Small shop. Small town. Big problem.
I’ve only entered the cramped store to buy a packet of pastilles. On a whim, and with the help of the-pointy-finger-in-jacket-pocket manoeuvre, I’ve decided to rob it.
The shopkeeper fiddles with the till.
“Only fifty euro in here.”
She stares at me. Unfazed.
“Would you like to make some real money?”
Seems like such a harmless woman.
“What do you mean, real money?”
“Five grand. If you bump somebody off.”
“My sister. We don’t get on. And some family issues remain unresolved.”
Right. The mother’s died. She’s left both of them the house in the will. But only one of them cared for mammy all that time while the other was off in Australia having fun. And the one that stayed at home isn’t happy. Don’t think I want to involve myself in this sibling intrigue.
“I think I’ll just take the fifty euro. And hand over another packet of pastilles.”
“Sure what sort of man are you at all, Colm Killeen. I knew your aunt. An O’Leary from outside Kilbeggan, wasn’t she?”
I hate Ireland. You can never do anything – like commit a petty crime – without someone recognising you from seven parishes down the road.
I try to reason.
“I’m crap at killing. When I was a kid I had this pet hamster called Hasselhoff and it was sick and we couldn’t afford to bring it to the vet and daddy said….”
“Arey, will you stop with your auld stories. The price of hitmen has gone through the roof. They’re all in Dublin, that’s where the demand is. Tell you what, I’ll make it six grand to do her. I’m Maisie, by the way.”
• • •
Guess you could say I’m a passive man. Open to suggestion. And very low on cash. I need that dough.
It’s a week later. I’m on a date with the sister. Tessie. Secluded beauty spot near Kilnaboy. She’s all lovey-dovey. Pawing me like an oversexed panther. Is that a gun in my pocket or am I glad to see her? It’s a gun in my pocket.
For real this time.
Maisie has sourced it. From Gilhooly, the old IRA man.
Tessie licks my face and thinking about how I got into this mess I curse my love of pastilles.
She starts whispering in my ear.
“What do you think of Maisie?”
“I detest her.”
I turn to Tessie. I know what’s coming. She’s going to tell me she made some money while she was off in Australia having fun. And has put some away for a rainy day. A rainy day when a murder may be committed.
“She’s an obstacle. She’ll always be. And now that I’ve met you…”
She looks at me with big pleading eyes.
“I know it’s asking a lot and we’ve only just met but would you kill her for me?. There’d be a bit of money in it.”
“But, Tessie, I’m crap at killing. When I was a kid I had this pet hamster called Hasselhoff…”
• • •
Over the next few days, as I prevaricate with Hamlet-like aplomb, they both separately approach me with the same idea.
“If you don’t want to do any bludgeoning, knifing or discharging of firearms, I completely understand. But listen, have you any knowledge of creating gas leaks? There’s a gas heater in the living-room and my sister loves the auld telly late at night. I’m figuring if we could get that gas heater to leak, we could have the perfect untraceable homicide – slow death by carbon monoxide.”
These sisters are batty. I have to get away from them. No one needs money this badly. I lay low for a few days. Then, in a coffee shop in Kilmallock I hear a news report over the radio. The correspondent says the police aren’t sure if the fire in the farmhouse, where the two female bodies were found was started deliberately. Or was just a tragic accident.
A deliberate tragic accident, perhaps.
I finish my coffee, promise myself never to commit robbery again and think, maybe it’s about time I get myself another pet hamster.