Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many she will be most familiar as the voice of the station's Traffic & Travel. Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She's much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson.
First in a gripping new thriller series featuring investigative journalist Oonagh O'Neil. Perfect for fans of Broadhurch.
TV journalist and media darling Oonagh O’Neil can sense a sinister coverup from the moment an elderly priest dies on the altar of his Glasgow church. Especially as his death comes as she is about to expose the shocking truth behind the closure of a Magdalene Institution. The Church has already tried to suppress what happened to decades of forgotten women. Is someone also covering their tracks?
DI Alec Davies is appointed to investigate the priest's death. He and Oonagh go way back. But what secrets lie behind the derelict Institution's doors? What sparked the infamous three-day riot that closed it? And what happened to the girls that survived the institution and vowed to stay friends forever?
From Ireland to Scotland.
From life to death.
Father Patrick Joseph Kennedy left his home in Galway in the fifties to cross the water to Glasgow. He was a grumpy old sod, whose face was aye tripping him. Sadly, his ambition outweighed his achievements and he was stuck being a crappy old Parish Priest for the whole of his sorry wee life. He was a miserable, twisted, self-promoting, sanctimonious old bastard, who rammed his beliefs down the throats of people too close to meeting their maker and thus too petrified of eternal damnation to question them. But no one could deny he was a tireless fundraiser for the Church. Each week he’d rub his hands in glee as his poverty stricken congregation dug deep into their pensions to fill the collection plate, in order that he might live rent-free in a Victorian villa and stuff his fat face with the best of scran…
Tom guessed he’d need to tweak a few of the details before the obituary would be ready to email to the Catholic Press Office. He’d been working on it all morning and still that was the best he could come up with. He pushed back in his chair and flicked through the top few pages of the pile of admin on the desk beside him. It was all the usual crap. The diocese was raising funds and desperately needed cash to send a terminally ill father of four to Lourdes. The budget for his drop-in centre was being slashed, and a notice from Glasgow City Council warned that unless he got a special catering licence the Health and Safety Executive would fine him for serving hot food to down and outs. He stuffed the whole lot in a drawer and went back to the obituary. It was getting to be a bitch of a week.
Everything was a struggle these days. The obituary should have been a doddle. Father Kennedy was a news editor’s dream. Despite his age, he had been well on the way to becoming a media darling. A moral crusader, popping up at every pro-life rally, every anti-abortion demonstration, and every let’s get my face in the papers photo opportunity. He never missed a trick. No point in doing good, if no one knows about it. But to die on the altar, to drop dead in front of his congregation… Well, he had to hand it to the old bugger; it was the ecumenical equivalent of being killed in action.
Tom thought of the last few months before Father Kennedy died and grabbed at his clerical collar throwing it onto the desk. It was starting to choke him, like a noose round his neck.
‘Two gentlemen to see you, Father.’ Mrs Brady was at his back, and Tom slammed both hands down on the keyboard, deleting the incriminating evidence and almost rebooting his computer at the same time.
‘Eh, would you be able to knock first in future please?’
Mrs Brady ignored him and shuffled out of the room, glancing over her shoulder at the computer screen, and then shifting her eyes to Tom before closing the door.
‘DI Davies’ – the older of the two men held out his identity card – ‘and this is DS McVeigh, Govan Police,’ he added without looking at his partner. Tom noticed Davies was wearing casuals, though the Doc Martens, buffed to a high polish, would have given him away. McVeigh had a shock of ginger hair, which frizzed at the temples. His jacket hung limply from his shoulders. Too many late nights walking home in the rain?
‘Police? What’s wrong, what is it?’ There was nothing Tom could do to stop the nerves that had risen from his bowels, turning his stomach into a knot. He clasped his hands firmly behind his back to stop them trembling.
Shiny Shoes took charge. ‘Right, Father Findlay.’
‘What? Oh please, call me Thomas… Tom.’ He ushered the pair to sit. Davies remained standing, and drew a look at McVeigh, who by this time was crouched on a footstool, his elbows resting on his knees. Tom supported himself on the oak desk and nodded at Davies to continue.
‘Nothing to worry about, Father. Just routine. We always do a follow-up in the event of a sudden death.’
‘You’re here about Father Kennedy?’
‘Aye. Known him a long time?’
‘Right. Let me see.’ Tom crossed his arms over his chest and tried to look bloke-ish. ‘I’ve been assigned here for the past four years, so I suppose I know… knew him reasonably well. Why?’
McVeigh was picking at a loose thread on the fabric of the footstool. Davies leaned against the mantelpiece. ‘Anything about his behaviour over the past few weeks that seemed, well, odd in any way?’
‘No, no. I don’t think so, I mean, what do you mean odd?’
‘Did he have a lot on his mind, for instance? Anything troubling him?’
‘I’m not really sure. No. No, he didn’t. Look why are you asking questions about Father Kennedy? This doesn’t sound very routine to me.’
‘Know anyone who didn’t like him?’
Tom stole a sideways glance at his now benign computer and rubbed the palm of his hand over his mouth. ‘No, no, he was… he was really quite well liked actually.’
‘No enemies that you knew about?’
‘Enemies?’ A flutter stirred in Tom’s chest. ‘No of course not. For goodness sake, he was a Catholic Priest.’
‘Nonetheless,’ Davies continued, ‘he was a bit… Well, let’s face it, he made few friends on the outside with his extreme views.’
Tom used the back of his hand to wipe the beads of sweat that were forming on his top lip. He felt duty-bound to defend his dead colleague and his own need to wear the collar. ‘They may seem extreme to you, but they are the views of the Church.’
‘You all right there, Father?’ said Davies.
Tom wasn’t touched by his mock concern. ‘I’m just a bit y’know… surprised at all this.’ He gave up on the bloke-ish stance and sank back into his chair. ‘What’s going on here?’
‘Nothing. Honestly. Look, are you sure you’re all right? You’re looking a wee bit pale.’
Tom nodded his head and bit the inside of his mouth.
‘Right you are then.’ Davies gestured for McVeigh to stand up.
Tom was glad to see the back of them.
The obituary lost its importance after that. He tried to start again, promising himself wee treats and rewards if he finished, but the words just swam on the screen in front of him. He felt panic swell in his throat. And he felt sick.
He cooled his head on the window just in time to see Oonagh O’Neil get out of her car. He’d forgotten all about their meeting. She waved as she jogged up the steps. She looked as Irish as her name suggested. Small, slim, with chestnut hair and deep blue eyes. He was sure if he went to Dublin, the streets would be lined with thousands of Oonagh O’Neils, and all just as pretty. He ran into the hall and opened the door before she had a chance to ring the bell.
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