IRISH BLUE 2 THE SONG OF THE STONES A novel by Sheila Willar Copyright 2016 Sheila Willar ISBN 978-0-9867101-4-8 You are living stones, being built up into a spiritual house … 1 Peter 2:5
CHAPTER 5 ............................ THE MATTER OF TAXES
Matthew and Leasy walked along the narrow trail that rimmed the hills of the town, to avoid as many people as they could. Matthew planned to sober Leasy up and make sure he didn’t say anything about Patrick and the matter of the taxes.
They arrived at Matthew’s and sat at his kitchen table, enjoying a cup of hot tea and fresh scones. Leasy slouched awkwardly in his chair using one arm to hold himself up.
“Help yourself,” encouraged Matthew.
“Ay,” responded Leasy.
“Can you tell me what you know about Patrick?”
Leasy had forgotten all about what he had heard at the cathedral, as he was in need of a sleep, but as soon as he was reminded, he sat up straight with a new vigour. It was his secret to tell.
“Ay,” said Leasy.
“Ay, indeed,” repeated Matthew, “Lets’ hear it.”
Leasy began slowly, teasing Matthew with the details, but when he got going there was no stopping him. He recalled almost everything that Patrick and Father Michael had said to each other. At times it was disjoint and confusing, but the overall theme was that Father Michael was concerned about tax trouble, given that it was Patricks money, and not Mrs. McCallum’s estate, that paid for most of the building projects and scholarships in Kinkerry.
Matthew shook his head with concern, “My, my, my.”
“Hmmm,” murmured Leasy as he finished his lunch.
Matthew felt he had to do something and decided on a plan that was fragile at best. He knew that he could not prevent Leasy from spilling the beans, but maybe he could manage the story in Patrick's favour.
"It's time for a trip to the pub!" announced Matthew.
“Ay!” agreed Leasy who could think of nothing better.
“The town should know, don’t you think?”
“Tell them that Patrick is bringing jobs to Kinkerry,” commanded Matthew.
“Yes! He is!”
“Maybe he’ll hire me,” mused Leasy.
“Absolutely!” encouraged Matthew.
Leasy looked delighted with the prospect of new job.
“Do you understand, Leasy?”
“Ay. Patrick has tax troubles.”
“No!” exclaimed Matthew. “Repeat after me. Patrick provides work."
“Patrick provides work," repeated Leasy. “And he has tax troubles.”
“No!” exclaimed Matthew. “Forget about the taxes! Just say the part about the jobs.” Matthew sat down and rubbed his forehead. He knew that Leasy would eventually talk about the taxes, but he wanted to control the gossip for his newly returned grandson.
“Don’t you worry, Mattieu,” said Leasy as he stood up from the table. “I know how to tell it,” he said as he put on his hat and coat and headed for the pub. “Just leave it to me,” he said with a glint in his eye.
Leasy headed off to the pub and Matthew followed close behind, but not too close so as to look like they were together. Leasy entered the pub and sat at his usual place in the corner. He would like to have sat at the bar and laughed with the others, but he had worn out his welcome there with too many tall tales and too many lies.
Matthew entered the pub, tipped his hat and took a seat by the window. The pub was filled to the brim with its usual patrons and newcomers who wanted to find out all they could about Patrick. There was an energy in the room and plenty of talk about the quarry. People wondered if Patricks return had anything to do with the Mancinni’s reopening of the quarry.
Leasy nursed his drink until it was half full. Then he stood up, raised the glass high, and proclaimed, “Cheers to Patrick Morgan.”
Matthew put his hand over his mouth and braced himself for what was to come next.
The din in the pub barely lowered, so Leasy shouted it out again. “Cheers to Patrick Morgan!” His confidence was at an all time high because he knew he had a special secret. When no one took the bait, he stood to his feet and shouted it out for a third time, “Cheers to Patrick Morgan!”
“And why should we cheer Patrick Morgan?” asked Eamond, knowing full well that Leasy would take the bait.
Matthew held his breath.
Leasy, who was barely able to stand up on his own, swayed and looked around the pub. He was just about to tease the crowd with “something about taxes,” when he caught sight of Matthew’s stricken face.
Leasy declared, “Patrick’s starting a new company."
Most of the people tried to laugh off the old man’s words, but even a hint of jobs was no laughing matter.
Leasy took a deep breath and added, “He’s hiring the best!”
“What do you know about it old man?” yelled one of the patrons.
“Matthew told me.”
At that moment, Matthew had just closed the door on his way out of the pub. He was glad that Leasy had spoken up, but he wasn’t sure if it would buy Patrick and Father Michael enough time to clear their names.
Leasy continued to pour out information to anyone who would listen and he held nothing back. He sidled up to one of the guests who didn’t “shoo” him away, and gushed about what he had heard at the cathedral.
“Is this all true then?” asked the skeptic.
“Ay! It is!” mumbled Leasy who could barely keep his eyes open.
