20. The Body

Laid flat, the ladder just reached the small island in the bog. After a brief discussion during which Gimpy lost, he had crawled out over the ladder whilst Brian, Sean & Joe stood on the other end to counter balance it. He got to the body and tentatively prodded it with a stick. Suddenly it rolled over, startling Gimpy, who jumped back in shock. The dead man was clean shaven, the face a light blueish colour with bruises all over it. Under the uniform was a heavy woollen cream coloured aran sweater.

Gimpy carried on poking it with the stick until eventually it penetrated the wool and hooked into it, allowing Gimpy to drag it backwards towards the edge of the bog. Gimpy tentatively clambered off the ladder and made a lunge for dry land. Brian and Pat then dragged the body out of the bog and gently placed it on the grass.
They all looked at it. Brian looked like he was going to be sick but just coughed instead. “Well, what do we do now?” said Joe.
“Well, I suppose we should get it down into the village” said Sean.
“Then what” said Brian, “It’ll go off”.
“We’ll have to try to get it over to Derrylin quick so old “Blowy” Candlewick can do whatever he has to do to it so the police can do whatever they do with it so they can bury it.” pontificated Gimpy.
“I presume Blowy is the undertaker, but I reckon it’s an autopsy job first” suggested Brian with a sudden air of authority.
“Come on, lets get it shifted then” said Sean.

They laid the body along the ladder and dragged it along the ground. It fell off four times because the arms just wouldn’t fold over the body and kept snagging clumps of bog grass. Eventually they arrived at the barn behind Egan’s and looked at each other. Nothing had ever happened like this so nobody knew what to do next.
“I’m not ringing Hugh Pigshit Devlin again” said Joe.
“I’ll ring him then, he has to know one way or the other” said Sean.
“Let me ring him, I ring people every day of my life. It’s my job” volunteered Brian, forgetting that he’d decided to quit his job and live the rest of his life as a fugitive on Inishbog.
At that moment Nora came out to empty the bin and saw the body. “He’s quite handsome isn’t he?” she blurted out. “I mean, was, in a funny sort of way”.
“He looks German or northern European, don’t you think, like a Norse God?” she said with more than a hint of sarcasm. It went over top of Sean’s head like most of her humour.
“He looks dead to me, full bloody stop” said Sean with forceful finality.

Brian picked up a sheet of tarpaulin and covered the body, he’d had enough of this, then he walked into the bar, picked up the phone and rang the wrong number. The old lady on the other end had told him to bugger off or she’d ring the police. He said they were exactly who he wanted to ring. He apologised profusely for ringing the wrong number and she slammed the phone down on him but not before she’d told him he was one of them heavy breathers she’d heard all about and to go away. When he did get through to Devlin, Brian calmly explained the situation. Hugh Devlin was far from calm. He’d never had a suspicious dead body in his area before and was starting to panic. This was the last thing he wanted. He was 63 and had managed to avoid any sort of incident such as this, using various excuses and cunning plans to be elsewhere whenever anything marginally serious happened.

It was a bit choppy in the strait between Inishbog and Derrylin and Inspector Devlin, as he liked to be called even though he was only a constable, was prone to sea sickness and looked almost as ashen as the dead body when he stepped up onto the jetty from the boat. “Ok, where is it then?” not knowing what he was going to do next, but wanting to assume the authority that policemen should hold. |
“In the back” said Brian, “follow me”.
The whole entourage stood around the body including Devlin.
“So, where is it then?” exclaimed Devlin.
“Under the tarpaulin “ sighed Sean trying to respectful to the deceased at the same time trying to be as sarcastic as possible to Devlin.

Joe wandered off, he’d seen enough and in any case, he couldn’t stand the sight of Devlin. He’d crossed swords with him many times before, always getting the better of him so the hatred was mutual. The last incident between them involved a case of Creemully whiskey that Brady had appropriated from a man in Ardlougher who knew another man from Roscommon and sold it to Joe for a tenner. He just happened to be carrying the case in to the pub just as Devlin was querying Joe on the disappearance of a cow. A rather garbled sequence of excuses flowed between Joe and Brady, so much so that Devlin had no idea what was going on and to avoid filling in lots of complicated forms, agreed to forget it all in exchange for a bottle of whiskey.

“So, who is going to accompany the body to Derrylin then?” asked Devlin. He looked up and he was alone. Everybody else had silently sneaked off. Devlin lifted up the tarpaulin, let out a short but audible gasp as he saw the blue-green face of the corpse and quickly covered it up again. Devlin’s face turned a shade of green for a few minutes. He’d seen a few dead bodies but he wasn’t the bravest of brave and staggered a bit as he made his way to the door. Everyone else was outside. “Okay, I’ll ring Candlewick to bring a coffin over in his trawler. We’ll need an autopsy to ascertain the cause of death, although it seems pretty clear cut he drowned.” At least he hoped that was how it would turn out.

The trawler duly arrived 3 hours later, Blowy Candlewick hauled the coffin onto the quay, he got his bike off the boat and with the help of Devlin, contrived to balance the coffin on the bike, both held it at the rear and steered using the coffin, tilting it left or right on the handlebars. It was a simple coffin, no finesse, no brass handles or decorations. Between them they pushed the bike up the lane to Egan’s with the coffin balanced precariously on it. Joe and Brian lifted the body up gently over coffin and Devlin and Blowy slowly wheeled the bike under it. The body was gently lowered until Brian lost his grip and it dropped unceremoniously on it’s side into the coffin. There were huge sighs of relief all round that it was in the coffin.

It was a grisly business and not something Brian wanted to be a part of ever again. The lid was placed on top, Blowy got out a screw driver, handed it to Gimpy and set about making some paperwork out. Hopefully one screw in each corner would be suffice to keep the lid down in case the coffin fell off the bike. After an uneventful journey down the hill and onto the quay, during which all four of them took part in balancing the now heavy and unstable coffin, they eased it gradually onto the trawler. All of a sudden Joe let out a yell “Can’t hold it anymore…” and it dropped with a crash over the side into the boat, flipped upside down and slid gently into a pile of barnacled orange floats tangled with some red and green trawl nets. Devlin held his breath and Blowy blew out his cheeks, all eyes were on the coffin but it remained intact and the body stayed inside where they hoped it would. The screws did their job. Blowy levered the coffin the right way up with a gaffe.

“Well made coffin that one” commented Joe.
“Aye it should be, it’s oak” said Devlin.
“OAK!” chorused the four of them.
“No wonder it’s feckin heavy” said Sean
“Aye and them screws were a bugger to get in, no wonder they held” mentioned Gimpy.

Job done. Sorted, thought Devlin. Candlewick set sail and the whole episode on the island was over. A sudden thought occurred to Devlin that he should have gone back with Candlewick. He based this thought on the fact that Brady was in the pub and in no fit state to take control of a boat.
Job done thought Candlewick, easiest tenner he’d made in a long while, then a sudden thought occurred to him that he should have brought Devlin back with him to help him haul the coffin off his boat at Derrylin. He based this thought on the fact that the coffin was 13 stone heavier than it was when he’d lifted it onto the boat the first time.