The Dead Hour

14 04 2007

The Dead HourDenise Mina é uma das nomeadas, com The Dead Hour, aos Prémios Edgar de 2007.Este romance é o segundo da protagonista Patricia “Paddy” Meehan e decorre em Glasgow, no ano de 1984.

Sinopse
Paddy é uma jovem jornalista, que vai investigar uma chamada policial, a uma casa na zona abastada de Glasgow. Tudo aparentava ser um caso de violência doméstica. Nessa casa Paddy vê uma mulher com sangue na cabeça, mas o homem que estava na casa, diz-lhe que tudo está bem e paga cerca de 50 libras para manter a história longe dos jornais. Na manhã seguinte a mulher aparece morta e o suborno que recebeu torna-se incómodo se for revelado.
Paddy lança-se numa investigação à morte da mulher, de forma a evitar a culpa que sente e à perda da credibilidade como jornalista.


Excerto

1. Not Like Us

i

1984

Paddy Meehan was comfortable in the back of the car. The white noise from the police radio filled the wordless space between herself and Billy, her driver. She had only just warmed up after a bitter half hour standing in sheet rain at a car accident and didn’t want to step out into the cold February night, but a handsome man in an expensive striped shirt and a ten quid hair cut was standing in the doorway of the elegant villa, holding the door shut behind him. There was a story here. No doubt about it.

They were in Bearsden, a wealthy suburb to the north of the city, all leafy roads and large houses with grass moats to keep the neighbours distant. After five months on the nightly calls car shift it was only the second incident Paddy had been called to in the area, the other being when a night bus had staved a roundabout and burst a wheel.

The address was off a side road of old houses behind high hedges. Driving through two granite gate posts, Billy followed the gravel driveway up a sharp bit of hill. A police car was badly parked in front of the house, hogging the space. Billy pulled the car hard over to the lawn, the front wheel dipping into the carved canal between gravel and grass.

They looked up to the door. A policeman had his back to them but Paddy still recognised him. The dead of night shift was a small community. Dan McGregor was standing under a stone porch way jotting notes as he questioned the house holder. The man was in his office shirt, his sleeves carefully folded up to his elbows. He must have been cold. He kept his hands on the door knob behind his back, holding the door closed as he smiled patiently at the ground, arguing for the police officer to go away.

Cursing the cold and the night and the feckless man, Paddy opened the door and stepped out onto the gravel, conscious that the glorious warmth of the cabin was being diluted with the cold. She shut the door quickly and pulled the collar of her green leather up against the rain.

Back inside her car Billy, the driver, half opened his window and reached for the dashboard. Paddy and Billy spent five hours a night together, five nights a week and she knew his every gesture. Now he’d flick his finger on the backside of the disposable lighter tucked into the cellophane wrapper, pull it out and, in a single gesture, flip the carton lid up, take a cigarette out and light it. She paused long enough to see the burst of warm orange flame at his window, wishing herself back inside as she turned towards the house.

Across the slippery, rain-logged lawn the Victorian villa had a pleasing symmetry. Large oreil windows on either side of the front door were dressed in old fashioned frilly net curtains and heavy chintz curtains, still open. The window on the right of the door was dark but the left-hand window was brightly light, spilling out onto the gravel, bright as the ugly lights in the dying half hour of a disco.

Paddy smiled when she saw Tam Gourlay, the other police officer, hanging by the squad car, blowing on his hands and stamping his feet. When they were called to the rough estates on the outskirts of town one of the officers always stayed back to guard the patrol car from angry residents but it was hardly necessary here. Paddy imagined an unruly gang of doctors running up the drive way, ripping the wing mirrors off and tanning the windshield. She giggled aloud and caught herself. She was acting odd again. She had been on nights for five months.

