Night takes a Sinestre turn for Vinny

Unexpected trauma for Vinny as his step-daughter ends up in intensive care


The snake-like queue of cars outside the Sinestre night club in deepest Fingal crawled along at a funereal pace.

And even though he had left Mount Prospect Avenue in fair time, Vinny Fitzpatrick suspected he would struggle to make the appointed 12.30am rendezvous with his step-daughter Emma.

Angie’s eldest was celebrating her 18th birthday at a disco for Leaving Cert students and, going by the number of cars jostling for position, Vinny reckoned every Northside teenager was bopping the night away.

It was the last Monday in March, and the start of Easter Week too, but you would never have known it as the capital remained in a wintry embrace, the worst in living memory.

Vinny could vaguely recall the fierce winter of ’63 where the fire was lit first thing at the Fitzpatrick family home in Causeway Avenue and kept fuelled until his old man, Finbarr, polished off a whiskey or two at midnight.

It had been so cold then Vinny had slept with his older sisters, Bernie and Mairéad, for warmth. He’d also kept his socks on, on the advice of his Ma, Bridie – the habit endured today, much to Angie’s annoyance.

As flecks of snow fluttered across the bonnet, Vinny couldn’t get his head around the sustained unseasonal nippiness.By now the daffodils should be in bloom, the Brent Geese flown, and the lawn mowers in full throttle. But the city, like the rest of Ireland, was trapped in an icy time warp.

He felt for the folk at Fairyhouse, with the Irish Grand National approaching on Easter Monday.

“Global warming, how are ye?” said Vinny aloud as he nudged Angie’s shiny scarlet VW Golf towards the pick-up point – Emma wouldn’t be seen dead in Vinny’s Astra, not on this night.

As he got closer to the doors of Sinestre, a square building of several floors, Vinny spied the revellers emerging.

Exposed flesh
He was shocked at how short the shorts were, how tight the tops and how high the heels. “More exposed flesh than you’d see in a butcher’s fridge,” he said to himself as the party animals sought out their lifts home.

Vinny observed that many of the kids were less than secure on their pins, while he saw one young wan throw up with unfortunate timing just as she opened the passenger door of the car picking her up.

A part of Vinny tut-tutted about the perils of alcohol for teenagers until he recalled his first session in Foley’s, which followed the Dubs All-Ireland triumph in 1974.

He was just 16 and ended up wall-banging home with his old man, who sang Molly Malone at the top of his voice.

Vinny’s moralising ended when he saw Emma approach. She had the sense to bring a coat, which was draped around her shoulders, as was the arm of a male companion.

He tooted the horn, flashed the lights and beckoned Emma, and her partner, over. Emma slid into the back seat. Her eyes were shiny and she was slightly out of breath.

“Our chariot awaits,” she beamed. “Toby’s coming too. He lives in Raheny, we can drop him off on the way. That way nothing can happen to him,” she giggled.

Vinny harrumphed slightly and stole a quick gander at Toby in the driver’s mirror. He was a burly chap with a pubescent scrap of a beard, which was planted firmly in Emma’s face.

Instantly, Vinny looked away. He knew Emma was no longer the gawky 12-year-old he’d first met and had blossomed into a raven-haired beauty with shades of Rita Hayworth but, even so, he felt awkward at the goings-on in the back seat.

The quicker he got everyone home, the better. Vinny mapped out his revised route, past Dublin Airport, left at Santry Stadium and down the Oscar Traynor Road towards Raheny.

Not for the first time, a Vinny strategy became unstuck.

At Kealy’s Roadhouse, Vinny heard a groan from the back seat. He assumed the shenanigans were getting out of hand and thought nothing of it, save to step on the accelerator.

But when he heard Toby say anxiously “Emma, are you alright?” Vinny’s antennae twitched. Another glance in the mirror showed Emma, head lolling to one side, eyes closed, a trickle of spittle dribbling from a corner of her mouth.

‘What’s going on?’
“Mother of all that’s divine, what’s going on?” he said aloud before jamming the brakes and pulling in at the entrance to the ALSAA sports grounds.

Quickly, he jumped out of the car, yanked open the passenger door and reacted smartly as Emma plopped heavily into his lap. Her eyes opened for a second. They were glassy and the pupils dilated.

Instantly, he felt for his step-daughter’s pulse. It was weak and throbbing at an alarming pace.

“We’ve got to get her to hospital right away. Toby, keep her head tilted, in case she throws up. Make sure she can breathe, no matter what”.

As Vinny gunned the Golf towards Beaumont Hospital, he flashed a look of anger at Toby in the back seat.

“You’re going to be asked this by the doctor so you might as well answer it now. Was Emma given anything in that disco that might have caused this reaction? Don’t mess me around, lad. This is serious,” he said.

Toby gulped. “It was just one tablet, a small one,” he said in a panicky voice. “It was supposed to give her a kick, make her enjoy the night more. I’ve taken them before and they don’t have any side effects, honest.”

There was a silence as the scarlet car roared down the Oscar Traynor Road, breaking a set of lights as it made for the rear entrance to the hospital.

“So help me God, if anything happens to Emma, I’ll have your guts for garters, son, and I mean it,” said Vinny icily. “You better start praying, Toby, in silence so I can’t hear you.”

Within minutes, Vinny screeched to a halt at the A & E entrance of Beaumont Hospital. Seconds later, he gathered Emma in his beefy arms, sped past a startled receptionist and pushed through the swing doors.

Inside was a flotsam of trolleys, booths, rushing medics and mayhem. “I’ve an unconscious girl here, she needs help,” said Vinny aloud.

One or two heads looked up but no one came to Emma’s aid. Vinny stood on an empty chair by the door. “This girl has overdosed. She may be dying. Do you want blood on your hands?” he roared.

It got the reaction he desired. As he placed Emma in care of an orderly and doctor, Vinny felt himself trembling. How, in heaven’s name, was he going to break it to Angie?