“Patrick is paying Mrs. McCallum’s taxes?” asked the skeptic.
“No! Father Michael is paying Patrick’s taxes.”
“That makes no sense.”
Leasy gave up and headed back to the cathedral for a sleep. At last there he felt he was among friends.
Father Michael and Patrick arrived at the Taxation Bureau, and sat in the waiting room for what seemed like hours.
“You may come in now,” announced the secretary as she motioned to the narrow doorway.
The two men entered the office and had to step around several half filled boxes before they found the well worn seats in front of the officer’s desk. The heavy set man who would interview them, said, “Good day gentlemen,” in a gruff, authoritative voice.
Patrick reached forward to shake the officer’s hand, but the officer took no notice of it. Mr. Percy McLochlann, had spent the last 25 years dealing with criminals and wanted nothing of their feigned politeness. He pushed his glasses a little higher on his nose and began to review the documents that the secretary had placed before him on the desk.
Percy knew all too well that guilty men talk way too much in an attempt to exonerate themselves. Therefore he would wait them out in silence. He had reduced the interview process to a science, and he would let them stir themselves into a froth of a confession.
The awkwardness seemed like forever to Michael, and he began to squirm.
It was getting late in the day and Patrick had grown weary of the whole matter. He had much more important things to attend to.
“Look here,” began Patrick, “I have come a long ways to set this thing straight.”
Percy was not impressed. He had seen it all before.
Father Michael grew uneasy with Patrick's forceful tone. He felt that a man like Percy did not appreciate being talked down to, so he tried to counteract Patrick’s maneuver.
“We are grateful for your time to meet with us,” offered Michael.
Percy looked over the edge of his glasses and sighed several times. Then he made cryptic notes on a pad of paper, and sat back in his chair.
Patrick and Michael looked at each other and Michael raised his eyebrows to say “I don’t know”.
“Well, gentlemen. It seems, as so often occurs in these cases, we are at a crossroads. If the evidence that you have placed before me meets with the compliance of the law, then I can pronounce the entire matter closed. However, if the evidence is insufficient, in any way whatsoever, then I shall pass the case on for further review.”
Percy looked at the oversized clock on the wall and exhaled. It was almost time for his break, and he was looking forward to the carrot cake that had been left over from the tea he and his wife had had the previous evening with the Archbishop. The meeting was on the eve of Percy’s retirement from the Bureau of Revenue. In just a few more hours, Percy would hand his legacy and his office over to his young, new replacement.
“Officer McLochlann,” began Michael. “This is a clear case of a misunderstanding. In Patrick’s attempt to remain anonymous, his donations to the cathedral in Kinkerry, have created a confusion amongst the lawyers of Mrs. McCallum estate.”
Percy hated lawyers.
The lawyers have suggested a wrongdoing, but the donations from Patrick are all accounted for, and all the taxes due have been submitted. The accountants have certified as much in the documents you have on your desk.
Percy was an accountant.
“Patrick has built a school, athletic playing fields, provided scholarships, and created jobs in the town,” added Michael. “The community would not be the same without his generosity.”
Patrick liked generosity.
Percy wondered to himself what would happen to the accused if their case was delayed. They would have to endure the young, new officer who would be sitting at Percy’s desk, a man who had been hired specifically to deal with ‘men of the cloth’. Percy’s wife attended mass, but he did not. He had seen his fair share of dubious priests.
“Well gentlemen. This one's for the wife!” announced Percy as he stood up from his chair for the last time. “Everything looks to be in order,” he said as he walked around his desk to the door. “One word of advice though,” he added. “Things might not go so well for you next time.”
Percy left the office and headed for the kitchen. He planned to spend the rest of the afternoon packing boxes and saying farewell to his staff.
Patrick and Michael looked at each other in disbelief. They were in a bit of a shock and weren’t exactly sure if they were released to go.
“He could have made things very difficult for us,” warned Patrick.
“I think I got to him,” reasoned Michael.
“Not likely. Did you see the way he looked at you?”
“Did you see the way he looked at you?”
During the drive back to Kinkerry, Michael explained that priests still carry weight with the government, but Patrick argued that it was the indefensible paperwork that had won the day. Michael said that it was God, and Patrick said that it was pure business, that had convinced Percy to let them off with a warning.
“I’m going to call a town meeting when we get back,” said Michael.
“I have a lot of explaining to do.”
“We both do.”
“We may have to sweeten the pot though,” added Michael.
“What do you have in mind?” asked Patrick.
“Something for the town.”
“You can’t buy trust with money.”
“It can’t do any harm.”
“I have just the thing in mind,” exclaimed Patrick.
The men drove the rest of the trip home in silence, each one patting themselves on the back for the achievements of the day
Matthew felt he had to do something, and decided on a plan that was fragile at best. He knew that he could not prevent Leasy from spilling the beans, but maybe he could manage the story in Patrick's favour.