Long term sleep deprivation. It was like a fever, shifting the turn of her eye, moving everything slightly sideways. The bizarre nature of the stories the shift threw up appealed to her but the news editors didn’t want surprising, surreal vignettes. They wanted flat, dull news stories, the who, what, and when, rarely the why or the guess-what. Her exhaustion coloured everything. She found herself a foot in the wrong direction to meet anyone’s eye, her own lonely heart alone in the universe, a beat out of step with everyone else.

She caught Tam’s eye as she approached the panda car.

“Meehan,” he said.

“Alright, Tam? Is that you back from your holidays?”

“Aye.”

“Nice time?”

“Two weeks with the wife and a six month old wean,” sneered Tam, “You work it out.”

He was the same age as Paddy, in his early twenties, but monkeyed the genuine melancholy of the older officers.

“So,” she took her note book out of her pocket, “What brought you out here?” She’d heard the call on the police radio in the car: the neighbours were complaining about cars pulling noisily into the drive and shouting. It wasn’t a neighbourhood that would tolerate much night life.

Tam rolled his eyes, “Noise complaint: cars screeching, front door slamming, shouting.”

Paddy raised her eyebrows. Noise complaints took two minutes: the household opened the door, promised to keep it down and everyone went home.

Tam glanced at the door, “There’s a woman inside with blood on her face.”

“Did he hit her?”

“I suppose. Either that or she‘s been punching herself in the mouth.” Tam chuckled at his joke but Paddy had the feeling he’d made it before. Or heard it from someone else. She didn’t smile back.

“Not really the right neighbourhood for a noisy party on a Tuesday night.”

Tam huffed “Seen the motors?” He nodded to two shiny BMWs parked in the shadows around the back of the tall house. One was a big imposing car, the other a sports car but they matched somehow, like his and hers wedding rings. Paddy didn’t know much about cars but she knew that the price of one of them would pay her family’s rent for three years.

Together they looked at the man, “Is Dan going to lift him?”

“Nah,” said Tam, “The woman wants us to leave it. Vhari Burnett. She’s a lawyer. One of us.”

Paddy was surprised. “She’s prosecution?”

“Aye.” He pointed at the police officer at the door, “Dan there knows her from the high court. Says she’s decent but, you know, why doesn’t she want him prosecuted?”

Paddy thought it was pretty obvious why a woman wouldn’t want to bring a criminal prosecution against any man who had a key to her front door. Her oldest sister, Caroline, regularly turned up at the house with big bruises on her arms and went mad when anyone mentioned them. The family were Catholic; leaving wasn’t always an option. Paddy could have corrected Tam but it was two am and she heard the same lazy, simple-minded shit from officers attending domestic incidents every night but she depended on them for stories and couldn’t call them on it. Despite her courting them and never contradicting, the night shift guys still sensed her distance and went behind her back, feeding the best stories to other journalists, guys they watched football with or drank near. Banishing thoughts of her fading career, Paddy turned towards the house.

The first thing she noticed about the dark haired man was his mouth watering figure: tall with long legs and slim hips. He stood with his weight on one foot, hips to one side, tolerating Dan’s chat. His lashes were long and dark and he kept his eyes a little shut, as though the weight of his lashes forced him to a languid expression. The conservative white shirt had a thin salmon-pink stripe. Over it he wore black braces with shiny steel buckles, expensive black shoes and suit trousers. It looked like a work uniform. His face was calm and smiling, although his fingers fidgeted nervously on the door handle behind him. He was beautiful.

Paddy sauntered slowly over to the door, staying near the house, keeping in the shadows. Dan, the questioning officer, nodding at his note book as the man spoke.

“…Dan, it won’t happen again.” He seemed quite casual and Paddy could see that Dan had no intention of taking him in, not even just to lock him in the cells for a couple of hours and teach him a lesson about being a snotty shite. She had seen Dan and Tam at many midnight disturbances and they weren’t known for their tolerance. Dan was a fit man, for all he was thin and older. She’d seen him being cheeked-up, and using his wiry frame to introduce a couple of faces to the side of his squad car.

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