Shadow Across the Liffey

Shadow Across The Liffey

2013 RNA Joan Hessayon Award Finalist

Set in 60’s Ireland, life is hard for widow, Oona Quinn, grief-stricken by the deaths of her husband and five-year-old daughter. Struggling to survive, she meets charismatic Jack Walsh at the Shipping Office.

Vinnie Kelly, her son’s biological father, just out of jail, sets out to destroy Oona and all she holds dear. Haunted by her past, she has to fight for her future and the safety of her son, Sean. But Vinnie has revenge on his mind . . .

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The sun had just come out, and McNally cursed the task ahead of him. The child’s death had touched him deeply. At the station, he had seen tears in grown men’s eyes. This was, by far, the hardest thing he had ever had to do.

He parked the car outside the house with the shiny green door and well-maintained garden, and walked slowly up the path. He hesitated. From inside he heard laughter and music, and it pained him to be the bearer of such shocking news. A lump formed in his throat. He removed his hat and held it in front of him, before knocking on the door.

‘Mrs. Quinn?’

Oona stared at the uniformed man on her doorstep. ‘That . . . that’s me.’ She clutched the door. ‘Has . . . has something happened?’

‘I’m Sergeant McNally. There’s been an accident. May I come in?’

Connie joined her in the hall, the smile slipping from her face.

‘Are you a relative?’ he asked.

‘We’re sisters. What is it?’

He thought Oona was going to faint but her sister’s hand guided her towards the living room. A moment later, the two women sat on the sofa clutching hands.

‘May I sit down?’

Oona nodded. She was trembling. McNally could see a glimmer of hope in her big brown eyes.

‘I’m afraid your husband’s been in a serious accident, Mrs. Quinn.’ He saw all her fears encapsulated in that one terrible moment as he delivered the news.

‘Please, tell me he’s not dead.’

He swallowed, barely able to answer, and then he nodded.

‘No. No. Please don’t tell me that. Dear God! Eamon can’t be dead. You’ve made some mistake. Are . . . are you . . . sure it’s my husband?’

‘We found his driving licence.’ He gripped his hat. How could he tell her about the little girl?

‘My little girl! What about Jacqueline?’ she cried out. ‘Where is she? She’ll be frightened. I must go to her.’

‘I’m afraid there was nothing we could do, Mrs. Quinn. It all happened so fast.’

‘God! No! Not my little girl! Not Jacqueline!’ She was shaking hysterically.

‘Connie! Tell him; tell the Sergeant he’s got it wrong. Please, Connie.’

‘They’re not, not both of them,’ Connie pleaded, her face distraught.

‘Everything that could possibly be done was done at the scene. A drunk driver coming off the boat caused the crash. He’s dead, too. I’m afraid I was a witness. I’ve spoken to a number of other eye witnesses who saw the white van veering erratically before hitting your husband’s car.’ He swallowed again.

‘There was nothing your husband could have done, Mrs. Quinn. I’m so sorry. If it’s any consolation at all, they were both killed instantly.’

‘God Almighty! No! No!’ Oona rocked back and forth. Her breath was coming in huge spasmodic lurches as if her chest was about to explode. He had seen people grieving before, but to lose a child . . . He wished this was all a dream and that he hadn’t been a witness. He sat with his head bowed, turning his hat round and round in his hands.
Oona stood up, shaking uncontrollably. Before he could do anything, she collapsed onto the floor.

McNally rushed towards her. ‘If you have any brandy in the house, bring it,’ he told Connie.
When she came back, Oona was sitting up, supported by the Sergeant. Connie handed him the tumbler.

‘Try and sip this.’ He held the gold liquid to Oona’s lips. ‘You’ve had a terrible shock.’
She took a small amount and wrinkled her nose. It made her cough. She struggled to stand up. ‘I, I should . . . I should be with them. We must hurry.’

Connie’s face was full of concern. ‘We’re going now, Oona,’ Connie said, scribbling a note for their parents and sealing it in an envelope. The note simply said:

Mam and Dad,
There has been an accident. We’ve gone to the City Hospital. Please hurry, Dad! Don’t bring Sean.

McNally shook his head. ‘I’m so sorry, Mrs. Quinn. So sorry.’ He helped her into her coat. He could see she was in shock and his heart went out to her. How could anyone come to terms with such a loss? Tears streaming down her face, Connie placed a supportive arm around her distraught sister’s shoulders.

‘I should never have let Jacqueline go, Connie. How can life be so cruel? Eamon! Jacqueline!’ she wailed. ‘Oh, Jacqueline, my baby!’

McNally, his face grave, led both women to the car and drove off towards the city.

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