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THE POISONED CHALICE


chalice cover

Forensic accountant Daniel Mulhall has serious misgivings about the financial operations of the Melbourne-based Children’s Rights Foundation. When he discovers a $350,000 cash discrepancy, he suspects something illegal is happening, but has to tread carefully. The Foundation’s chairman is an influential member of the church and the accounts are managed by his incompetent sister. 

Daniel’s investigations are met with verbal threats and his car is vandalised. The centre’s manager is found dead, Daniel is arrested for carrying drugs in his car and a petty drug dealer is fished out of the bay. 

The final threat comes when his wife and son are kidnapped. When Daniel is attacked by thugs and bundled into a car, he misses the second phone call from his family’s abductors.  

Desperate to have his family back, Daniel agrees to work with the police. He’ll do anything to get them back, but at what cost? 

In Store Price: $AU26.95 
Online Price:   $AU25.95

 

ISBN: 978-1-921919-19-0 
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 238
Genre: Fiction
 

Cover: Clive Dalkins

 

 


Author: Barry Corcoran
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2012
Language: English

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Dedication 

In memory of Barry Corcoran

1941 - 2010 

His brilliant blue eyes and wonderful smile,

his quirky sense of humour, we ponder awhile.

We wonder why he was taken so soon,

the answer for us, will never be known.

Perhaps heaven sought a new finance man,

someone honest and able to plan.

All we know is that we needed him here,

to guide us along through many a year.

 

Excerpt from the ‘Cruel Curse’ by Sheila Corcoran 2010

About the author 

Barry Corcoran began writing short stories after retiring from a career in finance, which took him to America, the Bahamas and three Australian states: Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland.  

The Third Arm published in 2008 was his first serious novel. 

Barry is survived by his wife Sheila, two children, Liz and Vincent, their partners Madeleine and Christine, and seven grandchildren.

THE POISONED CHALICE

 PART SAMPLE

 

He was terrified as he scrambled, crablike, across the floor into the corner. Rain was driving through a broken window. He felt something scratching his neck and jumped sideways, clawing at his shoulder. It was only a fragment of the sacking which still clung to him despite his uncontrolled fall down the precipitous slope. Grazes and cuts from the branches dripped blood onto his shirt, already filthy from his tumbling descent. Head slumped forward; he tried to steady his breathing. There was a crashing on the roof. Leaning back into the corner, he raised his head and stared blindly upwards. The musty smell was now overpowering. He was sitting in a pool of water. Another scream from somewhere close by made him jump. What the hell was he going to do? 

Seven months earlier

Friday night – the Mulhall’s Templestowe home

Daniel Mulhall was slumped in his chair in front of a log fire, his face ashen. He gripped the whiskey tumbler with a ferocity that threatened its very existence. Carenza had left an hour earlier. Their son Michael had been screaming as she’d dragged him through the front door.

‘It’s too late, Daniel. I still love you,’ had been her parting comment, ‘but you just don’t care about me.’

 He slurped another mouthful of Jameson’s, the strong spirit burning the back of his throat, trickling down to his stomach to spread its comforting warmth throughout his body. He stared unseeing at the flickering plasma screen, unable to believe that his marriage had reached breaking point. Surely she must have realised all the hours he worked were for the benefit of his family. Yet even in his distress, he saw the hollowness of his excuse. Family had been important, but his job as a forensic accountant had become his obsession. He revelled in the thrill of uncovering the tell tale clue which ultimately led to the conviction of a white-collar criminal. He was good at his job, very good, every conviction providing a rush impossible to describe, motivating him to work even harder.  

His motivation was born of his memories of the day his father’s trust in his close friend and financial advisor had been betrayed. Daniel had been seven at the time and and had come indoors from cricket. The memory of his mother crying in a chair, head bowed in shock, had never left him. The trusted friend had fled to Spain with the family’s savings. Extradition was practically impossible unless you had a bucket load of money. The shame and angst had been too much for his father. He’d taken his own life two years later.

White-collar criminals were, in Daniel’s view, the lowest form of life, hiding behind a veneer of respectability, indifferent to the pain and suffering they inflicted. It annoyed him that the public was so forgiving when physical violence was absent. They never saw the shattered lives, the suicides, the broken relationships and homes repossessed. The victims’ only crime had been to trust somebody.

‘You get too involved,’ Carenza would tell him. ‘You can’t change the world.’

Daniel could never understand her attitude. ‘You’re just like everybody else,’ he would shout, ‘you just don’t care.’

At last the whiskey was having the anaesthetising effect he craved. Leaning back, he closed his eyes. The line of a song crossed his mind – ‘you never know what you’ve lost ’til it’s gone’. Was it the Little Yellow Taxi? He couldn’t remember. 

