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Michael O'Shay And The Missing Wife
About the Author: William J. Demorascki has published in the Saturday Evening Post with "Mary, Wake Up," a ghost story that was featured for Halloween.

This is the story of that worthy policeman Michael O’Shay and the disappearance of Charlotte Boru. It is a local tale, not much spread beyond the bounds of its origin, but well worth the telling, over a Guiness or two, and what with the prevailing weather. Not to worry if you’ve never heard it. We’ll start right from the beginning.

The tiny hamlet of Tiperon graced the western shore of the River Shannon, not far from the straddling mountains of lower Lough Derg. Though small it was roomy, spreading out on a quilt of light and dark green, gently rolling vale that fell away to the grassy skirt of the river. Small farms populated the vale, where potatoes grew in garden patches and blond piles of hay dried in the occasional sun. On these farms were cozy white stone, thatch-roofed cottages with square-cut bricks of black peat stacked high against their outer walls, the smoke from peat fires curling up their chimneys. Bicycles clattered down the cobbled streets, and horse-drawn wagons hauled tall silver milk cans to the market in Killiloe. It was rural, is what I’m saying, though Fitzgerald had a Buick, and didn’t it come in handy on the night in question?

It was a rainy spring evening, and follow me now in your mind’s eye to Flinn’s pub, where the locals were talking crops and horse races and meddling politicos in Dublin, or playing darts, as they were want to do, when Brian Boru walked in to the pub and said:

“That bastard stole my wife!”

Boru pointed at a stool where a man sat sipping a glass of Glenfiddich, being a contrary sort, and what the devil is wrong with Irish whiskey? And why did Flinn leave shelf space for Scotch? Was he not a patriot? But I digress. The man, whose name was Filbert O’Reilly, was wiry, with a dark mane of pomaded hair, shaven pink-faced, with eyes the color of Flinn’s taps; brassy, but you’ve seen a tap—and obliged to you; another would hit the spot. Where was I?

Filbert was a bachelor of twenty-six, with a reputation for trouble. He was dressed as natty as you please in a new suit of clothes, and a new mac to boot. He wasn’t a farmer, and he wasn’t rich, and no one knew how he made his living. It was thought he was a remittance man with a wealthy da in London; his accent leaned that way. He loved the ladies, perhaps too often and too well, or so we heard, and the rumor was he had had to flee for his life with regard to the daughter of a man who took to firearms in place of civilized litigation.

“Someone’s stolen?” asked our constable, Michael O’Shay, who had come out of his snug, his refuge from a long day of sorting out pending litigations, small mischiefs, and what passed for crime in our little burg, when he heard Boru’s choice words.

“Well, Charlotte’s gone,” said Brian, reddening to the ears.

Middle-aged, meaning he’d admit to forty, O’Shay had a bit of a pug nose, and was just tall enough to look down at the top of a ten-year-old’s head. He wore a black uniform with brass buttons, a shiny-billed cap, carried a blackthorn stick, and was well-liked by the likes of us. Men asked his advice. Children called him “sir.” Women baked him pies.

I said Tiperon was tiny, and it was, with a population you could fit, entire, into a school auditorium. Michael O’Shay was the town’s sole policeman. He knew everybody by name, occupation, disposition, and faux pas, excuse the French.

“Gone?” said O’Shay, taking in the word.

“Yes!” Brian sputtered. “She’s disappeared!”

“Without a word of warning?” asked O’Shay. “Or a note?”

Brian hesitated. He glanced at Filbert, clenched his fists, and said, “They were going to run away together! She said so!”

“There’s a problem with that,” said Filbert, mildly.

Of course he was right. If they’d run off together, then why was Filbert sitting on a stool in Flinn’s pub?

O’Shay mentioned this, but Brian was insistent.

“He’s fancied Charlotte from the moment he laid eyes on her!”

Which just goes to show, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Charlotte, to put it plainly, was plain. To put it plainer, she’d let herself go, and that was saying something, considering what she’d started with.

“Let me understand this,” said O’Shay. “You can’t find Charlotte?”

“That’s what I said!” Brian fumed.

“And that’s it?”

“Isn’t that enough?”

“Maybe she went off to visit a friend, or to market without letting you know. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

This story appears in our FEB 2024 Issue
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