Vinny caught up in father Dowling mystery


AGAINST THE ODDS:THE LAST time Vinny Fitzpatrick felt such an object of attention was in a junior hurling match for Dollymount Gaels in O’Toole Park almost 30 years ago.

That was the day he met An Caisleán’s Shamie Niblock, a pugnacious corner back, who’d repeatedly butted his hurl sharply into Vinny’s ribs, snarling, “Do ye want some more, chubby chops?” Replaced just after half-time, Vinny had glanced fretfully over his shoulder lest Shamie – the Claudio Gentile of hurling – followed him to the dressingrooms.

On a sticky Monday morning in July, as he waddled down the Main Street of Finglas, Vinny was reminded of Shamie Niblock.

Everywhere he looked, he was convinced people were tailing him; they had him sussed out. He was half expecting a hurl across the back of his trotters.

As Vinny approached the front door of the National Irish Bank, he waited fearfully for someone to identify him with the words, “Look, it’s the Fat Fraudster”. He was reminded of the movie Marathon Man where the character Szell, played by Laurence Olivier is spotted in New York by Holocaust survivors, who recognise him as a Nazi criminal. A woman calls out Der Weisse Engel and as heads begin to turn toward Szell – known as The White Angel – the woman is knocked down by a car.

“How was I ever talked into this?” he thought to himself.

It was all Tricky Dicky Dowling’s fault for dying young, and for admitting to a bus driver buddy in the bed opposite in Beaumont Hospital of a 20-year love affair with an unmarried work colleague.

Vinny should have turned a deaf ear to the story, but the Christian part of his soul felt obliged to carry out the last wishes and testament of Tricky Dicky.

An audit head for Revenue, Tricky Dicky had salted away 50k for his lover Alice, and Vinny’s instructions were to transfer a grand a month into her bank account for the next four years.

Dicky had offered two grand as a handling fee but Vinny felt uncomfortable about touching the money – he would, at some point, donate it to GOAL, the sporting charity.

Vinny waited his turn at the ATM behind a crop-haired youngster wearing the black and green of the local Erin’s Isle club, who’d gifted Charlie Redmond and Mick Deegan to the ’83 All-Ireland-winning Dubs.

When the coast cleared, Vinny reached for the scrap of paper given to him by Tricky Dicky. The ATM numbers were 1, 9, 6, 3 – handy to recall as that year the Dubs had won Sam and Everton claimed the First Division title.

He punched the code in and requested €1,000. When the fistful of fifties popped out of the slot, Vinny wrapped a meaty mitt around them and plunged them deep into the front left-hand pocket of his baggy shorts.

In the front right-hand pocket, he had another grand which was supposed to have been paid over to Alice as part of what Vinny was calling “Operation Mad Hatter” on the second Monday of June, only he had been away on Euro 2012 duty with the lads.

Briefly, Vinny thought about doing a runner to the bookies across the road and setting up base camp for the gee-gees at Ayr, but this mission was now or never.

Inside the bank, the air-con was on full blast and a cooling breeze wafted up his withers.

At the counter, Vinny harrumphed politely. “Good day Madam, I’d er, like to make a lodgement,” he said in a misplaced accent. This was Finglas after all, and he was wearing shorts.

The bank clerk was a silver-haired lady in her 50s, bespectacled and matronly. She wore a cardigan and reminded Vinny of the late Hattie Jacques. “Is it a cash deposit, sir?” she inquired.

“Yes,” said Vinny. “And quite a substantial one too,” he added pompously.

There was a pause. “Are you a customer of the bank?” asked the woman, whose name tag identified her as Gobnait.

“I am yes, well no, not here. I’m from Clontarf and I’m a valued customer. I would say, very valued,” he sniffed.

“Then,” said Gobnait, a tad testily. “You will be aware NIB no longer accepts cash deposits. We have an arrangement with An Post instead. Over 200 branches will be glad to lodge your money. You will find one around the corner. Good day.”

Vinny stood there, rocking slightly. He was trying to get his head around what he had just heard. “A bank that doesn’t accept money, that can’t be right,” he thought to himself.

In this day and age, surely every dog and divil banker would be chuffed to have money resting in their accounts, even if it was only for a few days?

He tipped an imaginary forelock at Gobnait and turned on his flabby hocks. He was trying to look casual but was half-sure bundles of cash were peeping out of his pockets.

Gathering himself, Vinny made for the Post Office. It was close to one o’clock and there was a pre-lunch queue, which moved at the pace of a professional golfer over a tee shot.

Eventually, Vinny arrived at the counter where a slender, round-faced brunette, in her early 40s, apologised for keeping him waiting.

In contrast to the formidable Gobnait, the An Post lady was caring and friendly. Vinny wondered if anyone had ever told her she was a ringer for Felicity Kendal from The Good Life. “Sorry, about the delay,” she said. “I’ve only just started here part-time, to make ends meet, and we’re run off our feet today. Now, how can I help you?”

Vinny smiled. “No bother at all. May I make a NIB lodgement for the sum of €2,000?” “Of course,” she replied. “Do you have the account details? You might fill in this slip, if you don’t mind.”

Carefully, unfolding Tricky Dicky’s note, Vinny wrote down the account name, Alice Mullally, the number, the address of the branch and the amount involved.

Where it came to “paid in by”, he paused for a moment, and then scribbled down Dick Dowling.

“There you are,” he said with a theatrical flourish.

The woman took the slip, looked at it, and gasped for breath. Vinny was taken aback. “I hope €2,000 is not excessive. If you’d rather, I can make it out for one and come back next week.”

Only the woman didn’t seem to hear. She slipped off the chair and disappeared through a door marked “Private”.

A few moments later, another woman, wearing a smart An Post outfit, appeared.

She came straight across to Vinny. “What have you done to upset my colleague?” she asked.

“I’m sorry,” stammered Vinny. “I never met her before in my life. I only came in here to make a lodgement.”

“‘Well”, the woman began sternly, “you’ve done more than that as Alice is in tears back there. All she would say was the big fella in the shorts was responsible. That has to be you. How do you plead?”

Vinny had a glazed look in his big baby-blue eyes. “Did you say Alice?” he asked. “Then I plead guilty. Guilty as charged,” he said softly, tears rolling down his flabby cheeks.

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