Saturday – 9.38AM

Next morning, mouth dry, choking down his nausea, thought processes confused, he stumbled into the kitchen, tripping over Michael’s toy train. Tears filled his eyes. Poor Michael. He was only three years old and followed Daniel round like a puppy.

Carenza was usually meticulous about keeping the house tidy. There was no woman’s touch to be seen today. He gazed at the messy plate from last night’s beans on toast, still on the table. The shiny orange sauce had dribbled onto the cloth. He hadn’t even cleared away the stubbed out cigar from the saucer. The air was stale. Carenza never allowed him to smoke in the house. Was it an act of defiance? If it was, in the cold light of day it appeared pathetic.

He put his head in his hands and cried. Not a whimper but a full blooded outpouring of loss.

The phone startled him. Was it Carenza? Heart pounding, he tentatively picked it up, trying to control its shaking. What should he say?

‘Is that Daniel?’ The voice was male and unmistakably Irish.

He stumbled over his reply. He’d been convinced it would be Carenza.

‘Daniel? It’s Father Kevin.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry Father, you caught me off guard. I thought it was Carenza.’

The voice softened. ‘That’s why I’m calling, Daniel.’

‘Carenza’s mother, Sophia, called me from Dandenong last night. I’m not trying to interfere, Daniel, but is there anything I can do?’

Father Kevin, the parish priest at St Catherine’s, had officiated at their wedding eight years earlier. Carenza thought the world of him.

On a scale of one to ten, Daniel rated himself a grade four Catholic. He attended Mass most weeks and dutifully tipped his thirty dollars into the collection plate. But that was the extent of it. He rated Carenza an eight point five. She tried to attend mid-week Mass and helped the Legion of Mary with liturgical services; not a fanatic by any means but the church provided stability for her. He put it down to her Italian upbringing. Recently she had been helping out at a youth centre as a support worker.

His thoughts were clearing, his response cautious.

‘I don’t know if you can help, Father.’

The last thing he needed at the moment was a confessor. Or was it? His immediate urge was to terminate the conversation but the surprise caller was persuasive, drawing an explanation from him.

He didn’t pull any punches or apportion blame. It wasn’t his style. Father Kevin was a patient listener, waiting for the right moment to interrupt the rambling monologue.

‘Daniel, nobody’s perfect, even me.’ He laughed lightly. ‘Why don’t you come and see me after Mass tomorrow. We can have a coffee. Let’s take it from there.’ 

The O’Leary family

Father Kevin Seamus O’Leary had been a priest for thirty-four years. The eldest of five, his mother Bridget had been happy when sixteen-year-old Kevin entered the seminary in Maynooth on the coast of Ireland. In 1956, life had been tough in County Laois and Kevin’s departure meant one less mouth to feed.

His father Brendan, like many Irish men of his era, had been a heavy drinker, a decent man who nevertheless struggled to provide for his family. But drink was forever on his shoulder; tempting, bullying, niggling the corners of his consciousness until it had its way. His strength gave way to debilitating illness, a steep decline until the morning he was found dead outside ‘Ned of the Hill’, his local pub in Raheen. It was a heart attack, Bridget O’Leary had been told; nothing could have been done for him. He was only thirty-seven. There appeared to be no future for the family.

Kevin O’Leary’s only memory of that drab day, rain splattering against the window, was an image of his Uncle John, Guinness dribbling from his chin, singing what sounded like an Irish dirge:

‘If you ever go to Kilkenny

And enquire about the hole in the wall

You’ll get twenty-five eggs for a penny

And then there’ll be nothing at all.’        

At that point Uncle John had slipped quietly from his chair, toppled over and begun to snore.

 

Soon after Brendan’s death, a friend visiting from Australia had suggested the family make a new start.

‘Unlike Ireland today, there are plenty of opportunities for hard working folk in the New Country,’ he had told the grieving widow.

Bridget was a determined lady. New hope rose in her and the family emigrated soon afterwards, landing in Melbourne on a hot February day. Kevin had been given a dispensation to finish his training at Banyo, a seminary close to Brisbane.

Bridget became the driving force and inspiration for her children, working long hours to establish the family in Williamstown, a working-class suburb close to the Port of Melbourne. It was a life-changing experience for them all; as if Brendan’s untimely death had been pre-ordained, allowing Bridget to fulfil her potential. It could never have happened in Ireland.

‘We must all stick together and help each other,’ she would say. ‘We are a family of integrity. Never forget it. ‘Death before Dishonour’ will be our guiding principle.’ Kevin recalled her infectious laugh, the flash of her blue eyes. She was indeed a beautiful lady. The family had watched in awe as she built up a business near Essendon Airport, importing Irish memorabilia and religious items. Then she had pioneered the tracing of family histories and lineage for the Irish Catholic population of Melbourne. Business boomed as Bridget expanded the O’Leary franchise.

Many men tried to tame her, but none succeeded. She lived for her family and they for her.

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