a spade. He got the firm from his father. All he seems to do is sit in his office and think up the street names for all his new developments.”

“What does he name them?”

“Mostly after obscure members of the royal family. Some Bible stuff. I only met the man twice and if I hadn’t been armed with my Glock I think he would have tried to beat me to death with one of his golf clubs.”

“Ah, golfer is he? He can’t be all bad. What’s his handicap?”

“Handicap? Well, he’s got an eighteenth-century mind-set, he’s stinking rich and for recreation he golfs at Down Royal or sails about on his bloody great yacht. Is that handicap enough?”

“Yes, you’ve said she comes from money. Down Royal though. I’d love to play that course. You couldn’t possibly ask if I—”

“No, I couldn’t! I’ve told you, he’s not my biggest fan.”

“Maybe if you made what they used to call ‘an honest woman’ of his daughter he wouldn’t be so hostile.”

“Dad, trust me, a wedding is not in the cards.”

“Well, I’m not going to try to force you. Every time I’ve tried to force you to do anything it hasn’t worked. Backfired in me face, so it has. I still regret sending you off to that bird-watching camp on Tory Island. You cried and cried and I don’t think you ever picked up a birding book again after that.”

“Damn right. To this day I can’t tell the difference between a woodcock and a bog snipe,” I said and my father, who was easily pleased, erupted into gales of laughter (for, of course, as I’m sure you know, a woodcock and a bog snipe are the same thing).

Dinner that night was a high-spirited affair. One of Dad’s neighbours had caught a massive sea bass and mum had cooked it in a white wine sauce with scallops and potatoes while Beth and I took Emma down the beach to throw stones at the breakers.

We sat in the dining room under the portraits of JFK and the Derby-winning horse Shergar (both assassinated in their prime) while a turf fire burned in the range and rain lashed the windows.

Beth, Emma and Mum stayed at home while Dad and I trudged to The Lost Fisherman for the village’s big event of the week if you didn’t count mass on Sunday (and fewer and fewer people did, with each fresh week bringing a fresh church scandal). Dad introduced me to all his golfing cronies and told them that with me on the team we were sure to crush those arrogant bastards from the GAA.

In the event the GAA performed poorly and by the final general knowledge round it was between the golf club and the bowling club for the prize pool of fifty quid. Marty O’Reilly said that there would be a tie-break question.

“This is the question and I want you to be very precise with your answer. No shouting out from any of the other teams. All right, here goes. What were the very first words spoken from the Apollo 11 astronauts on the surface of the moon? Everybody get that? Good. As usual, write your answers on the card and bring them up. I’ll give you two minutes to think about it. Stop that! No whispering from any of the other teams!”

“The very first words from the moon?” Davy Smith said in a panic but I knew there was no need to worry because my dad was grinning to himself.

“Never fret, Alfred knows,” I said.

“Do you know right enough, Alfred?” Big Paul McBride asked.

“Look over there at them bowling boys. They think they know the answer but they don’t!” Dad said, almost rubbing his hands with glee.