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I’m up for GBH. The Taliban would be more forgiving. I’m going to be made an example of. For shaming fellow lawyers. I may even be considered a lethal weapon. Then my sentence will be longer. It’s comical.
Only it’s not funny.
Not only am I facing a jail term but I’ll be struck off the Roll of Solicitors for ‘conduct unbecoming’. The end is nigh. And all because I lamped some stupid kid; bust his nose in a heated outburst. And got caught. His dad is on the case. He took dramatic photos of his son’s messed up face, dragged him to the doctor, then gave a statement to the Gardai.
I get on the blower but Mr Murphy is slow taking the call. I’m at his mercy. Call number 13 he takes.
‘No matter how wrong you feel he was it’s just not on.’
‘But I started out trying to do some good’ I say.
‘You’ve a skewed definition of doing good!’
‘I tried reasoning with him, with your son …’
‘His name is Barry’
‘Ok, with Barry. At the beginning at least. I warned him. He had it coming.’
‘That’s no excuse. You can’t go around taking the law into your own hands. You should know better.’
He’s saying I’m not a law-abider. It’s like a layperson correcting a surgeon’s prognosis. The kudos. The kicks. Trumping my profession. He loves it. Arrogant as I am, I swallow my pride. But it doesn’t bode well: someone is in his ear. I’m suspicious. You don’t do the groundwork, set it up like he has, only to cave.
‘I hold my hands up. I’m totally in the wrong’ I say.
‘I’m not sure it’s good enough.’
‘Well, what do you want – my head? Then have it. I mean my career is over: can’t practise law with a record.’
‘Nobody wants your head, Louis. You shouldn’t behave that way. You said you’d shut him up, permanently.’
‘What does that even mean?’
‘You threatened to snuff him out.’
‘I’m telling you what he said. Barry was in fear of his life.’
‘Look, if it were so, why didn’t I just kill him?’
‘Why would you do that?’
‘No reason! That’s my point ‘cos if I did threaten to it doesn’t make sense.’
‘To kill him?’
‘To say I’d kill him. Why stand in front of a man…’
‘He’s only a boy!’
‘Ok, why stand in front of the boy and threaten to do him in when that’s the best time to do it? I don’t talk empty.’
‘Calm down, Louis. You need to get help.’
‘I am calm. It’s just the lack of logic that bothers me.’
‘You asked me to come on the phone. Do you want me to hang up?’
I collect myself. The soap-opera drags. I put up with more of the kind of idiocy that initially led to my violent outburst. Messages are relayed. I continue to to-and-fro with the father. I endure his holier-than-thou lectures. He confuses me for someone who gives a shit. Worst of all, I begin to wonder who he is.
Their life has polluted mine. I’m infected by a Murphy virus. The plague. The offended: they club together. The Murphy’s are closer as a family unit, they bond around me, their ire uniting against me. They feel important, suddenly with a voice. It’s what they want; nobody else listens to them. They have me by the cojones.
I think of massacring the lot of them. Truly. They don’t realise how close they are to being exterminated.
Although it’s game-over, I persist. I try damage limitation by engaging with the enemy. The vermin. Mr Murphy finally agrees to meet. In the run up to the show-down it weighs heavily on me. On the way to the designated suburban café I think a better outcome would be if I drove my car into a wall. After all, how do I say his son is a loser – most probably like the dad – while pleading with him not to go to a lawyer who will gladly squeeze me dry? And then, how do I settle it without offering him the world I don’t own?
I think he might welch, but no, there he is, recognising me off the bat, motioning me to a table-for-two with a commanding wave. By now, he probably knows me better than I do. His every move he must have rehearsed. And me? Well, it’s his call; depends how he plays it.
The café is out of a Tarantino movie. Any one of them. On the table between us is a laminated menu, a bottle of Tabasco sauce, a salt seller (but no pepper), a fake candle and – inexplicably – an ashtray.
I greet Mr Murphy not with a handshake but with raised hands. No guns, see, I announce. Anyway, I’m not gone on touching skin with my rapist until I see what he’s going to do to me.
‘Let me again say Mr Murphy …’
‘Mike, let me say right away that I am so sorry.’
‘Yes, well, as I said, it’s not good enough.’
‘Clearly, and I appreciate that. It’s why we’re here. I want to apologise to you in person.’
I ignore that he wants my cheque book. What I can’t fail to notice is the way his eyes settle on the salt seller. Afraid to hold my gaze? Mmmm. He was better on the phone. There’s a one percent chance I might outbox him.
Without his eyes on me I take him in: mid-forties and life has beaten him. Long ago. He gave in without a fight. Pure fat: top heavy, a snowman on stilts. Stately plump Murphy! His face has bloated to match his pregnant belly. His ears look tiny pitched either side of it. His nose plays baby brother to his exploding gut and piggy face. On top of it all he wears a grey moustache that can’t possibly distract from his ugliness.
I also try to look ugly. I’ve dressed down for the occasion. I’m wearing old jogging shoes and a new pair of distressed jeans. I don’t want to smell of money. About the TT I can’t do much. They know I drive one.
‘It happened. Here is where we are.’
I don’t know why he says it. I mean it’s obvious, but worryingly it’s rehearsed.
‘I was Mr Squeaky before this’ I say. ‘No form. No previous. Hang on, what do you mean – here is where we are? I don’t follow. Where are we?’
‘Barry’s face is a mess.’
‘Allegedly! I swung but didn’t connect, I don’t think, so I don’t know how it can be that bad.’
‘A video doesn’t lie’
Fuck! Shop surveillance. Just as I’m about to play denial it bites me in the ass.
‘Oh, security cameras! Look, sure it happened but it’s not how it happened. I mean, I’m not into violence. Life is precious.’
Yet murder is firmly on my mind.
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