‘To cut a long story short, Billy Mac did it.’
‘He murdered Harry H.’ The man raised a pint of Guinness and took a sup.
‘Billy Mac stabbed Harry seventeen times?’ The woman replied, her voice rising an octave. ‘They were engaged to be married!’
‘Exactly! If you’d been engaged to Harry, you’d have probably done the same thing.’
‘Hang-on a minute,’ a younger man interrupted. ‘How about a short story long? How the hell do you know it was Billy Mac that killed Harry?’
‘Because they were always rowing, weren’t they? They were famous for shouting and roaring at each other. First night they met down at Downey’s they had a fight. Harry bit your man’s head off over a stupid joke.’
‘They met in Downey’s?’ the woman said. ‘I always thought they met at a football match.’
‘No, that where they first hooked up together. They met in Downey’s. Sure, I was there, wasn’t I? Billy Mac was holding court. He’d had a few too many and as Harry wandered by, Billy couldn’t help opening his big mouth. Didn’t Harry put the stupid muppet in his place? Had a tongue like a razor.’
‘Look, this is all conjecture,’ the younger man said. ‘So they rowed, so what? So Harry had a sharp tongue, doesn’t mean that Billy Mac killed …’
‘Conjecture!’ the older man interrupted. ‘Big word that for you, Tom. Bet you’ve only said a nine letter word half a dozen times since your gob stopped sucking your mammy’s tit. And anyway …’
‘It’s a ten letter word, you dolt.’
‘Nine letter, ten letter, who the fuck cares? I’m telling you, Billy Mac killed Harry.’
‘And how can you be so certain when the guards don’t seem to have a clue, nor any of the newspapers?’
‘Yeah, Con,’ the woman said, ‘how come you seem to know what happened when nobody else does?’
‘Because I worked it out, Rosie, didn’t I! Billy Mac had the motive, means and opportunity as Sherlock Holmes would say.’
‘Sherlock Holmes never said that,’ Tom said. ‘That’s a modern saying.’
‘Who cares who said it, Patricia Cornwell? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was with him just before he did it.’
‘You were with him!’ Rosie hissed, her face showing disbelief.
‘Yeah, we’d been drinking down in Gartner’s. He was giving it loads about how Harry was wrecking his head. Always moaning about this, that and the other. Mostly the other. Billy’s always had Roman hands and Russian fingers.’
‘Not with me, he hasn’t,’ Rosie said indignantly.
‘Well, of course not with you! He’s got a roving eye, not a guide dog.’
‘Well, I don’t see your dog under the table. Or do you have lower standards that Billy Mac?’
‘Like I was saying,’ Con continued. ‘I was with him in Gartner’s. We headed back just after closing. I left him at their front door muttering about how he wasn’t going to take any more shit.’
‘And you told this to the shades?’
‘What do you …’ Con trailed off as three guards entered the pub.
‘Well, now’s your opportunity to share your story,’ Tom said.
‘Feck off, Patricia,’ Con muttered.
The guards crossed the wooden floor to the three drinkers.
‘We meet again,’ the largest of them said. ‘Conor Fitzgerald, we’re arresting you on the suspicion of murdering Harriet Hardy in the early hours of January fourth. You do not …’
‘Conor?’ the woman roared. ‘It was Billy Mac!’
‘How could it have been Billy Mac?’ the guard asked calmly. ‘He was in your bed, Rosemary, when poor Harriet was killed.’
‘That’s a lie!’
‘No, Rosemary, that’s the truth. Lies are what pour from your lips. The same as with this chancer here.’ The guard pointed at Fitzgerald.
‘I never touched so much as a hair on her head!’
‘Long story short, you stabbed her seventeen times with a kitchen carving knife when she refused to do what Rosie here was doing to her Billy!’
‘Oh, god,’ Tom muttered rising to his feet. He’d be telling this story long for the rest of his days.