An Irish Tragedy

There was a story in the news last year that has stayed with me for its tragedy and cruelty… not just for those who lost their lives but for the one who was left behind. The names have been changed.

Kate had inherited a farm in County Cork from her family and lived there with her husband, Padraig and two grown sons, Michael and Sean. The family didn’t work the farm themselves but leased the land out to local farmers. The two sons had attended university and were working in their respective careers in nearby towns. Kate was experiencing a health issue and needed to have an operation from which she would need time to recover. She had recently made her will, just in case.

There were signs that things weren’t too good at home. Rather than come back to the farm after the surgery, Kate elected to stay with friends along with her older son Michael, who would nurse her back to health. When, finally she was well enough to come home, she and Michael returned to the farm where Padraig and Sean were waiting. After dinner and a bit of television, Kate went to bed early.

In the early morning, with the sun just coming up, Kate awoke to the sound of gunshots. Terrified, she ran from the room and found Michael in his bed, covered in blood. Neither Padraig nor Sean were in the house. In a panic, she fled to her nearest neighbor who called the police. When they arrived, they found Michael dead and began to search the farm for the two missing men.

They found Padraig and Sean in one of the fields. Both men were dead and a shotgun lay between them. A lengthy note was found on the body of Sean. In it he detailed the anger that he and his father felt at the favoritism Kate showed to her older son. They knew what she had written in her will. She had left the farm to Michael. It was never clear who shot whom, but the father and son had formed a murder suicide pact. And the note said, they had agreed to let Kate live so that she would live out her life in suffering over the loss of her beloved Michael.

In this strange and twisted tale, two men got their revenge but they paid in the most extreme and pointless way. Sparing a life just to provoke and prolong suffering and grief. And now, nobody gets the farm.

Small Cuts (13) James

To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. Now back to James.

My gaze shifted from my reflection in the rearview mirror as the car passing my house suddenly sped up. Could my eyes have been deceiving me? That looked just like Oliver’s car. I watched the driver turn the corner, barely pausing at he stop sign at the end of the block. With a second look, I was positive it was Oliver. And that could only mean one thing —he was coming to my house, while I wasn’t home, to be with my wife.  

I hit the gas and made the turn to follow him. I expected the silver Volvo to circle the block and return to my street but it continued out to the boulevard. What was Oliver up to? Maybe he saw me. I slowed and put some distance between us but not so much that I would lose him. 

At each intersection where he could make the turn to go back to my neighborhood, he continued on. This didn’t make any sense. If Oliver was heading into Center City —the way he appeared to be— there was absolutely no reason for him to have driven past my house. In fact, it was in the opposite direction from the route he should have taken from his own home. Once we were on the expressway, I had no way to easily turn around and so I figured on seeing this through. Perhaps when I discovered exactly where Oliver was going, his detour would be explained.

My initial reaction —shock and anger— had given way to confusion and doubt. Would Elaine really do this to me? Would Oliver? My wife and my best friend. This wasn’t the kind of thing I ever expected to happen to me. This happened to other people. I blew out a breath. Ok, maybe it wasn’t really happening. Oliver must have had some other reason to be on my street. He obviously wasn’t in a hurry. He’d been staying relatively close to the speed limit the whole way. Finally, he put his turn signal on and merged into the left lane to take the Vine Street Expressway. I stayed a few car lengths back. 

He took the first exit onto Broad street, heading south. This could get tricky. Following in city traffic was much more difficult than on the highway. Nevertheless, I managed to keep up as he wound his way over to Rittenhouse Square. I slowed as the silver Volvo pulled into the parking garage of The Park Hotel. A breakfast meeting? With a client maybe? Had to be. Although it still didn’t explain what he was doing driving past my house on the way. 

I glanced at the time. Damn. I was really going to be late for the golf outing. I would definitely miss the buffet breakfast but if I hurried, I could be there for tee time. I drove around the square planning to retrace my route and found myself in the wrong lane for the expressway. I passed the on ramp and merged into the right lane so I wouldn’t miss the next one. Of course, everything goes wrong when you’re already late. I took the next on ramp and immediately realized it was the eastbound expressway which would take me back to center city. Now I’d have to circle around a second time. I hit the gas and prepared to merge with traffic. I never saw the other car change lanes. 

Philadelphia Skyline Image via Flickr