Vinny gets judge onside with a timely tip
Court adjourns as accused and magistrate head for the bookies
In Swords courthouse, early on Monday afternoon, the accused stood at the rear of the pokey room, shifting uneasily from one trotter to another, glancing frequently at his watch.
To the casual onlooker, it seemed Vinny Fitzpatrick’s mind was elsewhere, which it was. Vinny was thinking of an impending event in deepest Warwickshire, at Stratford-on-Avon racecourse, where a carefully orchestrated betting coup was about to be executed in the last race of the card at 3.20.
It was Mincer Mulrennan, trainer of Eggo Bleu, who suggested the covert operation in the birthplace of Shakespeare, just 24 hours before the Cheltenham Festival.
“I’ve a few long shots running in the handicaps at Cheltenham so I’m going over anyway. This Stratford race is for winners of one bumper, and I reckon Eggo Bleu can cover our Cheltenham betting expenses at a decent price,” he explained.
The Hole In The Trousers Syndicate, dreamers all, didn’t need a second invitation and plunged their few bob on the back of the lightly-raced five-year-old named by Vinny after Tommy Eglington, late of Everton, Ireland and Dollymount.
Usually cautious, Vinny had gone for broke with a ton each-way at 6 to 1 – his biggest bet of the year. The runners would be at the post in an hour, yet Vinny’s prospects of being at a telly by then were receding, like his hairline.
By now, the charge of aggravated assault against Vinny should have been heard and dealt with. After all, he was fourth into the stalls and had been assured by his legal eagle, Colbert Slye, he would be back in Clontarf “in time for lunch”.
Instead, Justice Slazenger Templeton, had been delayed by a “personal matter” and didn’t swan into court until High Noon. After hearing three cases, Justice Templeton had adjourned for lunch and was due to resume his curtailed innings soon after two bells.
“It’s now 2.15 and there’s no sign of the bugger,” thought Vinny.
Already agitated about his fate, Vinny began to sweat up like a highly-strung colt. He felt like pulling a sickie but was concerned that might count against him when judg ment was passed.
Vinny recognised Justice Templeton from somewhere. The middle-aged “beak” was short and round, of florid expression, with a bulbous nose above which were perched a pair of milk bottle glasses.
He was known as “The Tyre”, due in part to his superb Christian name, but more so for his portly girth. Vinny just wished The Tyre would stop feeding his face and return to work.
Vinny was in the dock for his nefarious actions of the previous week, where he’d accidentally clubbed the lanky barman from Shingles, Damien “Dixie” Daniels, with a mashie niblick.
The burly bus driver had gone from being a have-a-go-hero, to Wally-of-the-Week, and knew he didn’t have a leg to stand on, a bit like Daniels, who was in a wheel chair in the corner of the court, clearly contemptuous of Vinny.
Dixie’s brief had thrown the book at Vinny, citing assault, temporary paralysis, and mental anguish in his deposition.
The chancers had also submitted a claim for a new pair of trousers after Vinny’s flailing mashie had skittled Dixie to the concrete on Kincora Road.
Vinny strongly suspected Dixie was a rogue and half-deserved what he got but then he checked himself, for he knew he had been in the wrong and deserved to be punished.
‘All rise for the judge’
At that, a door behind the judge’s high chair opened, and the court clerk called out: “All rise for the judge.”
As The Tyre took his seat, Vinny heard him burp gently and excuse himself.
The court clerk than announced the next case: “The State against Mr Vincent Fitzpatrick.”
Those words chilled Vinny to the marrow and he hung his head in the witness box as the charge was read out, that on the night of Friday, February 28th last, he had deliberately assaulted Damien Daniels, with a golf club, at 12.30am on Kincora Road, causing grievous bodily harm.
“How do you plead, Mr Fitzpatrick?” asked The Tyre, as he peered at Vinny.
“Guilty, as charged,” replied Vinny. “If I may, your honour, attempt to explain myself.”
The Tyre raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Go on, then,” he chuckled. “This should be good.”
Seizing his moment, Vinny went over the background to the case; how he had set up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme to protect the, erm, elderly in the Clontarf area after a spate of muggings.
He had been wrong to attack Mr Daniels, he knew, but he had acted in good faith, as any Seán Citizen would. He had already apologised to Mr Daniels, and offered recompense, which had been refused.
At that, The Tyre interjected. “Would the accused approach the bench?” he said.
Vinny did as he was asked. Close up, he caught a distinct whiff of garlic off the corpulent judge, whom he now recognised as an occasional punter in Boru Betting. Judging by the look on The Tyre’s face, he had sussed out who Vinny was too.
He winked conspiratorially at Vinny as he beckoned him closer with a crooked finger. “Tell me, Mr Fitzpatrick, have you any winners for Cheltenham?” he whispered.
For once, Vinny thought on his feet. “No, but the money’s down in the 3.20 at Stratford today,” he said quietly. Leaning forward, he murmured the words “Eggo Bleu” into The Tyre’s hairy ear.
With that, the gavel came down hard, startling everyone in the court, particularly Dixie Daniels. “Case adjourned for a week,” barked The Tyre. “May I suggest a recess until 3.40,” he said.
With that, The Tyre swept out his private door, gowns a-flapping. Behind him, the court room was buzzing. Daniels was on his feet protesting, but Vinny saw nothing and heard nothing.
“Hold on Eggo, I’ll be right with you,” he said aloud as he headed for the bookies in the Main Street.