Roddy L’Estrange: Offer of sanctuary proves attractive to scared Vinny

Lithuanian lovely Petra encourages burly busman to take up Fran’s kind offer

Fear had become Vinny Fitzpatrick’s constant companion. It was by his side, and in his head, every living second of the day. It had got to the stage where Vinny couldn’t brush his teeth, either in the morning or at night, without stealing an anxious glance in the mirror.

Even then, his trotter trembled and he ended up with streaks of speckled fluoride across his chubby cheeks. Since that veiled threat by Lugs O’Leary, Vinny had become a nervy, suspicious, and increasingly withdrawn, wreck.

He hadn’t seen Lugs for a month, hadn’t heard him since the fatal ’phone call, yet he felt his nemesis was omnipresent, ready to pounce. At home, every unfamiliar sound gave Vinny the jitters; at work, every new face alighting the 130 was suspect to a second squint.

He had turned the old Fitzpatrick family home on Causeway Avenue into a fortress. There were double locks on the doors, front and back, a sensor alarm was installed, and when he went to bed, he clutched an emergency button.


If an Englishman’s home was a castle, this Irishman’s home was a stronghold. In the past week, he’d phoned in sick and used up a day’s hols. He’d ordered his shopping from Dolan’s online and had cried off as sacristan of St Gabriel’s ‘for the foreseeable future,’ much to Leo Lavelle’s annoyance.

In his more extreme moments, he imagined how it would end, how Lugs would apply the final blow. Knowing the way the brute worked, it would be a lingering execution, nothing quick or clean.

Shiny intestines

One night, Vinny pictured Lugs feeding him his innards while he was still alive. As the shiny intestines were being shoved into his mouth, Vinny felt himself choking and woke up to find himself chewing on his pillow.

He’d read somewhere that danger was real, whereas fear was a choice. But Vinny didn’t buy that. The danger was very real and so too was his fear. It was a 6ft 2in malevolent hunk who wanted Vinny’s guts, quite literally, for garters.

He tried to rationalise how it had come to this, how he’d made a lethal enemy of someone he’d known since their first day in St Joey’s almost half a century ago.

They were cut from two contrasting cloths but had always co-existed contentedly, of sorts. Neither had left Clontarf terrain, either as boy, or man. Whereas Lugs was physically strong, tall and rough in character, Vinny was weak, short of leg and calm of nature.

“So much for opposites getting on,” thought Vinny as he poked his nose outside the end house in Causeway Avenue, which backed on to the bus garage where he worked.

The 100 yards that led down the avenue towards the seafront was where he was most vulnerable. It was open ground, where a wildebeest like him could easily by gored by the leonine Lugs. To avoid ambush, Vinny armed himself with a rope ladder which he slung over the boundary wall of the bus depot. The ladder’s Velcro design meant it clung to the bricks and mortar like a barnacle.

Always a nimble climber, Vinny was quickly up and over, and soon dodging between the snorting steeds of the road, as he shimmied towards Foley’s. It was a Tuesday afternoon.

He’d arranged a rendezvous with Fran, his oldest and closest friend, nothing mad, mind, as he needed his wits about him for the homeward journey. Fran was another Joey’s veteran who’d befriended the pudgy kid in the oversized shorts from day one in first class; their bond was unbreakable.

They met outside, as arranged at 4.15, and headed for the snug in the bar, only to find Dial-A-Smile and Charlie Vernon having a sneaky canoodle. "Here, leave it out," cried Fran in mock indignation as they settled down by the bar with two fine pints.

Idle chat

After idle chat about the FAI’s latest embarrassment under

John Delaney

watch, and concerns about Ireland’s fate against Scotland, Fran said:

“The lads and I are all concerned for you, even if we reckon Lugs wouldn’t be daft enough to do anything stupid, not when the gardaí are watching him like a hawk.

“Even so, we thought it might be best to provide a safety net, or rather a safe house,” he continued.

“My apartment is right behind the cop shop; it’s like Fort Knox and has three good-sized bedrooms, two of which I don’t need. Why don’t you kip down with me for a bit? Think about it.”

And that’s what Vinny did. Over four sumptuous pints, he swirled the notion inside his large head.

The case against Lugs for assault was being fast-tracked for a High Court hearing next month. Before the Premier League restarted, the ogre could even be behind bars.

Lying low until then, a little off the beaten track, might not be a bad thing.

He asked Fran for time to think about the offer and said he would drop by the ‘shop’ in the next day or two with a decision – the ‘shop’ was Bubbles Launderette, one of a chain owed by Fran. An hour later, Vinny was holed up at home, curried chips to hand. Every door was bolted, every sensor was rigged, when the doorbell pinged.

Vinegar bottle

“It couldn’t be, could it?”’ he thought to himself in horror. Tip-toeing to the hall, vinegar bottle to hand, he peered out the peephole. His caller was tall, blonde and blue-eyed.

He opened the door and was nearly bowled over as the leggy Lithuanian lovely tumbled into his flabby arms.

“Steady on, Petra,” he cried as he disentangled himself from the six-foot vixen of Vilnius, who worked in Bubbles and whose best pal, Olga, was Fran’s live-in girlfriend.

“Fran said it was okay if I called around. I know he wants you to move in to his apartment. It is what I want too,” said breathless Petra.

“I stay at Fran’s most weekends and it means I can be with you. This is what I’ve always dreamed of, Vinny. Tell me, you will move in!”

At that, the vinegar bottle slipped to the floor and the curried chips began to go cold.